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Instagram is slowly opening the floodgates for all brands to better market to its highly engaged user base, but it remains to be seen if users will be turned off by this and how it will continue to retain and grow the community.

Over the past two years startups have tried to hack Instagram to make it shoppable, with little success.

On Tuesday Instagram put everyone out of their misery and announced the release of a button that lets accounts promote an action to users. These four new direct-response ad formats take after its parent company Facebook’s motto of driving real business objectives on its social media platform.

Below an Instagram image, users may now see buttons that read “Shop Now,” ‘”Install Now,” “Sign Up,” or “Learn More.” The last call-to-action isn’t entirely new. It existed in  Carousel Ads, which followed the introduction of Sponsored Ads to a closed group of advertisers, including Airbnb and Starwood, in November 2013. In addition, the new ad format allows advertisers to better target their ads to the right people.

The Shop Now button is a much-needed advance as brands have been trying to turn inspiration into bookings or sales with little success. For instance, in February Conrad Hotels partnered with Curalate on a separate microsite that featured curated Instagram photos that directly linked to booking rooms.

There was no real way to connect a great image on Instagram to this site, outside of a generic URL on the main Conrad account profile.

At launch, there were no travel brands taking advantage of the new product.

The Future of Facebook Ads?

The integration of the Instagram Ads API with Facebook ad buying interfaces is something to take note of. Creating these direct-response ads will be possible through Instagram and Facebook.

“For brands and agencies that work with marketing partners to buy ads through the Facebook API, the same type of service will be offered as we begin to open the Instagram Ads API,” a Facebook spokesperson says. “For businesses and services that utilize Ads Manager or Power Editor, we’re also working to add in the ability to buy Instagram ads through these tools as well.”

On the topic of the criteria of big and small companies running ads on Instagram, the spokesperson said, “If you have an Instagram profile in the future, you will able to buy ads on Instagram.” It will be interesting how this will play out, but as we’ve seen with how Instagram is taking after its parent’s steps with News Feed, organic reach or free advertising will likely decline. That’s the tradeoff.

Airlines, hotels, booking sites will be able to sell flights, rooms, car rentals, and vacation packages directly; increase awareness about destinations, hospitality, travel tips by driving them to articles and micro-sites to enhance their experience; collect emails to keep them posted about special deals or announcements; or increase downloads of airline, hotel, booking apps to keep them abreast of traveler’s itineraries.

Depending on the cost for these ads, there is a chance that Twitter and even Facebook will lose some of the advertising dollars to Instagram.

Jeremy Jauncey, founder of Beautiful Destinations, the most followed travel brand on Instagram, said, “100 percent, I’d bet my own money on it. We have always believed in the power of Instagram and with increased audience visibility and enhanced targeting brands can now track meaningful ROI, conversion and engagement from the efforts they put into the platform. Given the inherent nature of travel is visual and social, we strongly believe travel brands will pour more money into advertising on Instagram.”

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Tags: instagram, social media

Photo credit: New direct response ad formats make Instagram photos and videos shoppable. Instagram

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