The Advertising Opportunity of Instagram Explore Ads

Instagram recently announced the addition of ads in the Explore page, marking its first significant expansion of ad placements beyond the traditional Feed and Stories. The move isn’t surprising as users across Facebook and Instagram continue to shift their on-platform activities away from personal news and photo feeds. Alongside Stories, Explore ads present brands with an opportunity to maintain reach of their target audience as their attention shifts to other areas of the platform. An increased presence on Instagram is also desirable as time spent on the platform continues to climb. 

Defining Instagram Explore 

Explore is a destination where Instagram users can go to discover, shop, and connect with people, businesses, and creators that they may not already follow. Using an algorithm, Explore provides a curated stream of content that includes video Stories, IGTV shows, celebrity-influencer posts, and organic brand posts. 

The content a user sees on Explore is dictated by what other people in their network view and what they’ve shown interest in before. Recent stats from Instagram have revealed that more than 50% of its 1B global monthly active users visit the Explore page every month and that 50% of its daily visitors are spending time in Explore.

The Advertising Opportunity with Instagram Explore Ads 

Instagram Explore Ads will function differently from the main Feed. When a user enters the Explore page, they won’t see sponsored posts while scrolling through the “grid” of curated content. Instead, ads will appear after a user taps on a post and begin to scroll through the post’s Explore feed. After a post is tapped in the grid, it takes the user to the post selected. If the user scrolls down from there, the user is presented with more posts similar to that one, all from different users. This Feed of posts is where these new ads appear. Advertisers can choose to use photo or video content, however, Stories won’t be an option.

Instagram plans to slowly introduce ads into Explore, starting with a select number of advertisers who’re looking to drive conversions, video views or reach. General access will be rolled out more broadly in the coming months. Once available, advertisers can extend their campaigns into Explore through the use of Facebook’s Automatic Placements feature in Ads Manager. It’ll not be available as a stand-alone placement at the onset. 

With the Explore page having a shopping category of its own that is composed of mostly shoppable posts, it’s expected that retail advertisers looking to take advantage of Instagram’s commerce features will be drawn to Explore ads. Those advertisers who have established an organic presence on Explore already will want to supplement their existing strategy with a paid approach as it will likely become more challenging to maintain a presence in the feed organically.

Full-funnel testing of Explore ads is recommended to both acquire new customers and increase product sales given users are already naturally leveraging Explore as a destination to discover, shop and connect.