In the coming weeks, Instagram will start rolling out its first ads in the form of promoted posts within members’ feeds. But numerous marketers maintain that the service is still missing a potential source of revenue: allowing individual users to monetize their own posts.
The concept was raised several times at Lucky magazine’s Fashion and Beauty Blogger Conference last month.
“When a rep from Instagram brought up [the idea of monetizing posts], there was an audible sigh from the audience,” recalled Cristy Ebert, manager of content marketing at Rakuten LinkShare. “There’s a lot of interest in that feature.”
While bloggers can now easily monetize posts on their own sites—and even tweets—via affiliate links, they’re unable to do the same with their Instagram feeds because of the platform’s restrictions on adding links within photos or captions.
Meanwhile, the type of brand- and product-laden content users are putting on Instagram—from “Outfit of the Day” photos to a new favorite lipstick and the latest “it” bag—clearly lends itself to shoppability.
“To me, it’s a natural play because [Instagram] is where consumers are going to first discover products. If you want to capture them at the top of the funnel, that’s a perfect place to do it,” said Karen Macumber, CMO of ShopAdvisor, which works with publishers to make content shoppable.
But even if Instagram did allow links, “there are challenges to making this work that go far beyond just throwing up an affiliate link,” as Macumber pointed out.
First, bloggers would need to make it clear that the image is shoppable in the first place. They’d also need to find a way to curate a collection of multiple products from a single affiliate link, on top of making sure that the products being linked to are actually available on mobile optimized sites.
There could be another possible solution to monetizing Instagram posts outside of affiliate links: interactive images, which already appear on platforms including Facebook and Tumblr.
ThingLink, a service that lets its users (including many brands and publishers) enhance static images with the addition of features like videos, social feeds and retail links—all of which can be seen by hovering over clearly tagged spots—has already had success with its model. In one study by ThingLink partner Pivot Conference, the click-through rate on interactive images posted by editorial platforms on their own social channels was nearly 16 percent.
Of course, whether any of these capabilities will be available to Instagram users depends upon Instagram.
“If you look at what’s happened on Facebook and Twitter, everybody’s looking to monetize everything that they can, especially images and videos. So it would make perfect sense that [Instagram] would want to incorporate that,” said ShopAdvisor’s Macumber. “But honestly, we’re all a bit removed from their strategy at the moment.”