Facebook is opening Instagram’s Explore section to advertisers for the first time as it looks to follow the gradual migration of user activity away from personal news and photo feeds towards other areas of the social networks.
On Wednesday, Instagram, which Facebook owns, announced it would roll ads into the Explore page over the coming months. Explore features algorithmically generated stream of 24-hour video Stories, IGTV shows, celebrity-influencer posts and publishers, designed to expose Instagram users to accounts they may not currently follow.
“This is an opportunity to be part of what’s culturally relevant and trending while reaching new audiences who are looking to discover something new,” Instagram wrote in a blog post.
Instagram says that half of its daily visitors view the Explore section. The company does not release the number of total daily users, but it does have more than 1 billion monthly active users.
Here’s how the Explore ads will work: Advertisers indicate they want their sponsored posts to appear in Explore by selecting it as an extension of their Instagram campaigns, which they typically set up through Facebook’s automated ad manager. The sponsored posts are not visible in the top Explore gallery, which is the first page people see when they enter the section. The ads only appear when a viewer clicks deeper into Explore, after choosing a video and then scrolling through the newly generated feed of videos.
“Explore is very different than what you’d find in other parts of the Facebook ecosystem,” says Noah Mallin, head of content and experience at Wavemaker. “It’s meant to allow you to get into Instagram in different ways, surfacing stuff that otherwise wouldn’t be surfaced.”
Mallin says brands would be interested to be first to get their ads in that space.
Facebook is opening new areas for advertising as the platform evolves—including Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger—and as people’s habits change. Since last year, Facebook has reported that people are spending less time in the social network’s main News Feed, the stream of posts personalized for every user on the social network, and that’s partly by design. Facebook has introduced new formats like Stories, videos that disappear after a day and they reside outside the feeds on the social network and Instagram.
Facebook says 500 million people view Stories every day on Instagram, and the more time people spend watching those videos, the less time they have to stumble on sponsored posts in the feed.
On Facebook, eMarketer said just last month that the average time spent on the social network was projected to decline from 38 minutes this year to 37 minutes next. Meanwhile, time spent on Instagram is projected to rise, from 27 minutes in 2019 to 28 minutes in 2020, making the companion app to Facebook a crucial avenue to growth.
“Less time spent on Facebook translates into fewer chances for marketers to reach the network’s users,” principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson said in the eMarketer report. “Features like Stories, influencer content and video are all contributing to more engagement and a slow but steady uptick in time spent on Instagram.”