Instagram’s ads and their disguise

By Hannah Poggi
October 25, 2022

Purchasing products right at a user's fingertips. Photo by Hannah Poggi.
Purchasing products right at a user's fingertips. Photo by Hannah Poggi.

Instagram continues to come up with new, inventive ways to lull users into purchasing products through their app. It’s become easier than ever to encounter numerous ads without even realizing it.

Instagram is one of the largest platforms in the social media world; their social media advertisements have quickly evolved to disguise themselves through new features, such as Instagram Shop, and influencer marketing.

Ads on Instagram 

neon sign of a like icon with a heart and 0
Users are falling into the trap of advertisements. Photo by Prateek Katyal via

Because of the various ads, users aren’t aware of how many they are consuming on their daily scroll. Ads can appear throughout Instagram’s stories, feed, and Explore page. These frequent ads become a trap when users cannot differentiate them from regular posts. Laura Wong from The Hootsuite Blog, said, “They look similar to normal posts but always contain a sponsored label to indicate that they are an ad.” 

In addition to impersonating posts, ads are responsible for the discovery of products and brands to lure users into purchasing and interacting with them. “Twenty-seven percent of users say they find new products and brands through paid social ads, and Instagram ads can reach over 1.2 billion people, or 20% of the world’s population over age 13,” Wong wrote. 

Sofia Costanzo, junior education major, and Emma Friel, sophomore nursing major, described ads they have encountered on Instagram. Often, they see what is of interest to them based on the content they engage with.

Costanzo said, “A lot of my ads are workout related. I see things like gym shorts, leggings, and pre-workout. But most of them are from Amazon and a few from Instagram stores.” 

“I have seen ads on my Instagram feeds. They are normally clothing or shoes for certain brands,” Friel said.

Instagram shop  

With Instagram’s shopping feature, users can buy products within seconds, without having to leave the app. Products from creators or businesses can be tagged right in their posts. 

Instagram Shop is one of the most popular features. Image by Hannah Poggi.

In a post for The LaterBlog, Monique Thomas wrote, “Every month, 130 million people tap on an Instagram shopping post, showing just how strong the appetite for social shopping is.” Social shopping is beneficial to Instagram as they try to get businesses to create more profit from selling merchandise to users. 

The appearance of this feature being a so-called ad is blurred. “Sometimes when I am on Instagram shopping, I will spend at least 20 minutes looking through what’s on there and if there are things I wanna buy,” Costanzo said. 

A user’s extra time spent on Instagram can lead to purchases, even when they aren’t convinced that they are buying into an ad. 

Sales in influencer content  

Influencers who are active on Instagram have the opportunity to collaborate with brands and participate in sponsorships. In an article for Insider, Sydney Bradley wrote, “One influencer with 275,000 followers told Insider she had booked $700,000 in brand deals in six months. And two micro- influencers told Insider they earned six-figure salaries as full-time creators in 2021.” 

Fanbases and followers are more inclined to buy their favorite influencer’s products. This reduces the perception of their marketing being an ad because an influencer’s followers trust them and their opinions without realizing those opinions are actually promotions.

 #Paid, a study done by Emily Roberts, revealed that “53% of the Americans surveyed said they are more likely to buy a product from an influencer, compared to about 47% who said a celebrity is more likely to impact their behavior.” 

As Instagram’s algorithm strengthens and builds as time goes on, more and more users are going to access ads and not think twice when viewing them. 

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Hannah Poggi

Hey everyone! I’m Hannah and I am the Lifestyles Editor for the Loquitur. Writing has always been something I am passionate about. Being able to write stories with meaning is so powerful and has the chance to move others in ways that are unimaginable. What do I like to write and report on, you may ask? Well, I enjoy reporting on big news that is pouring out in the media. Popular topics are something that seems to get far more attention than may be needed in some cases and it has a good way of luring people in. Aside from writing, I am also interested in a career in broadcast journalism. To be on the news and TV one day has been a lifelong dream of mine. I am fascinated with reporting and being on air in a studio. I hope to seek internships in the future that involve those aspects. Besides the Loquitur, I am also a part of Cavalier Radio. I have my own radio show where I talk about pop culture, fun relatable stories, TV shows, and many more! A little bit more about me, I love spending quality time with my friends and family, and keeping myself surrounded by positive and motivated people makes me feel whole.

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