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Instagram Is Stealing More Tips From Facebook's Advertising Playbook

Instagram is building more features that Facebook advertisers already have.

Ivelin Radkov / Shutterstock

Instagram is in the midst of executing a familiar advertising strategy — Facebook’s advertising strategy — and has a few updates in the works that should make the two businesses look even more similar.

Here’s a list of features Instagram is currently building, according to a spokesperson: Specific profiles for businesses (imagine the Instagram equivalent of Facebook’s Brand Pages); more data on how a brand account’s posts are doing (even if those posts haven’t been promoted); and the ability to buy Instagram ads from a mobile device, either through the existing Instagram app or a standalone app the company hasn’t released (we don’t know which one).

In other words, Instagram wants to make it as appealing as possible for brands to advertise, and it thinks that if brands have special profiles or the ability to advertise from a phone, that might help.

There’s another good reason for the update: Advertisers already have these features on Facebook, so it is likely they’ll come to expect them with Instagram, too. Instagram already rolled out Facebook-like targeting last year, and it is also focused on getting more videos onto Instagram, a strategy Facebook started hammering home more than two years ago. On its last earnings call, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said that 98 of Facebook’s top 100 advertisers also market on Instagram.

That’s a lot of overlap, and may be why some believe Instagram is on its way to becoming a $5 billion-per-year business.

Facebook hasn’t given people a very close look at Instagram’s business. It doesn’t break out Instagram revenue on its quarterly earnings, for example. That isn’t likely to change despite the advertising push, said Instagram COO Marne Levine.

"I think what’s most important is for people to understand that they can advertise on Instagram," she said in an interview with Re/code last week. "[Instagram advertising] is still pretty new."

One thing missing from Instagram’s feature roadmap is any evidence of a "Buy" button or a way to turn Instagram perusers into Instagram shoppers. The app offers brands an option to link away to their mobile webpage, but doesn’t let users buy items within the app.

"Right now, [deep linking] is working," Levine said. "We’re going to look and understand how businesses are using the platform and whether they’re achieving the objectives that they’re trying to achieve and think about what to offer them."

So no Buy button yet, which may also be part of the Facebook plan — Buy buttons there have never taken off.

Instagram doesn’t have set launch dates for any of these new futures, but they are coming "in the next few months," according to a spokesperson.

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