For the first time, marketers can start buying Instagram ads and planning their Instagram marketing with more automation, similar to ad buys on Facebook and Twitter.

Instagram has officially switched on its advertising API. This means that almost immediately, brands big and small will be able use the major mobile platform as display-based business opportunity.

Now, all brands will get their time in the filtered sun. In one of the most anticipated moments in the evolution of social media marketing, the photo-sharing app now allows companies to plan their ad campaigns without going through Instagram.

Before, buying Instagram ads required contacting an Instagram sales representative directly. That meant Instagram advertising was mostly limited to companies with large budgets or, more importantly, large amounts of time.

While Instagram’s developers have not yet allowed content to be uploaded via their API, third-party applications have a workaround.

For example, when scheduling an Instagram post, Hootsuite will send out a push notification directing users to the Instagram app with the image in tow. They can then publish the image themselves.

In addition, the “scheduling” feature allows users to more easily share a single Instagram account. Instagram campaigns managed in Hootsuite now become a breeze for teams alongside their other social campaigns.

This means that marketers and social media managers will be able to spend their time more efficiently. They will no longer have to switch between their phone and their desktop to track all aspects of their campaign. All engagement can be tracked from the same window used to talk to Twitter and Facebook audiences.

This development creates an opportunity for cross-platform promotions. It saves marketers time and brands money by being able to plan and monitor Instagram marketing activity using third-party platforms.

Facebook revealed last week that Instagram has 300 million monthly users, making the photo-sharing app a behemoth for consumption. This peak in users and the new API functionality means that this is the best time to invest in Instagram branding.

Earlier this year, Cowen & Co valued Instagram at $33 billion, citing their explosive growth. Meanwhile, Citigroup values the mobile-optimized app at $35 billion, stating that its audience is larger than Twitter’s, and Instagram’s users are about 1.8x more engaged.

instagram revenueJust this year, eMarketer predicts that Instagram will generate $600 million in ad revenue. The research firm also forecasts that it will surpass Google and Twitter in the display advertising business by 2017. Investing early in developing Instagram marketing strategies can save brands time and earn more ROI as the photo-sharing app continues to grow.

2015 has been good to Instagram users. The ad API release is the latest in a series of quality-of-life updates Instagram has made for brands and consumers alike.

Back in June, Instagram announced that all of Facebook’s ad-targeting tools can be used for Instagram advertisers. This means that all of Facebook’s comprehensive audience insights can be applied to Instagram, which creates big opportunities for brands to connect niche content with unique audience segments.

In the same month, it launched “Shop Now” buttons among other call-to-action messages for advertisers to link outside the app. With buttons like “Install Now,” “Sign Up,” and “Learn More,” digital marketers can leverage their photos to do more than make impressions: they can inspire app downloads, newsletter subscriptions, and website visits.

Instagram also updated the desktop version of the mobile platform, cleaning it up and giving it all the features users missed from the mobile app. This means that links to Instagram posts can be viewed, liked, and shared from a PC or Mac without any loss in value.

Earlier this year, the app introduced swiping into the mix when they introduced carousel ads, allowing marketers to fit more images into a single photo slot. This means that there’s less scrolling for users before they double tap your series of Instagram ads.

Instagram also enhanced its search and explore features with lists, trends, and improved predictive search functionality. Lists are a way for brands and influencers to get the spotlight in an accessible location for Instagram users.

It’s clear that Instagram has planned 2015 to be the year it defines itself as a social powerhouse. They have a working formula with a huge focus for optimizing the user experience for the end-user and marketers alike.

With the new API, Instagram is done playing catch-up in the social advertising world. This new functionality plays a significant role in the value offered to brands for developing an effective and engaging social media marketing strategy through streamlined display ad planning. With the user growth, engagement, and earning potential on the rise, it’s the best time for brands to update their Instagram bios and play ball.

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