Instagram looks forward to growth in the GCC as new advertising feature rolled out

Facebook-owned platform had ‘very promising’ results from early launch



Social media network Instagram is experiencing ‘strong growth’ throughout the region, the head of Facebook in the Middle East and North Africa has claimed.

Jonathan Labin, managing director of the Facebook-owned image and video-sharing platform, said that there had been ‘very promising’ results from an early launch of advertising to brands in the Gulf Corporation Council throughout September.

The new advertising feature was officially launched in Dubai on September 30. This will give 30 countries, including those in the GCC, access to advertising on Instagram that was previously only open to United States and the United Kingdom.

“If you think about the Middle East, it is young, it is visual, it is mobile; these are the three things that are just a great fit for Instagram,” Labin told Gulf Business. “If you think about Saudi Arabia and some of the key countries in the region, visual inspiration being a window to what else is happening in the world today, that is even more important in the Middle East and that is I think one of the reasons why the platform is so popular…for them it is like seeing what else is happening in the world.”

San Francisco-based Instagram has grown to 400 million regular users since its launch in January 2011, 75 per cent of who live outside the United States.

In 2012, social media giant Facebook bought Instagram for $1bn in a cash and stock deal. That same year, the social networking company opened an office in Dubai’s Internet City – its first in the Middle East.

Labin said Instagram would ‘obviously’ play a role in the company’s continued expansion in the region.

Ahead of the universal launch, local brands including Souq, Starbucks and Saudi telecom giant Zain were given early-bird access to the platform’s new advertising tools.

These include 30-second videos and buttons to allow users to buy a product, install an app or sign up for a service.

Speaking exclusively to Gulf Business, Amy Cole, Instagram’s sixth employee and brand development lead in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, said: “We have proven from the ads that we have run that we are able to deliver community value and advertiser value by focusing on high quality and authenticity in the posts that we have run,”

“I think advertisers are really approaching Instagram with that lens of who is the audience, what do they expect to see and how do I tell my story in a way that feels natural and native? So I think they are really approaching from a creative perspective; how they build a visual identity.”