18+ Million Views, 5+ Million Opens, 2+ Million Uses. Was my Instagram Filter a W or L?

In April 2020, as the excitement surrounding the release of Money Heist season 4 reached a fever pitch, I took the opportunity to release an Instagram effect that allowed users to randomly discover which character from the series they were most like in a Q&A format.

To my surprise, the effect quickly gained traction, accumulating 18.6 million impressions, being opened 5 million times, captured 2.1 million times, saved 101k times, and shared 92k times.

At the time, there were few Instagram effects inspired by the show, so mine performed exceptionally well, racking up over 15k impressions per day. As the hype surrounding the series began to wane in June 2020, usage of the effect naturally declined, hovering around 1k impressions per day until August 2021, when news of the show’s fifth season started circulating. Suddenly, the effect saw a resurgence in popularity, garnering 20k impressions per day and eventually reaching a peak of 800k impressions per day with 50k captures per day in September 2021.

Despite these impressive numbers, the effect only resulted in a 40-follower increase on my Instagram page. It’s worth noting that my page didn’t have a large following to begin with, and I wasn’t able to capitalize on other social media optimization (SMO) factors that might have helped increase my reach. Still, it seems strange that the effect was opened 4.4 million times and used 2 million times yet only resulted in a ridiculously small increase in followers.

“So how much money did you make?” is a common question I get asked. The answer is none – Instagram has yet to roll out a monetization feature for creators, so they aren’t able to earn money directly from the platform. However, the effect did serve as a lead generator that helped me secure a few paying clients. As of now, this is the only way Spark AR creators can make money.

There is certainly potential for Instagram to enable monetization for creators in the future, perhaps by showing ads to users after they’ve used an effect a few times. However, the platform may be hesitant to do so due to existing user experience issues with IG effects. Ad placements can significantly impact the user experience – a well-placed ad may be tolerable, while a poorly placed one can be incredibly annoying. Instagram may be wary of introducing ads that could potentially compromise the user experience, especially since the platform already struggles with issues like the difficulty of navigating to the IG effects gallery and the lack of a clear connection between an effect and its creator.

Currently, the focus seems to be on improving the user experience, but there is room for both the creators and the end-users to benefit from a more seamless and enjoyable experience. Instagram is likely working on ways to address these issues without sacrificing the user experience, and I believe that monetization for creators will eventually be a reality. Until then, I’ll continue to use my creativity and critical thinking skills to come up with engaging and effective effects that can help me connect with my audience and generate leads for my business.

Ads deteriorate user experience depending on their placement. The same ad could be annoying, tolerable, or something that we wouldn’t mind at all. Imagine using a banking app that takes a long time to load and requires you to navigate through multiple screens to complete forms, only to be greeted with an ad just before you verify the transaction with your Face ID. The next thing you know, you have your head boiled, ready to evaporate an entire ocean.

But some ads can be tolerable. It is easy to sit through three 5-second skippable ads during an hour-long YouTube video, or you might not mind seeing an ad just underneath a video on Facebook that doesn’t significantly impact your viewing experience.

Spark AR has been on the market for a while now, and I believe that Instagram will eventually come up with a monetization solution for creators. However, the platform may be hesitant to introduce ads due to existing user experience issues with IG effects.

Navigating to the IG effects gallery currently requires at least four interactions – which could easily have been a two-step process, and many people aren’t even aware that the gallery exists. Getting a shareable link of a particular IG effect takes unnecessary steps. Additionally, the user interface (UI) doesn’t clearly show the relationship between an IG effect and its creator, which may be one reason why the number of impressions, opens, and captures don’t always translate into increased followers for creators.

The focus right now, I think, is loosely on the end-users despite having room for both the creators as well as the end-users to share it in tandem, which would make the overall experience better. Instagram likely understands this and are looking to solve these issues without compromising the user experience (UX) of end-users before they implement ads monetization for Spark AR creators, or that is what I hope at least.

Money Heist Effect: https://www.instagram.com/ar/914330422343031