It’s official. Instagram is no longer ‘just a square photo sharing app’, at least according to the head of Instagram himself, Adam Mosseri. It’s no secret the platform has moved well past the days of users sharing square, analogue-inspired images to friends and family.
However, Instagram’s seemingly inevitable shift towards vertical video content (inspired by TikTok) is changing how and why audiences are interacting with content. Here’s everything you should know to stay up to speed:
The history –
Instagram’s ventures with vertical video
Back in 2016, Instagram not-so-subtly introduced their take on Snapchat’s ability to send friends disappearing images and videos. The popular Instagram Stories feature – where users are able to post vertical images and short form vertical videos that disappear after 24 hours – quickly found its way to other popular social media platforms including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. (Although Twitter just recently removed this feature from their platform this month).
The popularity of short form vertical video content continued to grow, as other platforms such as Music.ly and Vine embraced Stories (though the latter shut its doors by 2017).
Instagram then introduced their answer to YouTube, only via vertical video, known as IGTV. While many content creators grew interest in the feature which allowed up to one hour videos – a big jump from regular Instagram videos which were limited to just one minute – the feature proved to be fairly unpopular, difficult to use, and did not offer any monetisation opportunities.
The rise of TikTok
In late 2017, Chinese company ByteDance acquired Music.ly, and by 2018 they merged the app with their existing platform Douyin to introduce TikTok to the rest of the world. The platform first became popular among teenagers, and with increased lockdowns around the world in 2020, its popularity among the general public has grown to astronomical levels.
The here and now –
How is Instagram responding to the trend?
With the vertical video craze in full swing, Instagram released their Reels feature in mid-2020. At the time of writing, Reels currently do not offer as many features as TikTok, but the importance of this feature for creators is becoming more and more apparent.
Many influencers and businesses have reported seeing lower engagement on their traditional Instagram feed posts, with higher engagement on Reels. According to the head of Instagram, there’s a reason for this.
In a video posted to both Instagram and Twitter, Mosseri explained that internal research found the number one reason users stay on Instagram is to be entertained. Moving forward, Instagram will be focusing on the following key areas: “creators, videos, shopping and messaging.”
In other words, we are likely going to see the platform’s features and algorithm shift towards pushing Reels to users, and more opportunities for both influencers and businesses to monetise content on the app.
What can creators and business owners learn from this?
The first thing to learn is that vertical videos are here to stay in one form or another – whether that’s via Reels, Stories, or even IG Live. Consumer focus on the app is shifting away from a beautifully curated feed, and towards more relatable content that humanises businesses, such as behind-the-scenes clips.
The next takeaway is that Instagram’s algorithm is set to push Reels to users who may not necessarily be your followers, and taking advantage of this is a great opportunity to expand your reach.
Our expert prediction: Instagram is likely working on integrating their Instagram Shop feature into Reels. This feature already exists on both their feed posts and Stories. It’s also a feature TikTok has yet to introduce, despite the long-standing “Things TikTok made me buy” trend on the platform.
How you can take advantage of the trends
Instagram is pushing content that will keep people engaged on the app, so remember to plan your content accordingly:
- Stay updated on Reels and TikTok trends within your target audience’s community.
- Think about video opportunities to show the people behind the brand. This could include educating your audience on industry-specific tips, offering behind-the-scenes videos, or even posting inside jokes that your audience would relate to.
- Images may still be important to users and are a good way to keep in touch with your audience in between video content. Just keep in mind that image content may not be pushed to audiences as much, due to changes in Instagram’s algorithm.
- Explore the Instagram Shop feature and consider whether it may be suitable for your business. Similarly, Keep an eye out for any e-commerce tools that Instagram may introduce as the platform undergoes this shift in focus.
- Instagram has hinted at the possibility of launching Exclusive Stories, or paid content that cannot be recorded via screenshot or screen recording, to compete with platforms like Patreon, OnlyFans and YouTube Memberships. This could be a strong opportunity to build your relationship with your audience, depending on the nature of your business.
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AUTHOR: Nicole Odviar
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