Social media platforms are evolving all the time. This includes constant tweaks to algorithms, the addition or subtraction of features, shifting advertising policies, and even changes in a platform’s stated mission, goals, and focus.
Instagram is just the latest platform to announce a shift in strategy toward prioritizing video content and shopping tools, as competitors like TikTok vie for market share (i.e. customer eyeballs). Each of us has a finite amount of time to stay glued to screens, and social media companies understand this. That’s why the competition for attention remains so fierce.
The Evolving Instagram Ecosystem
If you’re old enough to remember the birth of Instagram (and anyone over the age of 11 should be!), you’ll know it began not as a social network, but as a photo-sharing service like Flickr, Shutterfly, and Picasa.
What set Instagram apart was the ease with which photos could be uploaded, shared to other platforms, and photo-filters applied to make the photos look richer and more professional. This was especially important in an age when cell phone cameras simply weren’t very good.
Initially, the company focused on “speed, simplicity, and beauty” - which were far easier to achieve in photo form than video form at the time. But a few years ago, as phone speeds and technology caught up, it became easier to achieve those goals using video. Facebook, which now owns Instagram, has also placed a premium on video, betting big that it’s a trend that is here to stay.
And let’s not forget when they introduced algorithmic feeds that prioritized some of the content from people you followed more than others! The addition of Instagram Stories - a response to new social mogul Snapchat - was a taste of things to come.
Instagram is in a constant state of flux. A shift to prioritizing video should not be too surprising.
Are You Not Entertained?
In his announcements about the recent shift, the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, said, “People are looking to Instagram to be entertained; there's stiff competition and there's more to do. Then we have to embrace that. And that means change.”
Another new social media player, Clubhouse, is influencing shifts at Instagram as well. Clubhouse, founded in early 2020, offers live audio chat rooms and an integrated tip feature for creators. In response, Instagram launched its own rooms feature (limited, at the time of this posting, to just four users).
The addition of Instagram Reels is another move clearly influenced by the success of TikTok. Expect to see continuing enhancements in other key areas related to video, shopping, and messaging, too.
The Pandemic Shopping Shift
Mosseri also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased online commerce, and video is a great way of selling products. In fact, 81% of Instagram users now engage with the platform specifically to research a product or service.
Those late-night impulse buys through Instagram promotions are driving huge sales (so it’s not just you). A full 50% of users say they have visited the website of a product or service after they saw it on Instagram - and purchased it.
All of this means that video advertising on Instagram is about to get a whole lot more sophisticated. Is your brand listening?
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