If you were asked “what is Instagram?” and opened with the answer “it’s a photo sharing app”, you’d be forgiven for making a false assumption – or at least, one that the company is hoping to prove wrong in the near future.
Opening with new features such as Instagram Shopping, and now the newly updated Reels function, head of Instagram Adam Mosseri has announced and gone further into detail on the app’s ongoing and continued expansions, as it plans to diversify in the fields of social media.
Currently, Mosseri identified four key strategies in Instagram’s continued development. Note the highlighted keywords. They are:
- Supporting creators through new monetization options.
- Shifting gears towards focusing on video content, with expansions to the aforementioned Reels feature.
- Expanding Instagram shopping to take advantage of the recent surge in e-commerce.
- Finally, expanding into messaging. Mosseri’s video post on Twitter explains that more and more people have been using Instagram to communicate, and that in-app communication has been shifting steadily towards direct messages.
No Longer a Photo Sharing App
Changes to Instagram Reels, and Instagram video content, are planned to be much more than yet another feature. Perhaps in part to shift away from the criticism that Instagram might be trying to ape on potential competitors like YouTube or TikTok, and Vine in the past, it is instead part of a general change in direction for the app, towards leaning in on video. In other words, this isn’t a toe-in-the-water gimmick – it’s supposed to be the company’s new direction.
To be more specific, Instagram is banking on making entertainment – both as a provider and a source of revenue for entertainers – its main feature. After all, that’s what most users use the app for, according to their own research.
To support that, Instagram has recently started rolling out ads on Reels posts worldwide. Reels ads are full-screen and vertical and will be toggled in between Reels posts as viewers spend time watching through their feed. The ads can be up to 30 seconds in total length, and can be interacted with through likes, comments, and even a sharing function.
According to the company’s own blog post, these ads will: “help businesses reach greater audiences, allowing people to discover inspiring new content from brands and creators.”
Or, to put it more concretely, they’re coinciding with the release of updated recommendation features on Instagram, designed to help content creators reach wider audiences, improve user experience by bringing them closer to content they might find interesting, and helping advertisers by bringing more views to their ads. A win, win, win, on paper.
Wait, What Is Reels?
Reels is a feature Instagram rolled out nearly a year ago, in August 2020. At the time, it seemed like an attempt to stop TikTok in its tracks – or at least, that’s what the app was lampooned for.
Reels are 15-second multi-clip videos you can record and edit with Instagram’s own in-app sounds, filters, effects, and more. Reels are featured on your followers’ feeds, and you can make them available throughout the app if you’re posting from a public account, via the Explore tab. Since its release, Reels editing functions included:
- Additional audio from Instagram’s own music library, and your own recorded sounds.
- Augmented Reality effects, both user-created and from Instagram.
- Speed up and slow-mo functions.
- And more
While Reels hasn’t taken off quite as well as its other video sharing competitors, it still has a few impressive accolades, including over 22 percent more engagement versus a regular Instagram post or story in the case of the NBA.
Currently, Instagram is testing a new Reels collab function in India.
Should I Invest More Time Advertising on Instagram?
While the announcement that Instagram will continue to push to support content creators and enable simpler in-app relationships between them and advertisers is exciting, Instagram has always been an effective platform to garner engagement, provided you hit the mark with your niche and content.
Furthermore, almost everyone on the app – an overwhelming 90 percent – follow at least one business, whether it’s Victoria’s Secret or a local coffee shop. Companies know and continue to leverage Instagram as a research tool when looking for B2B partners on products and services – over a third of surveyed B2B decision-makers cited Instagram as a deciding research tool.
In other words, given the audience and the numbers, it’s a good idea to market your products and services on the Gram. You just need the right strategy.
So, What’s the Future of the App?
There’s a lot to read up on Instagram’s business strategies and future plans, but only the people actually making the sausage knows what goes into it.
We’ve already gotten hints that Instagram is planning to bank more heavily on a content creator system, with monetization strategies centered around improved recommendations for users for both content and ads.
We also know that the company is going to continue developing Instagram Shopping, potentially rolling out tested features such as the new AR try-on feature for beauty products in other industries, such as fashion.
And finally, we’ve heard about Instagram’s future as a video platform, or truer to their words, an entertainment platform that is currently prioritizing video.
Advertisers may want to keep an eye on the potential for Reels ads and how best to implement them, as well as watch as Instagram continues to work on its content creator system, which aims to supplant the ongoing behind-the-scenes influencer system where larger accounts get scouted and paid off-app to promote products.
Naturally, Instagram wants its cut – while also enabling everyone else to produce better content, form better partnerships, and provide a better use experience.
At the end of the day, we will just have to wait and see how these plans with pan out. Right now, Instagram remains one of the largest social networks in the world, with well over a billion users.
Tapping into that user base with fresh and original content continues to be a viable marketing strategy. With Reels ads and future monetization options, Instagram aims to make it even easier to appeal to the users it sends your way.