Instagram is no longer a photo-sharing app, or so Adam Mosseri says. In a video posted to his social media, the company’s CEO clarified: ‘The number one reason people say they use Instagram is to be entertained, and let’s be honest, there is some really serious competition right now. That means: change.’ Sounds scary, but is it?
In this blogpost, we want to talk about the future of Instagram and what it entails for brands and creators.
Although his wording might come as a shock to some, it’s not a revolutionary statement. In truth, Instagram never actually was just a photo-sharing app. When founder Kevin Systrom was asked to define the platform, he said: ‘When I think about what Instagram is, I think about moments and I think about visual imagery. We are forever on a quest to take a moment and record it in time.’
So from the start, they didn’t exactly limit themselves to photos. They only started that way because of the limited technology at that time. But right from their very beginning in 2010, the platform’s biggest strength has been its drive and knack for growth and improvement, which becomes very clear if you look at their biggest milestones throughout the years.
It’s all in the milestones
Honestly, there is too much to mention, so we’re going to stick to three of the biggest and most relevant ones for this article: the algorithmic feed, the stories and the Reels.
1. The infamous algorithmic feed
‘The Instagram algorithm’ and ‘how to beat it’ have been two of the most written about topics in recent years. Heck, we’ve even made our very own guide.
It’s bizarre how one of today’s biggest challenges in social media wasn’t even around a couple of years ago.
Instagram launched the algorithm-based feed in march 2016, to be exact. That’s when the previous, simple, chronological feed was replaced by one based on relevancy. The algorithm behind it would be based on user behavior insights, which would make it more and more accurate and personal over time.
Or as Instagram so nicely claims: ‘We want to make the most of your time, and we believe that using technology to personalize your experience is the best way to do that’
The new feed was initially met with plenty of criticism, and it’s still widely chastised to this day. Supposedly, if you act accordingly, the algorithm will favor you. But one wrong move, and you can end possibly up getting shadowbanned. You can see how this is fodder for speculation.
A few months later, in August 2016, the new Stories feature received negative reviews as well. Instagram was obviously feeling more than inspired by Snapchat, a huge competitor at the time. Fast forward to 2021, and Stories have become indispensable while Snapchat is on the verge of irrelevance.
Stories keep you coming back to the app day-after-day, as they run out after 24 hours. The feature feeds our hunger for information, keeps you constantly refreshing for new content, and thus has you spending more and more time on the app.
Logically, Instagram went along and kept updating the possibilities. As a result, Stories are now the place to be for fresh content, but they also allow all kinds of direct interaction with your followers (which is great for your engagement and thus the algorithm, should you be taking notes).
This successful replication of a competitor’s idea paved the way for their reaction to the next big hype.
3. Competing TikTok
As Mosseri stated in his video, ‘there’s some serious competition out there right now’. In the same sentence, he even explicitly mentioned TikTok. At the beginning of 2020, the video app was downloaded like crazy. Sure, you could blame it on the lockdowns, but it remains the most downloaded app to this day. Why? Because right now, and in the foreseeable future: video is king.
Which is why Instagram couldn’t stay behind. Wanting to make people spend even more time on their app (instead of TikTok), they had to make a move in order to compete. So in august of 2020, once again by basically copying their competitor’s idea, they launched a separate tab called ‘Reels’.
At present, TikTok still rules the world of short videos, but if you or your company have an online presence, you should be looking into Reels, too.
Let me entertain you
Here’s the thing: Instagram has already shown multiple times that they are great at building (cough copying cough) features, but if they want to keep beating their competitors, it’s all about how they develop and improve these tools.
Right now we can only speculate. it’s unclear as to how they plan on doing this. The only thing we got from Mosseri’s video, is that the company is experimenting with recommendations as well as how to make video even more immersive and entertaining.
So basically, they want to become our primary source of entertainment, while even more driven by algorithms and videos than before.
What does this mean for YOU?
With the social media landscape changing so quickly, as we stated before, it’s important that influencers stay authentic, try to increase their engagement and hop on the trends that are relevant to them. They should always keep developing their expertise in order to stay ahead of the algorithm.
Brands, for their part, will want to sharpen their influencer marketing strategy and look for the right influencer(s) that can help drive them forward. That way, they can steadily increase awareness, expand their audience and even generate new leads.
Want to stay on top of things in this incredibly fast-paced environment? We recommend following our educational, informational and inspirational hub, which we update weekly.