Get Ahead of the Gram: Why Instagram Is No Longer an Image App

In June 2021, Instagram announced it was leaving its reputation as an image-sharing platform behind and becoming a video-first platform to compete with the likes of Snapchat and TikTok.

Instagram is no stranger to controversial decisions. When the app launched, users could only post square photos. In 2012, it added language to its legal terms that allowed the company to use and sell users’ photos. Then, in 2020, Instagram released Reels, its solution to an increasingly video-based social media market. But after a few years of controversies, Instagram may have made its most eyebrow-raising decision yet.

Despite nestling into and dominating its niche as a photo app, IG announced in the summer of 2021 that it would become a video-centric platform by the next year. In a super popular post on June 30, the Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, shared that the app would begin to slowly but surely focus on four key areas: Creators, Shopping, Messaging and Video. The post, which itself was a video, focused primarily on the latter.

What This Means for Social Media

“We’re no longer just a square photo-sharing app,” said @mosseri. “Video is driving an immense amount of growth for all the major platforms right now.” That’s entirely true. However, most top commenters shared the same sentiment, which @steventhurstonoliver summarized very succinctly: “Why be like everyone else?”

Instagram has changed its tune before (it removed the legal language that allowed it to use and sell users’ photos) so there’s still time, but I doubt that will happen. In an era where social apps can’t see the forest (users) for the trees (investors)—here’s looking at you, Tumblr and OnlyFans—I don’t expect Instagram to be any different. Their shift to video is likely here to stay.

If this bold move does fail, let’s at least hope that Insta will learn its lesson with humility like Twitter did with its short-lived Fleets feature.

Aside from Instagram, this decision will probably have the biggest impact on TikTok, the current market’s most prominent video app. If we are being honest, Instagram’s Reels are a combination of Snapchat’s stories and TikTok’s feed, and it’s rare that the copycat surpasses the originators, so I am skeptical that IG will rise to the #1 spot in the video app category.

If I had to guess what the next 12 months of social media will look like when it comes to video, I’d say “not much different.” I don’t foresee users flocking to video on Instagram the way Mosseri thinks they will, and I don’t foresee TikTok feeling the need to pivot to compete.

What This Means for Your Brand

Although this all may be simply an awkward phase that we will all look back on and laugh about in mid-2022, it still has implications for your brand. Obviously, as IG emphasizes video content, you need to start producing more videos. I recommend you put together a plan to develop more video content regardless of what Instagram does. Video and audio content are the future. It’s that simple.

The good news is that, with the prevalence of Reels, you can generate a ton of content really easily. Reels are short-form content. Originally, they were only allowed to be 15 seconds in length, but now users can upload Reels as long as one minute. If you haven’t made a short-form video lately, you’ll likely be surprised how fast that 1:00 moves.

Of course, this also means that you can knock out a lot of content at once, or you can create content wherever you have little pockets of time in the day. Ideate some keyword-driven creative concepts as a team, and then when you need a break, shoot the video and upload it to your Reels. There’s no need to hire a crew or schedule an hour to film.

It’s unspoken social media culture that your videos don’t need to be highly produced. In fact, high production value can potentially work against you, depending on your brand. Extremely edited content comes across as inauthentic, which is a cardinal sin on social media. With fast-paced, short-form video, you can be a content creator and play nice with the Insta algorithms without breaking the bank.

Plus, the pandemic accelerated an already growing trend, which is the shift from service- and product-based to values-based marketing. For some brands, customers are more likely to choose you over your competitors based on your ethos rather than your services or products. And an important part of any company’s ethos is its connection and dedication to its customers. With 0:15 videos, you can quickly create a high volume of customer touchpoints. This is particularly important since, thanks to COVID-19, it takes as many as 10 or 16 touchpoints to make a customer know, like and trust your brand.

If you’re ready to ride the Instagram video wave and take the plunge into short-form video content, let’s chat! We are a team of content marketing experts who love elevating brands through video. Plus, we know the skinny on all things social media, like the fact that IG may be working on subscriber-only Insta stories. Get in touch today!

Cody H. Owens, Account Executive
Elevate My Brand

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