How Instagram is changing Social Media
A lot has happened to Instagram in the past 2 years. They have added Instagram Stories, launched vertical video with IGTV and added a lot of business functionality. They also passed the 1 Billion user mark in June 2018 meaning that they are now the third largest social network in the world, behind Facebook and Youtube.
Of course, this growth and development are due in large part to their ownership by Facebook, which has changed the independent app into a fully funded, revenue-generating asset.
It is amazing how much Instagram has changed the way social media works. In 8 short years, it has brought many innovations forward that have not only changed social media platforms, but also user behavior. Here are five ways that Instagram has changed the social media game.
1) Personal Branding and Brand Personalities
It used to be that people had personalities and companies had brands. Thanks to the success of personal branding on platforms like Instagram, this has now changed.
The ability for users to interact with a brand the same way they interact with a person means that brands essentially must have a personality as well.
Nowhere is this more obvious than on Instagram, where brands display visual representations of who they are. Using clever captions, and content that can go viral, it is crucial today that brands need to do more than hawk their wares on social media.
Although it is obviously an employee of the business who is writing the comments and liking posts, it appears as if the brand is doing this. If you look at brands such as Netflix, or Glossier, these brands have created personalities that go along with their brand.
2) Shorter Attention Spans and Bite-Size Content
When Facebook first launched the news feed in 2006, it was a strange novelty. You could suddenly see daily life updates from everyone you knew, all in one place. At first, this was very engaging and entertaining. Yet, over time as more people added posts, it became overwhelming and the ability to focus was more difficult.
Instagram was really at the forefront of adopting the bite-size content trend. Beautifully filtered photos made for perfect eye-candy without a big time commitment. This same type of posting has come to dominate other platforms today.
For users on all social media platforms today, there is simply too much to see to expect full engagement. Giving people too much to read (or watch) means that engagement will drop.
Yes, there are some people who will look at every post, and like and comment. But the vast majority will tend to ignore anything that is ‘TLDR’ (too long didn’t read).
3) Images and videos are dominant
Thanks to the magic of photo filtering, which was Instagram’s first big innovation, the world now wants to see what we are up to. Even though words are crucial for SEO, the engagement levels of photos and videos cannot be denied. As Instagram has incorporated short-form video and now stories into their platform, this has grown even more.
If a company wants to thrive in the current market, you must incorporate visual imagery. Video posts are the most engaging, so if your business has the time and budget to do video, it is well worth considering.
4) A place to discover and connect
Perhaps one of the most surprising aspects of Instagram is that many people use it to meet new people. Through interests and hashtags, it is easy to discover like-minded people and brands who can then be followed. Often these new connections that are started randomly can blossom into connections and sales.
This is a very different focus than Facebook, which was built around real-world social structures. It creates a different attitude on Instagram, hence the rise of Instagram Influencers and celebrity accounts. In some respects, a well run Instagram profile can perform better than a website can for engagement with your audience.
5) A mix of personal and commercial
Most social media today is a mix of both personal connections and businesses. The way that Instagram has implemented advertising has not tarnished the brand too much. People have higher than average engagement levels with promoted posts (especially compared to Facebook and Twitter).
This is what has made Instagram so engaging while also useful for advertisers seeking a new audience. It is estimated that over 80% of Instagram users now follow a business as well as personal and celebrity profiles.
What does the future hold for Instagram?
It’s clear that Instagram has had a big impact in its short lifetime.
With the departure last week of the original founders of Instagram, this is an interesting time for the company. There is currently a lot of brand trust in Instagram, however, with the founders moving on, the big question is what will become of Instagram in the years ahead?
Will the company be able to continue to flourish under new leadership, with a focus on engaging users for ad revenue? Or will it begin to flounder and lose its ‘cool’ image as it becomes just another Facebook-owned product?
As with all things social media, only time will tell. Innovation always leaves behind those who can’t capture the current zeitgeist. But for now, as Instagram reigns supreme, it is important to keep on top of the trends and innovations it has created.