Instagram has changed dramatically since it was founded in 2010. The launch of video, Stories and IGTV has led to an explosion of more ephemeral content and vertical video alongside the curated and filtered images that the platform was once best known for.
“We have seen a change in behaviour over the past couple of years,” said Instagram Product Marketing Lead Gord Ray at the House of Instagram.
“Three years ago, we launched Stories … and we went from [seeing] 0 to 100 million people using it every day within a few months. Now it’s at 500 million a day – and we know this is going to become bigger and bigger,” he said.
With the growth of Stories, Ray said that Instagram had seen a demand for more playful and less polished content from brands. The next key focus for Instagram is IGTV: launched in August last year, the feature allows users to post longer-form vertical videos up to an hour in length.
Ray said IGTV was launched in response to research which found that people spend most of their time holding their phone upright – even when consuming video. “Millennials almost never turn their phone … yet they’re watching the most video. So we felt there was an opportunity to do something in this space, and that’s why we launched IGTV,” he explained.
While its growth hasn’t been quite as rapid as Stories, Instagram has seen a sharp increase in IGTV views since the beginning of this year, a rise that can be attributed in part to introducing previews of IGTV videos into the main Instagram Feed.
Over the past few months, brands, publishers and celebrities have been experimenting with the format. Ray said fashion brands had been among the earliest adopters, with Versace using IGTV to live stream catwalk shows. ASOS has also been using it to post curated product drops and style edits, with videos regularly receiving tens of thousands of views. “Fashion is the industry that has gravitated super quickly towards understanding the importance of this format,” he said.
Jane Kinnaird, Creative Strategist at Instagram, said that IGTV offered an opportunity for brands to create more immersive content and engage with consumers on a deeper level – whether through behind-the-scenes footage or content that allowed consumers to learn more about a brand and the people behind it.
“What’s interesting about today’s consumer is that they don’t want to just buy your product – they want to understand who you are, what you stand for, what the ethos [of your brand is]. They want to delve further to understand who they’re purchasing from and IGTV is a great way to do this,” she said. “You can be playful in Stories, and more immersive in IGTV, and you can build your brand in Feed.”
Alongside IGTV, shopping is another key focus for Instagram in 2019. Last year, the brand launched shopping tags within posts, allowing users to tap on a tag to pull up information about a product and click through to a retailer’s website to make a purchase. Now, it is working on building a marketplace within the app.
Over the past few months, Instagram has been working with retailers including Zara, Nike and Dior to trial in-app shopping in the US. An in-app checkout feature lets users complete a purchase and manage an order without leaving the platform. Ray said the results of the trial have been positive, and Instagram is now opening up the beta version to creators and influencers as well as brands.
Explaining Instagram’s decision to introduce shopping tags, Ray said the brand wanted to make it easier for consumers to find out about products – and keep up with changing shopping habits. “In the next four years, the number of sales on a mobile is expected to increase three times,” he said. “We wanted to respond to that stat in a way that made sense [for Instagram’s audience].”
In a talk on shopping, James Bennett, Product Marketing Manager at Facebook and Instagram said that 130 million people were now tapping on shopping accounts. With tags now available on videos and Stories as well as static posts, he encouraged brands to experiment with a wider range of shoppable content.
Offering some advice for retailers, Bennett suggested experimenting with regular product drops – for example by launching new products on the same day each week – and launching Instagram exclusives to drive anticipation around new collections. Net-a-Porter recently launched a Chloe collection on Instagram, with the product revealed through shoppable carousel ads. He also recommended creating shopping experiences that respond to current trends or popular content: when an image of an egg became the most liked photo on Instagram this year, one paint brand responded with a shoppable post promoting a shade in the same colour as the egg’s shell.
“Another effective method is the guide, or the how to. It could be style edits, makeup tutorials – anything with movement and tags you can touch to learn more. It’s practical and useful,” he said. H&M, meanwhile, has experimented with using video to draw people into shoppable carousels. “It’s, playful, fun and interactive – it’s not just putting a product with a tag on it, it’s eye-catching and it demonstrates all the best practices we recommend people adhere to,” explained Bennett.
Along with revealing new product features and trends for 2019, Instagram announced the results of new research exploring how audiences interact with brands on Instagram – and the kind of content that consumers want to see more of from advertisers.
A study commissioned by Facebook IQ and conducted by Ipsos Mori found that 57% of people want to see fun or entertaining content from brands, with only 36% looking for beautifully produced images and videos – suggesting that personality is now more important than polish. Almost a third of the 21,000 people surveyed said they wanted brands to showcase their personality in their content – for example through featuring makers or employees from that brand – and 53% said they would follow a brand for its content, even if they’re not a fan of that business.
The study found that 87% of people had taken action after seeing product information on Instagram, while 83% said Instagram helps them discover new products and services – proof of the potential value of in-app shopping and shoppable posts. It also revealed people’s top interests on Instagram, with travel ranking highest, followed by music, food and drink, fashion, film, health and fitness, TV, tech, cosmetics and skincare and sports.
With 80% of Instagram’s 1 billion monthly active users now following a business, Ray said there was a demand for content from brands – provided that content is relevant and engaging.
People looked to Instagram for entertainment, news, education and inspiration, he said, and the brands that perform best are the ones that can offer a mix of all four while bringing something unique to the platform.
Ray also highlighted the importance of directly engaging with and responding to consumers: 150 million people now direct message a business each month on Instagram – “that’s a huge increase on a few years ago, when people were more passive on the platform,” he said.
Citing the success of beauty brand Glossier (which now has 2 million followers) Ray said: “If someone sends you a message, respond back. Have a conversation. What Glossier does very successfully is engage with its users. They spend time responding to comments, and if someone writes something, they’ll write back. What’s happened over time is that the community of people who like Glossier have started responding to each other – people help each other out and make comments and suggestions and it’s all happening within the Glossier account,” he said.
House of Instagram is an annual event for brands and creative agencies. You can see more advice and insights from the day here.