‘Instagram is  no longer a square-photo sharing app’ – what this means for your business

Recently Instagram’s chief, Adam Mosseri, announced the platform’s plan for the rest of 2021, and beyond – which set tongue’s wagging and heads rolling (if you missed the announcement, you can play catch up here).

In the announcement, Mosseri listed Creators, Video, Shopping and Messaging as Instagram’s key areas of focus for the future.

But what exactly do these mean? And how will the changes affect small businesses already using Instagram for business? Or small businesses that are still deciding whether to use Instagram?

Let’s explore the potential implications for small businesses by breaking down the two key areas Mosseri mentioned that we feel will have the greatest impact on small businesses users – Video and Shopping.

This blog is all about video. Watch out next week when we go through Instagram shopping – you won’t want to miss it.

Video: It’s not expensive or scary, nor is it new to the app

“Instagram is no longer a square photo sharing app… people are looking to Instagram to be entertained.”

What you may be thinking: ‘Instagram is completely changing its format to video-only and unless I have a video production degree and $5k worth of equipment I’m doomed.’

The reality: Video is proving to be a huge success on Instagram, as it keeps users engaged on the platform for longer. You’ll see more tools, support and functionality to help all users create video content, alongside their static content, which will in turn maximise reach. 

Video isn’t difficult or scary or expensive. Nor is it new to the app. 

Instagram has been progressively pushing video since 2016 when 60 second videos made their way into user’s feeds. These were closely followed by Livestreams and Instagram Stories (in order to compete with Snapchat), and IGTV (to compete with YouTube).  More recently Instagram Reels arrived,  (to compete with TikTok… and successfully at that).

A new perspective

If you find the thought of creating video daunting, then think of it from the perspective of the person you’d like to engage with and influence. While a single picture might ‘say a thousand words’, video can convey more information, emotion, tone of voice and messaging. This all leads to greater understanding, trust, loyalty and most importantly, authenticity

Gone are the days of fake, unattainable Instagram lifestyles that feel out of touch with the reality of our current COVID lockdown lifestyles.

Instead a push towards real and raw/warts and all content, is shaping how users and brands create successful, relatable content post-2020.


The Stats Speak for Themselves

The stats speak for themselves. A 2020 report by a UK-based performance agency revealed that Instagram creators are losing on average 33% of their projected income due to COVID, in spite of increased engagement rates as users spend more time on social media due to lockdown restrictions.

Business Insider’s research from late last year showed that  There’s been a shift toward raw, uncut and real content⁠ – and it has to do as much with limitations on content creation due to shelter-in-place and social distancing measures, as it does with consumers’ evolving expectations of creator content.”

So why this announcement – what’s new this time?

In a recent blog post on Instagram’s latest changes and the impact on those changes for businesses, we spoke about Instagram reels. We explained how businesses using reels can leverage the popularity of the newest feature, as well as the extra reach they are getting.

A few months on, reels is still Insta’s newest darling and is only growing in popularity. So in addition to Instagram ‘pushing reels hard’ in the Explore Feed and Navigation Bar, it is now also trialing what it calls ‘Recommendations’. 

Recommendations will be Instagram’s test in displaying recommended video content from unfollowed accounts in a user’s main feed – a space usually reserved for followed accounts only.

Some recommended content will actually be prioritised ahead of the content by followed accounts.  This is because Instagram is looking to maximise engagement by populating the main feed with reels and video content that will keep users on the platform for longer.

Recommendations will also have control options so that a user can let it know topics of interest to them, as well as any topics they don’t want to see.

The same recommendation guidelines that apply to ‘Explore’, will also apply to reels.

For example, Instagram will avoid recommending reels that are low-resolution or watermarked, or reels that focus on political issues or that are made by political figures, parties, or government officials – or on their behalf.

This is a great opportunity for your business

This is a HUGE opportunity for small businesses to capitalise on, by having Instagram showcase your video content to a targeted audience that aren’t yet following you yet, something that doesn’t happen on other platforms, like Facebook.

Those businesses that are creating quality video content on Instagram will most likely start seeing their audience build as a result of this.  PLUS, adding more video content creation into your strategy is going to provide you with more opportunities to use Instagram to build a warm audience that you can retarget with your Facebook Advertising.

Full Screen, immersive, entertaining and mobile-first video 

In addition to trialing recommendations, Mosseri says Instagram will be “experimenting with how we embrace video more broadly — full screen, immersive, entertaining, mobile-first video”.

In other words, knowing that such a huge percentage of its users access the platform on mobile devices, Instagram will continue with its predominantly mobile format, optimising its video tools and features accordingly.

Knowing this, when creating video, small businesses need to consider things such as:

  • audio
  • captions
  • formatting on a smaller handheld device’s screen, and
  • shorter content for short attention spans

If the main purpose of Instagram (in this announcement anyway) is to entertain, then businesses will need to do less talking head videos and more shorter Instagram stories and reels that grab our attention quickly. Think of simply-for-fun style videos – without always selling or educating. 

However, if the current Instagram trend of being real, authentic and transparent is anything to go by, Instagram is simply pushing brands and users to create more engaging and entertaining content. Hopefully meaning an end to user’s feeds swamped with fake, scripted, infomercial-type videos.

Remember to keep it real – use the in-app features to your advantage

Remember, Insta’s end-game is to keep users on the platform for longer. Small businesses can definitely still capitalise on this by creating entertaining video content using all of the extra tools and features Instagram is giving them.

Whether you create tutorials, time lapse or behind the scenes video, you will effectively be rewarded with further engagement and reach if you create watchable content that keeps eyes on screens.

Remember real and raw is key here.

Much like TikTok, Instagram is prioritising amateur-created content over the big brands – and there’s never been a better time to be an amateur in the video realm. 

For instance, try out Instagram’s green screen tool, integrate music, add captions, play with some filters… there’s so many tools on offer to content creators without even needing to leave the app!

And of course add humour to your video wherever you can and keep the content down-to-earth, relatable and as entertaining as possible. 

When Mosseri announced ‘full screen video’ he’s likely talking about how we currently consume YouTube video – taking up the whole mobile screen, as a more immersive experience. Since Mosseri hasn’t confirmed whether this means Instagram may soon trial landscape orientated videos, we think it’s best to stick to portrait mode for now.

So How Can You Up Level Your Instagram Video Game?

Firstly, don’t panic. 

If you’re new to video the number one thing to do is START NOW. Get ahead of the pack. Just like any skill or habit, you’ll get better at it. Plus you will have a leg up on those businesses that are either unaware of the latest announcement, or are too scared to adopt video into their content strategy.

As you’re scrolling the Instagram feed, save videos you like using the bookmark tool and start researching how you can add this powerful medium to your content strategy.

If you’re already using video, then keep going!

And If you’re new to reels – check out everything you need to know about them here and here.

Here’s more details on all the ways you can use video on Instagram:

What should you do as a result of these changes?

When changes like this are announced your first response shouldn’t be to panic. Announcements like this should instead be a trigger to take time to reflect on the way you are (or aren’t) using the platform and consider whether or not you need to adjust your digital marketing strategy to take advantage of the new opportunities available to your business.

Use some of the ideas above, and do some research on the app for inspiration. Then just practice and post. Your video content may not be perfect first time around, but you will get better the more you do it and you will start to benefit from Instagram’s new focus on highlighting video content on the platform. 

Every month in the Click Engage Convert Academy we focus on an area of digital marketing to help our members , and August and September 2021 will be all about video! We’ll be helping our members get video ready for Instagram and other platforms, as well as build your video confidence with the support of the Impactiv8 team as part of our coworking/creation days.

Find out more about the Click Engage Convert Academy here.