Believe it or not, there was a time when videos that automatically played on a feed were seen as annoying. So much so that guides on how to disable Facebook’s autoplay feature began popping up when it was announced in 2013. Nevertheless, this move ushered in the era of online video content and advertising. Seven years later an app dedicated to showing an endless stream of videos would be the most downloaded.
TikTok’s meteoric rise in popularity has changed the social media landscape and it’s already influencing other apps. Instagram, for one, has been declared as “no longer a photo-sharing app” by Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri. “Video is driving an immense amount of growth online for all the major platforms right now, and it’s one that I think we need to lean into more,” he said in his post, adding that there’s some “serious competition right now”.
Because of this, Instagram will be rolling out new developments in the coming days to make the app more video-friendly. Keep reading to learn more about Instagram app updates to expect in 2021.
Say hello to more video
It’s been almost a year since Instagram Reels has been launched and so far it’s still known as an “alternative” for TikTok, not a direct competitor. This could be because the feature is still not available to all countries and many talents from around the world have yet to contribute content. Even so, Instagram’s track record of ventures into video has not been so impressive. IGTV, a video hub once thought to be a potential rival to YouTube, is labelled as a “flop” by some and interpreted Instagram’s removal of the dedicated IGTV button as a sign of “admission” that it is indeed a flop. Despite these setbacks, Instagram is still not done trying to make video happen on the app.
Their latest attempt is experimenting with “recommendations” where posts from accounts you’re not yet following will be shown on your feed. It’s a move towards an interest-based model that the TikTok algorithm has been using to determine which videos you’re more likely to enjoy on the curated “For You” page. It’s different from Instagram which mainly follows an account-centric system that shows you posts only from accounts you follow. Shifting to an “interest-based” feed could help users find more content to enjoy and makes it easier for content creators to reach audiences that haven’t discovered them yet. Overall, we say, it’s an interesting move.
However, let’s not forget that “recommendations” isn’t exactly a new thing. A similar Instagram app update was released back in 2018 which shows posts you may like from accounts you don’t follow after you’ve already seen everything on your feed. We’re curious to know what will be new but we have theories of our own: it could show the recommendations in between posts from accounts you follow or a new page dedicated to interest-based posts will be created.
Why it could be successful this time
One thing that could work in Instagram’s favour in terms of becoming more video-centric are trending movements towards digital minimalism. If it becomes successful in doing so, people could just gravitate towards Instagram as the replacement for other video apps in the same way Instagram Stories became a substitute for Snapchat. Instead of maintaining various accounts, users could just stick to one. “Should Instagram start offering TikTok-like features, users and content creators (like me) may find the existence of similar platforms redundant and stick to Instagram where there's video-sharing and curated content,” Senior Features Writer Amanda said.
Another factor that could lead to Instagram’s success is the abundance of cross-shared TikToks on the platform by those with a following. This means Instagram users who are not on TikTok are also showing interest in short-format videos. “People already post TikTok videos on Instagram, so might as well do it directly on Instagram if they have the tools and you have a bigger following there,” Features Writer Alyana said.
However, some would say that the inherent differences between Instagram and TikTok are still a barrier to fully transforming the app into a video sharing platform. “My impression of Instagram is that it's still a platform that serves curated, more polished content, like a visual portfolio of sorts while on TikTok there's a certain charm to how ‘unfiltered’ the content and community is. Hence, it might be hard for Instagram to convert TikTok users to their platform instantly,” Fashion Features Writer Sheryl said.
She added that one way to convince her to contribute short-form video content on Instagram is if it creates “idiot-proof” video-making tools. Alyana shared the same sentiment, saying: “I think the reason why I haven't hopped on TikTok is because I find the video editing to be a hassle even though it's just stop-and-go. But with Instagram, the user-friendly tools are already there with the IGS feature.”
Exclusive stories, creator fund, shopping and more
Aside from video-related Instagram app updates, Mosseri also shared that other developments concerning creators, messaging, and shopping are in the pipeline. Although not much was said about these, we have good guesses on what’s to come based on trends and recent moves in its parent company Facebook.
For creators, there’s a possibility of running a creator program for Instagram similar to Facebook’s planned “Audio Creator Fund” for its upcoming podcast feature. TikTok also has an up-and-running funding program where content creators could apply for and, once selected, will be given funds calculated based on several factors like views and engagement.
As for a shopping update, it could be something to do with live shopping — a trend that soared during the onset of the pandemic and continues to be popular today. Since Instagram already has a shop feature, it would be very easy for brands to hold exclusive sales for their followers.
Various Instagram app updates and experiments have appeared on our feed lately. Some exited quietly, others caught on and once in a while something becomes an ultimate success. Instagram as an entertainment platform leaning towards video? The verdict is still out, but we’re not discounting its potential.
(Cover photo from: Laura Chouette via Unsplash)
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