No longer seen as just a platform for #foodporn and selfies, Instagram has steadily become a valuable communications tool for businesses and brands of all sizes that want to reach wide-ranging audience demographics.
In a year where we have continued to search for new ways to connect with each other, Instagram has responded by introducing a series of updates that have created new opportunities for brands to communicate with new and existing audiences.
1. Instagram Live thrives with Live Rooms
With the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on in-person events, many businesses and brands have turned to Instagram Live as a platform for hosting discussions, classes, and performances.
In April 2020, Live saw a 70% increase in usage versus pre-Covid figures. Since then, Instagram has introduced updates making the platform more collaborative and creative.
One of the most significant Live updates is the addition of Live Rooms. While Instagram Live previously allowed two users to go live together, this new update allows up to four. Businesses, brands, and creatives now have greater opportunities when hosting interviews, panel discussions, and tutorials.
In addition to this collaborative approach to Live sessions, Instagram users can now broadcast up to four hours, up from just one hour previously. This puts the platform on par with Facebook’s livestreaming time limit.
2. Instagram investment is on the rise
Despite the growing competition of platforms like TikTok, Instagram continues to lead the way in attracting big marketing spend. According to a recent report by the social media management tool Hootsuite, marketers are predicted to increase investment in Instagram by 61% in 2021.
This is an unsurprising prediction, given that Instagram surpassed the 1 billion user mark in 2020 and remains among the top five most popular social media platforms globally.
For businesses and brands, it isn’t just a case of ‘doing it for the ‘Gram’. Investment of time, resources, and money in Instagram must be grounded in a comprehensive content strategy with clear outputs.
3. Shopping with Reels: gimmick or game-changer?
While the introduction of Instagram Reels was viewed by many as a response to the explosive popularity of TikTok’s short-form creative content, Instagram has continued to develop its functionality and prioritise the visibility of Reels content. One such development is the introduction of shopping directly from Reels.
With the non-essential retail sector and small businesses being among those most severely impacted by Covid restrictions, the introduction of new social media e-commerce solutions is welcome.
Instagram has led the way with social e-commerce since the introduction of ‘Instagram Shopping’ in 2018. However, shopping from Instagram Reels is a move that comes hot on the heels of TikTok’s recently announced partnership with Shopify, a signal that the platform will be aiming to make big moves into e-commerce in 2021.
Instagram is reportedly not going to be the only platform where Reels will be available. Facebook has apparently begun testing the ability for Instagram creators to choose to have their Reels appear on the channel.
Cross-channel promotion between Instagram and Facebook means that users will be able to reach new audiences across both social platforms. This move, however, is not unprecedented.
Facebook currently allows business accounts to select Instagram ad placement options, enabling users to tap into Instagram audiences. It remains to be seen if this update will be rolled out globally and if so, how effective it will be in slowing the growth of TikTok as the most dominant short-form content platform.
What do these updates mean?
Although the hype around emerging platforms like TikTok makes them seem irresistible, Instagram remains a more popular channel among a broader range of audience demographics.
The introduction of new features highlights Facebook’s commitment to the continued growth of Instagram as a creative platform. With the predicted increase in marketing investment this year, Instagram remains a valuable communications tool.
About the author
Amy helps clients build brand awareness and connect with their audience through social and digital platforms. From day-to-day community management and digital content creation to strategic messaging and social media ad campaigns, she finds the best way to communicate online. Before 360, Amy worked in the telecoms sector.