Instagram wants to be the new TikTok

Instagram is ten years old and the fourth most downloaded app of the decade. Despite its early success when it was released (it reached 1 million users 2 months after its launch), can it still keep up with the ever-growing competition? TikTok took the world by storm (and surprise) with outstanding numbers last year and it doesn’t seem ready to stop. And with YouTube, Google’s video giant right on its toes with Shorts, can Instagram stay competitive? 

Instagram started as a photo-sharing platform, where users could upload pictures in a square format (and most of the time add a filter on it), and exchange likes and comments but it kept adapting to the changing social media landscape. Video was incorporated in June 2013 when the short-video app Vine was booming. In 2019, they launched Reels, a new portrait video format very similar to TikTok

In 2020, Instagram lost its place as the second favorite social media of US teenagers after the sudden success of TikTok. And according to App Annie’s State of Mobile report, users now spend on average more time on TikTok than on Instagram.

Instagram won’t be photo-centric anymore

Even though it started as a social media dedicated to the photographic medium, video is about to steal the show on Instagram. On the last day of June, Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, announced a few changes coming to the platform.

According to the video, Instagram will be focusing on 4 main topics: creators, shopping, messaging, and video. Mosseri stated that supporting their creators and “helping them make a living” was still one of their main concerns (as shown with the recent announcement that they are investing $1 billion in creators). 

 In addition to that, they want to adapt to changes induced by the pandemic, notably, the shift from offline commerce to online shopping, and the rise in the use of private messaging. 

While Mosseri’s 2 minutes video introduces 4 talking points for the future of Instagram, he only really delved into one: video. According to research led by Instagram, people wanting to be entertained is one of the main reasons they use the app. Because video is the leading cause of growth online, they want to embrace it.

Can Instagram keep up with the competition?

Both TikTok and YouTube were officially quoted in the video as “very serious competition” and a direct motive to invest in video.  Although YouTube has been a key player in the video industry for years, TikTok only blew up recently. In its 3 years of existence, it’s already reshaping the social network ecosystem. So much so that even YouTube, the video giant, launched Shorts in July, a feature that hosts short-length videos and use pre-existing sound bites to go on TikTok’s grounds. 

source: Instagram

Instagram rolled out Reels globally in August 2020 to compete with the Chinese app. They actually launched it in India in July 2020 right after TikTok was banned there, before initiating a global launch a few months later. Reels gained a lot of traction on Instagram, a Reel button was recently added directly on the home page, and in June 2021, full-screen advertisements were launched in the feature. 

Adam Mosseri didn’t specify what the changes will be, but he did let on that it would be coming in the next few months and that they expected to “embrace video more broadly” with full screen, immersive, entertaining, and mobile-first video features. We’ll just have to wait and see!

Will it change how things work on Instagram?

As nothing specific has been officially announced, we are left only with speculations. Because Mosseri quoted TikTok and YouTube as direct competitors, we can imagine that Reels will keep rising. Photographers and digital artists have expressed their fear that Instagram becoming video-centric will mean a loss for those producing static content.

Comparison between youtube shorts, tiktok and instagram reels

What does it mean for marketers? The first image ad was displayed on the social media platform on November 1, 2013 (with video ads appearing a year later). Now, over 2 million advertisers are actively using Instagram and it supposedly brought $20 billion in ad revenue in 2019.

Instagram is an unmissable place for advertisers. Will it change while it morphs from a photo-sharing app to a video-focused platform? Yes, but this only means that it will bring more opportunities for marketers. It’s no secret that video is booming right now, both on desktop and mobile. The big shift Mosseri is aiming for is to follow this trend. Advertisers already tried their hands at video ads thanks to Stories and, later, Reels, maybe this is the signal to fully shift to video ads and leave static and photo ads behind them, on Instagram at least.

Reels have become prominent on the app: it gained a direct button, replacing the search button. They are also highlighted in the explore feature, (they appear bigger than photos, and autoplay guarantees to catch the eye of the user, even if just for a few seconds). Reels are gaining ground in users’ home feeds, where suggested reels are now displayed in a carousel, in between posts of people you follow.

While nothing’s set in stone yet, it’s safe to assume that Mosseri and his team at Instagram will push for more videos on Instagram. Whether they make a video-friendly algorithm or make Reels page the actual home page (turning Instagram more like TikTok), it’s expected video will soon have more reach on the platform than photos and static content. Now, more than ever, it’s time to switch to video content (and especially the Reels format)!

Did you see Adam Mosseri’s announcements? What do you think the new features will be? Tell us in the comments!

Marine Nozerand

Hi there, I'm Marine (she/her), I'm a Content Manager at Apptamin. Apptamin is a creative agency specialized in app videos (video ads, app store videos, etc.).
Marine Nozerand

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