Instagram is now the leading social media platform. It has been for a while now, but 2019 confirmed Instagram’s status as the king or queen of content; as well as the new market leader for e-commerce too.
The app is no longer just a social media platform where you can share photos and videos, it’s also an economic engine for small and big brands alike. In 2020, Instagram will continue its transformation into both an e-commerce platform and a long-form video platform, along with a new focus on conversion through influencer marketing.
But in an ever-changing online world where trends come and go in minutes, will this be enough to keep marketers and users attention?
#1, The power is now with the ‘content creators’
The world is obsessed with the term ‘influencer’ these days. What 2019 showed the marketing world is that there is now a big difference between ‘creators’ and ‘influencers’.
Creativity does eventually shine through and it is the talented photographers, videographers, content creators and designers that are taking the online world by storm and finally getting the credit they deserve whilst becoming more influential than so-called ‘influencers’. Thanks to brand partnerships and businesses finally waking up on where they spend their money, we are beginning to see creators pushed to the forefront of digital campaigns.
A brand like Beautiful Destinations has built a following of 13.1 million and is now leading the way for inspiring people to travel, connect and have a positive impact on the world. Jeremy Jauncey and his brother Tom have become travel ambassadors of the world, encouraging a better and more sustainable lifestyle. Beautiful Destinations relies on content creators and micro-influencers from all around the world to submit content as well as using these creators for their very own brand partnerships with local tourism boards and hotels to drive and grow tourism.
Digital creators and real-life couple Jack Morris and Lauren Bullen, better known as Do You Travel and Gypsea Lust on the ‘gram have a combined follower count of 4.7 million. These two and other leading content creators like Jacob (953,000 followers) are living proof of how real-life stories alongside their work for brands can impact and inspire the world way more than high-street travel agents struggling to keep up with the rent.
#2, Hidden likes will become worldwide by the end of 2020.
Instagram is currently testing hiding likes on accounts all around the world. Many countries like Canada and Australia haven’t had public like counts for months.
Most recently Instagram announced it is hiding likes in the United States, which is a big step considering this is the apps biggest market. We’re yet to see hidden likes introduced in England and the rest of the United Kingdom but when we do it will no doubt be a big talking point across all social media.
Instagram’s main message for this change was to address mental health concerns, particularly with teens; but many marketers have also pointed out another reason for this change – getting people to post more to their feed.
As creators, users and brands have placed a greater emphasis on likes and followers in recent years, the amount of feed posts has declined each year. Instagram users are saving only their “best” content for the feed, in an effort to keep their engagement rate high across all of their feed posts. Instagram Stories has also meant users are posting less to their feed and engaging more with their followers in real-time conversations in private DMs.
The photo above is how your Instagram will look without the like count.
By removing likes, Instagram’s theory is that people will be able to be more creative and post what they want without worrying about how many likes they are getting on a post. If that is successful, I’m betting that Instagram sees an increase in feed posts too.
So why are posts so important to Instagram? The more people who scroll through their newsfeed, the more people see sponsored posts which are where Instagram and businesses alike make their money. Adverts in stories are new and are still a work in progress due to the limited options they currently offer.
The health benefits for hiding likes from normal Instagram users is clear but how will businesses react to their likes been hidden? Of course, they will be able to see the likes in the back end, but the general theory is that businesses will have to begin to really look into how Instagram is increasing sales, website traffic and return on investment (ROI) from campaigns rather than relying on likes for success. Those who adapt best will be the ones who will thrive.
#3, Instagram evolves into an Influencer Marketing & e-commerce platform
In 2019, Instagram launched Checkout which is an easy way for customers to complete purchases without leaving the app.
Along with Instagram Checkout, they also launched Shopping For Creators, which allows content creators, influencers, celebrities and artists to add tags to their posts. Users and followers can then click on the shopping tag and purchase the product without ever leaving the Instagram app.
The sad news is this is not available in the U.K yet and is only been tested with the leading creators in the US – but you can definitely expect to see these two features to be rolled out to more creators, if not everyone in 2020; meaning everybody with a product will be able to sell instantly through Instagram.
Businesses can obviously already do this and those who caught on early are cashing in.
But that’s not all Instagram announced in 2019. Facebook and Instagram are launching ‘Brand Collabs Manager‘, in an attempt to help brands get the best out of branded content with influencers and creators.
Yes, that means Instagram is now an Influencer Marketing platform too.
This is another reason for Instagram removing likes as it means brands will no longer be able to see the engagement rates of influencers so easily.
Brands Collabs Manager will allow a “select group of creators” (for now) to share their analytics and engagement rates with brands and identify topics that they are interested in creating branded content for (such as travel or beauty). It will also cut out influencers sending select screenshots of their engagement making it a much more level playing field for all involved.
Currently, it’s difficult to properly attribute direct ROI from influencer marketing so giving influencers the ability to sell a brand’s products directly through their account could be a game-changer for the industry.
Couple both Instagram Checkout and Brands Collabs Manager together and it will make influencer marketing on Instagram a lot more sophisticated and much more conversion driven as brands become more concerned with acquisition instead of just awareness.
#4, Average caption lengths are getting longer…
2019 was definitely a year for storytelling on Instagram and I don’t mean just through photos and videos. Instagram invested in words and so did its users. With mental health awareness on the rise and with creators and users of Instagram sharing more stories and experiences with their followers, we are seeing caption lengths increase over time.
Longer threads and captions are a big part in the overall shift in the authenticity changes we are seeing on Instagram as a platform. Photos are becoming less filtered (people use set presets now) and the captions are becoming more and more personal. The longer your followers spend reading your posts, the more engagement you will get due to how Instagram’s algorithm works now.
View this post on Instagram
Happy New Year my friends!!! As we head off to Antarctica to look for more leopard seals and to keep telling the story about the last great continent, I want to reach out to each one of you and thank you for being there in 2019. There are days that I too get really down about the state of our planet and then I realize that the only antidote to that feeling of helplessness is action. When we are inactive, we have too much time to think and we work ourselves into a feeling of despair. When we are active, we feel energized, alive, positive and before you know it, you are leading others into action. So, in 2020 let’s all become leaders. Every time you vote, eat, shop, post, speak or take just one action, you are making a decision about what type of planet you want. I could not be more excited about 2020 and the road ahead. We are in it together. We are in it for the long haul. We are in it to drive change! Thank you to everyone who has supported @sealegacy as we are just getting started. #gratitude #happynewyear
The state of the planet is also pushing caption lengths up and up. Storytellers like legendary NatGeo contributor Paul Nicklen (6.2 million followers) share the story behind the photos he shares, urging action from his followers and his brand Sea Legacy. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to read all about Paul’s face-to-face encounter with a terrifying leopard seal in Antarctica?
#5, IGTV is finally ‘cool’ and should be a big part of your marketing strategy in 2020.
Instagram has been trying to compete with YouTube for years now and in 2019, it finally made strides to becoming a long-form video platform thanks to huge improvements to IGTV.
IGTV abandoned its ‘vertical video’ thesis by adding the ability to upload landscape videos and thanks to this move IGTV’s views increased dramatically. This change in layout gave users the ability to ‘post a preview’ of your IGTV video to both to feed and your profile.
In 2019, podcasts were no doubt the internets leading piece of content. The change to previewing posts on IGTV on the main feed and profile worked perfectly with how brands and journalists marketed their podcasts. Emerging media force JOE nailed it in 2019 with their House For Rugby podcast with guest hosts rugby players James Haskell and Mike Tindall providing expert inside knowledge to the sport in what was a Rugby World Cup year.
YouTube will always be king for vloggers for long-form video content but IGTV has provided another way for creators and brands without huge YouTube followings to push video to people’s feeds and most importantly for Instagram to keep users on the app for as long as possible.
In 2020, expect more and more short and long-form content to pop-up on your Instagram feeds through IGTV.
PS – To post to IGTV you need to download the IGTV app from your mobile app store.
#6, It’s time to launch your own IGTV series…
This leads perfectly on to our next trend for 2020.
In October 2019, Instagram launched IGTV Series, which lets creators organise their videos on a separate page and includes a badge with the series name to separate it from other IGTV videos.
Below is a perfect example of how Instagram is using IGTV Series on their own channels with the legend that is Dwayne The Rock Johnson. #ThreeMinuteAutobiography is a three-minute snapshot of a public figure day-to-day life. Perfect content to watch on your commute.
Viewers can now watch their favourite series and subscribe to notifications for new episodes (similar to how you can do this on YouTube). When a viewer watches an episode in the series, the next episode will automatically be recommended for continued viewing.
IGTV Series works perfectly for weekly podcasts, updated music playlists, short interviews, make-up trailers or EP and LP album teasers for musicians.
The topic or range of topics is all down to you and what fits into your business or niche. If you want your own reality TV show through Instagram, you can.
#7, Everybody can become a content creator/influencer and every business can scale dramatically.
If 2019 was the year of the micro-influencer (10,000-100,000 followers) then 2020 will be the year of the nano-influencer (defined as less than 10k). A huge amount of growth in followers and scaling your business is possible if your strategy is right.
All the points listed, especially Instagram for Creators will allow all Instagram users to sell products from their feeds. Of course, you will need your products listed on your own website, but this is a game-changer for all Instagram users as it will no longer mean you will have to direct people directly through your website.
One right decision could be the difference between a record Q1 (first quarter). One wrong decision could be a missed opportunity that someone else or another business thrives from.
As much as people think social media is there to make you spend and hold you back, if it is used in the right way it has all the aspects you need for success and it’s only going to become more refined as 2020 goes on.
Some final thoughts on Instagram…
The reason why content creators have the power is because of the shift in trust between customer and businesses. T&C’s are tighter than ever and businesses are having to protect themselves through very uncertain times. High street businesses are struggling and TV ratings (other than live events) are falling dramatically thanks to the way users are now watching TV series and documentaries on Netflix, YouTube and now Instagram.
The last decade saw some of the biggest businesses go into administration. Did you ever think there would be a travel industry without Thomas Cook?
This is the world we live in now and brands need to always be planning ahead and having a clear plan about where they are heading. The fact is, it is extremely possible to make a career out of Instagram, vlogging on YouTube and having a successful career through the internet.
2020 is set to be a monumental year for Instagram, with the platform turning 10 years old later this year. Thanks to apps like TikTok, it may no longer be the newest, coolest app around, but Instagram is still the best network for brands big and small to reach new customers and make major sales.
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