Last week Instagram celebrated its 10th birthday, and to mark the occasion, we’re looking back at how the app has changed over the last decade and the endless opportunities it has created for businesses and brands alike. From its initial launch in 2010 as a simple photo-sharing app, to the multi-functional social media giant we know today, here is a look into the evolution of Instagram…
1.Instagram introduces video
Three years after its initial launch, Instagram made a pivotal move by enabling video sharing on the app. As a direct response to rival apps such as Vine, Instagram were quick to capitalise on the emerging demand for video sharing, allowing videos of up to 15 seconds in length to be posted directly on people’s feed. Today, videos are one of the most popular post-sharing formats with how-to-tutorials generating the highest engagement.
2. Instagram Stories
Back in 2013, the surging popularity of rival app Snapchat prompted Instagram to mirror their defining 24-hour ‘story’ feature – a move which proved to be hugely beneficial, as Instagram Stories quickly surpassed Snapchat’s success. With a 24-hour window, stories are designed to house less curated, off-the-cuff content, enabling users to engage with their audience beyond their polished feed. The emergence of Stories provided a great opportunity for brands to foster an online personality and engage with consumers on a more spontaneous level, giving real insight into daily activities and the behind-the-scenes of a brand, contributing towards the growth of a positive consumer-brand relationship.
3. Business Profiles
Fast forward to 2016 and Instagram had become an essential part of the marketing mix, creating opportunities for brands to reach new audiences as well as to engage with existing customers – sparking the arrival of Business Profiles. The debut of Business Profiles marked a crucial shift for Instagram as it moved from a social media network to an essential marketing tool for businesses worldwide – granting access to an extended set of features designed to aid business owners and demonstrate return on investment. Today, users with business accounts are able to access valuable post insights including impressions, reach engagements and website clicks, include clickable links within their profile bio and access follower demographic data without ever needing to leave the app.
4. Instagram Highlights
Over a year after Instagram Stories’ initial launch, the app finally allowed users to permanently save stories into curated highlights at the top of their profile. Highlights meant users’ hard work and creativity would not disappear after the 24-hour window but could instead be saved directly to users’ profiles until otherwise deleted. Within the travel industry in particular, this feature has been great for creating beautifully curated highlights, showcasing picturesque destination shots or tantalising images of local cuisine, saved with bespoke titles and cover photos to give profile visitors a flavour of your brand.
5. Shoppable Posts
In 2018, Instagram accelerated itself into the world of ecommerce by launching shoppable posts, which allows users to purchase an item simply by clicking on a photo. The arrival of shoppable posts meant Instagram was no longer just a useful tool for generating website leads, but enabled tangible sales, with the customer journey beginning and ending within the app. According to a report by BigCommerce, Instagram shoppable posts have increased traffic by 1,416% for brands since its release, demonstrating its capability to generate revenue and return.
In 2018 Instagram launched IGTV, catering to longer form video content and extending maximum video length from one-minute to ten-minutes, and up to an hour for larger accounts. The extended time limit has created more opportunities for engagement by allowing brands to give followers a greater insight into their brand story- cultivating desirability and inspiring consumers. Throughout the Covid-19 lockdown, IGTV proved to be invaluable for staying connected, with fitness influencers sharing at-home workouts, musicians sharing virtual concerts and travel brands delving deeper into their brand story. Luxury cruise company Aqua Expeditions made excellent use of IGTV when they released a #CookingWithAqua IGTV series, in which Aqua’s world-renowned consulting chefs led cooking masterclasses inspired by the authentic local cuisine served aboard their vessels.
7. Instagram Donate
In the summer of 2019, Instagram rolled out a donation sticker which could be easily attached to Instagram stories to create a 24-hour fundraising campaign, with 100% of the proceeds donated to charity. To date, the feature has proven a huge success with Instagram reporting that it raised more than $US 100 million for Covid-19 fundraisers between January – July 2020. Now more than ever, it is crucial for companies to show that they care, and this feature provides a fantastic opportunity for brands to demonstrate corporate social responsibility and build brand identity by publicly supporting the charities which lie close to their heart.
8. Instagram Guides
In May 2020, amidst a global pandemic, Instagram launched Guides. Originally created with travel in mind, Guides were inspired by the concept of Instagram users sharing informative recommendations and tips beyond photos and videos. For travel brands in particular, Guides are a great way to look beyond the walls of your hotel and generate thoughtful content exploring the local area – immersing you into the destination.
In the summer of 2020, the world became fascinated with new rising social platform, TikTok, where a predominantly younger user-base shared 15 second snappy videos with themes ranging from lip syncing to dance challenges. Following TikTok’s skyrocketing success, Instagram soon followed suit with ‘Reels’ – complete with their own AR effects, filters and music. Reels can be shared to both stories and main feed, offering a platform for both fun and informative videos. Not to mention Reels have also been dominating the explore page, meaning people who don’t follow your account can still see and engage with your content. Louis Vuitton is an example of a luxury brand who have made exemplary use of Reels, raking in an average of 5 million views per video, in which they promote their new collection.
10. Removal of Likes
Looking to the present day, Instagram have begun the removal of public likes meaning that although the like button will still be available, like counts will only be visible to the creator themselves. The feature has already been implemented in countries such as Australia and New Zealand and is rumoured to be rolled out to the rest of the globe imminently. While many have concerns about this update, brands should embrace it as a positive – shifting the focus away from vanity metrics such as likes and comments, and concentrating their attention on more meaningful engagements such as saves, shares and clicks, which are favoured by the Instagram algorithm. The removal of likes should also give brands and content creators a greater sense of freedom – encouraging them to experiment with creative ideas and out-of-the-box content, free from the anxiety of a low number of likes.