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30.01.20 / Instagram in 2019: Did it change, or did we?

Another year and there are even more changes in how we’re using Instagram. The app remains, at its core, about image sharing but with each year the ways and reasons we use it change dramatically. So, what happened 2019? A view from our resident Instagrammer (and consultant), Olivia.

  1. Instagram Stories > Instagram post

The use of Instagram Stories exploded in 2018, with growth continuing in 2019. More than 500 million users view Stories every day – to put this into context, one billion people use Instagram a month, so Story usage is huge. Adding to that, 62% of people say their interest in a brand or a product increases after seeing it in an Instagram Story, so it’sprobably time that you (and your brand) pay more attention to them.

This growth has continued for two main reasons: curiosity and interactivity.  

According to research provided by Instagram, Stories have begun to act as a means of monitoring friends and family members movements – creepy, but true. We all know those people who can’t text back but can put up a Story. Plus, the time pressured nature of Stories makes us more inclined to view them due to a fear of them elapsing and missing out on the content. However, this hasn’t changed this year, so what else has been driving this growth?

This answer is interactive features. 2019 has seen more and more being incorporated into Stories, for example questions, quizzes and countdowns. It’s helped make the format more interesting and engaging to viewers. This isn’t just an opinion, it’s a fact. Nine out of ten Stories that use a polling sticker in the video have increased video views vs. the average. 

The combination of curiosity and interactivity have led to a big trend – although it arguably started right at the back end of 2019 – the new interactive filters. It both entices you with the interactive nature, plus you’re curious as to what you’re going to get, then others follow your lead due to the same patterns of behaviour. The longevity of these filters will be an interesting one to watch, are they here to stay or will it become a case of curiosity killing the cat? 

Increased usage of Instagram Stories also seeps into the wider Instagram landscape, reflected by the increased number of apps that are now available to increase the aesthetic of your Stories. From the likes of Unfold, to Life Lapse and Adobe Spark, the increased need for Instagram Story content to be creatively engaging is apparent by their existence.  

So in summary: if you’re not using Instagram Stories, you should be.

  1. Instagram feeds adopt a more unified aesthetic

The knock-on effect of Stories becoming increasingly significant (and used) has meant that Instagram grids have become even more polished.  

Firstly, due to continuous changes in the algorithm, posts need to be more engaging to appear within a users’ feed. But, things have developed further than this now with the whole overall aesthetic of a page’s feed now being much more of a consideration.

Increasingly, Instagram grids are being used in a similar capacity to the explore page: as a means of discovering products. Users scroll through to look at posts to discover new products, or services within the page, rather than scrolling through their home page. So, pages have had to become more stylised to engage the user, to capture their attention, leading to that perpetual scroll that we are all guilty of finding ourselves in. 

A key trend within this is Micro-Colour Blocking, in which you use sections of colour to create a connection between different posts, with a good example being @postmates. Another increasing popular grid characteristic is a connectivity between the images of grid posts, with the greatest example of this – not even my humble opinion, just a fact – being @aldiuk. Both of these trends reflect the need for a more stylised grid, supported by the availability of apps such as Planoly.

It’s not just about how good your posts are anymore; it’s about how good your grid is.

  1. The Explore tab is only going up

Oh, boy, did we love the Explore tab in 2019, wanting to explore more and more and more…

Over 200 million Instagram users utilise the Explore grid daily, resulting in over 50% of Instagram accounts using this every single month. The Explore tab isn’t too far off Stories in usage when you consider that you’re being served content you haven’t chosen to engage with. We want to discover far beyond our preexisting interests, or delve deeper within them. And you guessed it, Instagram has facilitated these behaviours.  

To put it frankly: the Explore tab has become so much easier to navigate. Not only does it update according to your algorithm – I am served a lot of Saoirse Ronan content after my new found love for having seen her performance in Little Women – but, it’s now also so much easier to find what you want. With the introduction of shortcuts, you can now directly go to IGTV, Shop or content within a range of interests from Food, to Animals and even Comics. This means you’re able to find what you want, opposed to it feeling like you’re in a weird vortex of endless content. 

This more user friendly Explore has helped to increase its usage. It’s just become so much more convenient, with Instagram being rewarded for this new practicality with 81% of users now actively using Instagram as a means of discovering new products.

So, it begs the questions: are we now starting to use Instagram for relatively similar basic functions as we use Google?

  1. Dangerously easy to shop on

This is a development that my bank balance is not thankful for: it is becoming increasingly easy to shop via Instagram. 

I am not alone in this, with more than 70% of shoppers now using the platform to discover and search for the latest brands and products, and 46% going on to make a purchase either online or offline. Instagram has now become a serious rival – if it wasn’t already considered to be – for Pinterest in terms of discovery. 

The three main ways Instagram has done this is through functionality introductions: product tags in feed posts, product tags in Stories and the shopping feed of the Explore tab. The success of these shoppable tags is evident, with more than 130 million clicks on them per month, so it was only a natural progression for Instagram to try to streamline this process even further… 

Enter, direct purchasing within the app. The Beta phase of direct, in-app shopping rolled out in the US, including brands such as Dior, Nike and H&M. This further developed with the first Shoppable influencers, such as Chiara Ferragni and Kylie Jenner, who were able to add tags to their posts which allowed for the products – if the companies were included within the Beta checkout programme –  to also be purchased within the app. 

Whilst this could be seen as creating a more consumer friendly experience for Instagram users, it is relatively self-interested. Shock. Direct purchasing acts as a means for Instagram to take something back financially from the influencer market that it has been so key in creating. With merchants charged a selling fee for the use of in-app checkout, now Instagram also profits from their product selling platform. 

So, Instagram wins with increased revenue, brands with more people being influenced to purchase their products, but does the consumer win?

As always, Instagram is constantly evolving to both adapt to how we use the app, but also to keep ahead of us in order to influence how we use the app. As to who is driving this change, it is somewhat of a question similar to which came first, the chicken or the egg?

2020 will be no different, so let’s hope that for Instagram (and my love for it, whilst I can sometimes be cynical of it), that the best is yet to come…

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