The way people record, share and replay their lives has changed dramatically since the advent of Facebook-owned Instagram.
Once a place where only static, filtered photos could be uploaded, Instagram now offers photo and video uploads, shopping features, direct messaging and several other tools serving users and businesses.
However, for Instagram head of business Jim Squires (pictured below), one of the most important developments was the introduction of vertical videos.
Speaking at Advertising Week, Squires dived into Instagram’s evolution, and how its innovations including Stories and IGTV are leading the way on mobile for creatives and businesses to tell their brand story and reach millions of potential consumers.
Identifying Australia as one of the fastest growing and most valuable markets for Instagram, Squires urged his audience of marketers and creatives to catch up to the millions of Australians using the app every day to interact with businesses and embrace the “vertical world” they were already living in on their phones and on Instagram.
According to the recently released Instagram impact on Australian businesses study, 67 per cent of young Australia Instagram users (18-34 years) surveyed agreed Instagram helps them find new products, services businesses and organisations. As well as this, 53 per cent of young Australian Instagram users surveyed have bought a product based on what they’ve seen on the study.
As per the study, young Australian Instagram users are becoming true brand ambassadors for the platform: embracing all the functionality Instagram offers and using the platform as part of their networking repertoire. Of those surveyed, over half (52 per cent) of young Australian users access the platform several times a day, most commonly at home while relaxing.
According to Squires, Australians are creating one million stories on Instagram every day. “There are now one billion active accounts on Instagram,” Squires said. “The scale is unbelievable, and it’s grown so fast”.
Listening to users, Squires said he and his team have learnt the “common thread” of what Instagrammers want is vertical video.
Clearly, Australians are hooked to Instagram and its content.
Establishing itself at the front of the vertical video movement, Instagram recently launched IGTV, which offers users long-term video – up to 60 minutes – that, unlike Stories, is permanent. According to Squires, the reason for this launch is that “Younger people want to connect with new types of creators and celebrities – people I would not recognise if I saw them on the street”.
Squires added, “These creators have 15 to 25 million followers, and people want to connect with these celebrities”. Speaking on the detachment from Stories, Squires said the new tool was also influenced by the ‘swipe up’ function within stories which move users off the platform, and as a result, IGTV was born.
“That’s why we find ourselves living in a vertical world. The message has become aligned with the medium. Now that the message is finally aligned with the medium we’re seeing incredible work happening across the platform,” he said.
According to Squires, it’s not just creators who are making the most of vertical; marketers are also taking advantage of it. Incorporating vertical ads within stories is resulting in elevated business impact and much higher engagement by consumers. Squires referred to an example from Myer, which utilised Instagram stories to launch its spring/summer collection and saw 2.2 times return on investment.
Though, Squires also highlighted the importance of brands remembering to stay true to themselves while using the technology. “No matter what the format is, be true to your brand and don’t be gimmicky or simply show things people only want to see,” he said. Rather, he added, understand that the same things are not going to work for every marketer.
Squires touted the importance of brands using a variety of features within Instagram; from the shopper component, used by many local Australian brands, to direct response messaging, used by the likes of Oreo. Squires said, “Feed, profile, stories, IGTV – tailor different messages which are consistent with a brand to support each other.”
Overall, Instagram’s head of business urged companies to keep looking forward and encouraged brands to adopt a trial and error approach to the technology.
“The most successful marketers are using Instagram holistically. Often, I hear from marketers, ‘it sounds great but we need to retool before we use it’. My advice is to not wait.
“Roughly 76 per cent of people appreciate when brands try out these new formats and 65 per cent of people say they think of brands using vertical as more innovative,” he said.
“So basically, you get bonus points for doing video even if it’s not perfect out of the gate. So keep pushing forward, and keep trying new things, because people and tech are not slowing down or staying in one place.”