Instagram’s popularity continues to grow exponentially, with 700 million active users in June 2017 up to a staggering 1 billion in June 2018.
2018 was a stellar year for Instagram, which made several moves to be more appealing to both users and brands. Except for one end-of-the-year fail, where a test letting users tap through a horizontal feed instead of the usual vertical scroll reached way more users than intended, resulting in an immediate online backlash.
Along with Instagram’s 2018 updates setting the stage for this year’s trends, we also expect a few existing trends to step into the spotlight.
Instagram E-Commerce: Shopping Tags go Global
Luckily for marketers, Instagram is a platform where users are open to advertising and promotional content. 80% of users follow at least one business and 72% have bought a product they saw on Instagram. After a series of e-commerce updates last year, Instagram is a must for any online retailer in 2019.
After launching in the States in 2017, Shopping Tags are now available globally. Initially, Shopping Tags let business profiles tag images with the name and price of items in a post.
Clicking the tag takes you to a product page, which leads you to a page to purchase it. Through 2018, Shopping Tags are now available for Instagram Stories and videos.
Instagram also added a Shop Tab option for business profiles, letting users browse a curated set of items without leaving the app. The Explore feature now includes a dedicated shopping channel that rounds up shoppable posts, based on who you follow, your interests, and activity.
The Rise of IGTV and Long-form Vertical Video Content
If you haven’t heard of or forgot about it already (as it seems most people have), Instagram TV launched last June without much of a push from Instagram itself.
It uses the ever-growing popularity of vertical video found in their Stories and on Snapchat, but IGTV don’t disappear and have no time limits.
IGTV’s soft launch expected brands and creators to publish and promote on their own, without any incentives offered from Instagram or to advertisers…Yet.
Like with all other features added to Instagram over the years, we can expect them to throw their weight behind IGTV sooner than later. The first step was the recent roll-out that lets IGTV videos be shared as a preview through Stories, allowing users to click through to the full IGTV video.
As this becomes more common, we’ll see more and more of the 400 million daily Story users spending time on IGTV. While there are still many users and creators who aren’t on board with vertical-first video, IGTV long-form format is destined to be a YouTube competitor within the next few years.
More Authenticity (and fewer bots)
Tired of random accounts liking and commenting on your posts and following you? Well, Instagram is too. Last fall, Instagram made several marketing-related updates, with the biggest being a fresh fight against bots and in-authenticity using new machine learning tools.
These tools have been removing 3rd-party apps used to automate spam engagement. They’re also being used to identify and notify accounts using these apps, along with removing the inauthentic activity, including spam likes, follows, and comments.
Along with Instagram’s war against bots and in-authenticity, humans just generally prefer authenticity, honesty, and transparency, be it from other humans or brands. Live content is authentic by nature but is part of the challenge in creating it.
Live video has been around for quite a while now on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter (RIP Vine), and also Instagram. With Stories holding key real estate at the top of the app, the only feature that can bump ahead is the old but still not fully realized “Live” feature.
With Stories now ultra-competitive, the only place to stand out is by going live. Its low adoption is clearly due to the challenges it poses, but we’re sure to see more brands and marketers take the plunge in 2019.
Growth has been slow on all platforms, especially the relatively newer Instagram. But with all the competition on Instagram to stay on top of peoples’ feed and ahead of competitors’ Stories, the flashing “Live” icon is the only opportunity to jump to the front of the Stories feed. We predict that brands and marketers that are brave and creative enough, will put more effort into live content.
More Instagram IRL and UGC
User-generated content has continued to grow as a marketing tactic, thanks to its roots in authenticity and ability to help sell. Gartner L2 Digital IQ found that including UGC in a customer’s path to purchase can drive a 4.5% to 9.6% higher conversion rate. This has led to finding more creative ways of encouraging UGC, especially in real life.
One trend that has grown steadily and is set to blow up in 2019 is Instagram-friendly offices, stores, events, and venues. This can include photo and video-friendly locations that entice visitors, customers, or influencers to create Instagram content.
These locations often include fun branded backdrop or props with visible hashtags or @tags. It can also free promotional items or a chance to win for posting from that location. A more obvious choice for events, art exhibits and museums have been getting into it.