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Instagram’s Efforts to Win Back Young Users Will See Video Become the Focus of the Main Feed Display

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Soon, your main Instagram feed will be a combined display of relevant image posts, Stories, Reels and Video content, all displayed in a full-screen, swipeable UI, ala TikTok, as the platform works to keep up with evolving usage trends, and stop to flow of users migrating to the short-form video app.

Instagram hasn’t confirmed this in any official capacity, but that’s increasingly where the app is headed, with its most recent experiment with longer videos in Stories essentially bringing all of its video formats into line, which will facilitate the next stage of its content merger.

Instagram longer videos in Stories

Why would Instagram do this?

As noted, the rise and rise of TikTok has Instagram, and parent company Meta, entirely freaked out, especially as it eyes the next big shift, and utilizing its massive reach to usher in the ‘metaverse’, a new digital platform of immersive experiences that will ideally help Meta become an even more critical utility, in regards to eCommerce, entertainment, social tools, etc.

But if Meta continues to lose favor with younger users, which statistics show is happening, then it won’t be able to maximize this new push, because it’ll harder to gain widespread adoption of, say, it’s new AR glasses or its advanced VR headsets, as all of these new elements become a harder sell if young people would prefer not to spend their time in Meta’s apps, because they’re simply not the cool place to be anymore.

Sure, Meta could still win them over with advanced tools and features that could become the next key trend. But right now, the migration away from Facebook and Instagram is significant, and as TikTok continues to rise, that poses various growth problems for Meta, both for its immediate and longer term plans.

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Which is why Instagram, Meta’s key connector to youth culture, is now looking to fight back.

So how will that look in practice?

In short, I’d expect the traditional Instagram news feed of static posts and videos to be on the way out very soon.

Instagram chief Adam Mosseri has already flagged various changes in this respect. Back in January, Mosseri noted that IG was looking to merge its current video tools to better facilitate creation, and reduce confusion in the app. 

As Mosseri explained to Decoder:

We’re looking about how we can – not just with IGTV, but across all of Instagram – simplify and consolidate ideas, because last year we placed a lot of new bets. I think this year we have to go back to our focus on simplicity and craft.”

Instagram announced the merger of its video feed posts into a single format last month, along with the retirement of the IGTV brand, while the latest test of 60-second videos in Stories essentially now means that feed posts, Stories and Reels all now have the same video post length.

That means that you’ll soon be able to post full Reels in Stories, share regular video posts as Reels, etc. Essentially, all of Instagram’s video options are being brought into line, step-by-step, as the platform works to make it easier to post video content into a single stream.

Which is where this new test comes in.

Instagram Reels label

As you can see in this new notification, shared by user Hammod Oh on Twitter, now, when you record a short video in the app, Instagram will automatically post it as a Reel, while there’s also this new note on the composer screen:

“Your video may appear in Reels, it can also be seen on your profile and in your followers’ feeds.”

So all of your videos can be displayed in the same places – while again, some users can also share the same in Stories, bringing everything into a larger pool of Instagram video posts.

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Which is the key aim. TikTok’s able to highlight the best content to each user because it can pull from a massive array of publicly posted clips, which it can then display in your ‘For You’ feed, in alignment with your preferences. Instagram can’t do this, because it’s confined by the people you follow in the main feed, while it also doesn’t open to the full-screen view, like TikTok.

But that could be the next big step.

Late last month, as part of Meta’s Q3 earnings announcement, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that re-establishing connection with younger audiences will be a key focus for the company moving forward.

As explained by Zuckerberg:

Historically, young adults have been a strong base, and that’s important because they are the future. But over the last decade, as the audience that uses our apps has expanded so much and we’ve focused on serving everyone, our services have gotten dialed to be best for the most people who use them rather than specifically for young adults. And during this period, competition has also gotten more intense, especially with Apple’s iMessage growing in popularity and more recently the rise of TikTok, which is one of the most effective competitors that we have ever faced.

As a result, Zuckerberg says that Meta’s teams will “make serving young adults their north star”, which will see them looking to align with younger user trends, as opposed to sticking with more traditional processes.

Instagram’s Adam Mosseri has also flagged its bigger focus on video, specifically, explaining back in July that:

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“We’re also going to be experimenting with how do we embrace video more broadly – full-screen, immersive, entertaining, mobile-first video.”

Instagram, Mosseri also noted, is ‘no longer a photo-sharing app’, saying that people come to Instagram to be entertained, not to look at a digital photo album, as such.

In combination, these statements and experiments point to a major shift for Instagram, which will likely, as noted, see the platform move more towards a TikTok-like feed of all content, all in full-screen, which will give Instagram more insight into what each users’ interest are, and enable it to then refine the user experience specifically in-line with younger user behaviors.

Which will also mean major shifts in process for social media marketers – but really, given the various experiments and changes already in place, that’s happening either way.

Really, it seems obvious, even logical that this is where Instagram is headed. But it will be a big change for the app, and it won’t please everyone.

But again, as Zuckerberg explained in his reasoning for its strategic shift:

…this will involve tradeoffs in our products and it will likely mean that the rest of our community will grow more slowly than it otherwise would have. But it should also mean that our services become stronger for young adults.”

Some older users won’t like it, but Meta’s willing to take that risk to win over the critical younger user cohort.

All of this points to major change, and as Instagram’s video tools all come into line, you can likely expect it sooner rather than later.

Prepare to shift your IG strategy in 2022.



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