8 Ways to Embrace Instagram’s Video-Focused Future

Instagram's Video-Focused Future

If you have been paying attention to Instagram over the past few years, you likely have noticed that the platform isn’t afraid to borrow ideas from other platforms and it isn’t afraid to change. Evidence of an ever-evolving Instagram is now upon us once again after this recent quote from Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram:

“We’re no longer a photo-sharing app… The number one reason why people say they use Instagram… is to be entertained. So, people are looking to us for that. In our internal all-hands [meeting]… I shared a lot about what we are trying to do lean into that trend—into entertainment and into video. Because, let’s be honest, there is some really serious competition right now.”

Mosseri proceeded to specifically mention competitors like TikTok and YouTube that Instagram wants to try to remain competitive with in the video and entertainment fields.

This is a major — albeit not completely surprising — shift that gives you, as a marketer, a finite amount of time (Mosseri mentioned Instagram could look quite different by the end of 2021) to rethink your Instagram strategies and start to test and learn more about the kinds of videos that will best help you achieve your objectives and reach prioritized audiences.

Video is now the top priority for Instagram

It remains to be seen if photos will have any role at all on Instagram moving forward, but it’s clear that video is now the priority. The goal of this article is to provide you with information about guidelines and best practices specific to Instagram videos that will help you align with Instagram’s video-focused future.

It remains to be seen if photos have a role on #Instagram moving forward, but videos clearly are the priority for the future. Learn 8 ways to embrace Instagram's video-focused future. #smm Click To Tweet

Embrace Reels

1. Embrace reels

When Instagram first introduced Reels in 2020, it was clear to anybody who was paying attention that this tool was in direct response to TikTok’s popularity. These videos started as 30-second pieces, but now may be as long as 60 seconds. You may have noticed that, in your Instagram Reels feed, there are a lot of videos that may have already been repurposed from TikTok videos. Instagram has actively been working to avoid this. In fact, Instagram specifically looks for the TikTok watermark on videos and de-prioritizes those videos.

When developing Reels, keep your Instagram audience (and how it may vary from your TikTok audience) in mind. Also, embrace the tools Instagram provides for Reels when developing and uploading content. In May 2021, Instagram began providing more insights into how viewers are watching Reels. These insights allow content creators to see the number of accounts reached and the number of plays for each Reel. It also includes some of the basic Reel interactions, such as likes, comments, shares, and saves.

6 types of videos you should create for Instagram Reels

Instagram has specifically shared with creators what kinds of Reels they should create:

  • Entertaining and fun
  • Inspiring
  • Use of creative tools
  • Use of vertical video
  • Use of music from the Instagram music library
  • Experimental

5 types of videos you should not create for Instagram Reels

Instagram also has shared what kinds of videos users should not upload to Reels:

  • Blurry and low-resolution
  • Visibly recycled from other apps with logos or watermarks
  • Uploaded with a border around them
  • Majority of the screen is covered by text
  • Does not meet Instagram’s Community Guidelines

Instagram is so all-in on Reels that it’s even providing creators with a regular Reels trend report and other insights to provide some inspiration about what’s trending and what creators can do to jump onto those trends.

2. Continue using Instagram Stories

You may know that Instagram has more than 1 billion daily active users, but do you also know that half of these users also use Instagram Stories every day? Instagram Stories has clearly made an impact on how people develop and consume content on Instagram. Instagram has consistently released new tools as part of their Stories package to enhance how people can watch and consume stories.

Some of the features on which you may want to focus to keep up with Instagram include:

  • Camera effects: Features like Boomerang and Superzoom can add a unique opportunity to tell a story.
  • Questions sticker: Adding a question sticker to your video stories allows consumers to engage more deeply with your content.
  • Highlights: Add and organize some of your top video stories as “Highlights” at the top of your Instagram account page.
  • Music: Use Instagram’s music finder to add music clips to your videos.
  • Interactive elements: Add GIFs, polls, countdowns, and other features to facilitate video engagement.

use storytelling in messaging

3. Make storytelling a major part of your messaging

We just talked about using “stories” (e.g., Instagram Stories), but in addition to simply using the tool, it’s important you actually know how to tell stories through video if you want to be successful on Instagram in the future. Becoming a good storyteller is a lifelong pursuit, but Vidyard’s Kendall Walters has shared a handful of tips to follow to become a better video storyteller:

  1. Engage your audience with humor. If you can make your audience laugh, you have a better shot at helping them remember your message.
  2. Be creative. Doing things that look and feel different than what your audience is accustomed to seeing can help your cause.
  3. Tell full stories. Develop videos that have a beginning, middle, and end. Storyboard the video first before you start filming.
  4. Show — don’t tell. Showing people how your product or service benefits them rather than having someone say it is the best way to create impactful video content.
  5. Be selective. Your first idea often won’t be your best idea. Discuss storytelling options and techniques with others in your organization. Build on your initial ideas throughout the ideation process.
  6. Keep your stories clear. Don’t try to say or do too much in a single video.
  7. Keep it pithy. You should avoid making a long video where a short video will suffice. If you can tell a great story in 30 seconds, there is no need to make a 5-minute video.

4. Avoid IGTV as much as possible

Yes, we know that Instagram probably will still tell you that you should use IGTV to tell stories — and they may sometimes be right, but you put yourself at a real disadvantage when you upload IGTV videos rather than normal 60-second timeline videos, Reels, or Stories. Think about it — when an IGTV video shows up on your timeline, Instagram shows the user the first 15 seconds, and then the video literally stops. A button appears on the screen that invites the viewer to “Keep Watching” to see the remainder of the video on IGTV.

The main problem is that in most instances, people don’t want to keep watching — they want to keep scrolling their feed. rather than being transported to IGTV. Research has shown that, generally speaking, regular timeline videos bring more engagement than IGTV videos. Because of this, you should do whatever you can to avoid IGTV in most instances.

learn from tiktok and youtube

5. Learn from TikTok and YouTube Shorts

Mosseri himself said that Instagram is facing competition from TikTok and from YouTube. That means that Instagram is paying close attention to what people like about those platforms and how people use them. Instagram has a long history of, ahem, borrowing some of the best tools and features from competitors.

The following features found on TikTok and/or YouTube Shorts might be especially advantageous to pay attention to for future Instagram success:

  • Green screen: This effect allows TikTok users to place themselves in front of an image or video clip of their choice to help tell a story.
  • Transitions: This tool allows creators to connect one scene in a video with another.
  • Closed captions: TikTok features an auto-captioning tool that helps increase viewer engagement.
  • Text box duration: This tool allows you to program text boxes to appear or disappear at specified parts of a video.
  • Duets: This effect allows a user to share his or her reaction alongside a previously uploaded video.

6. Embrace full-screen, immersive videos

Once Instagram invested in the “stories” format, it went all-in on the “full-screen” format as well. Now — in addition to stories — you can find full-screen videos on IGTV, Reels, and Instagram Live. You don’t need to think too deeply about why Instagram and other platforms like full-screen videos. In a nutshell, when a video takes up the full screen, more of a user’s attention is being paid to the content developer’s creative content.

If a creator gets greater engagement on his or her content, he or she is going to be happier with the platform. If creators are happier with a platform, they will use the platform more often and the opportunities for paid promotion and advertising options increase exponentially. Create videos that draw in users and make them want to watch longer without diverting their attention elsewhere and you will be creating content that is fully aligned with Instagram’s video future.

Focus mobile first

7. Develop mobile-first and mobile-only videos

Instagram is much more likely to promote your videos in its algorithms if you are using the tools it provides to creators. This means that it’s important to shoot the videos using the Instagram app and it’s important to edit the videos using Instagram’s native features.

Instagram wants to be the one-stop shop for creators, so the more you use the features it provides, the more likely you are to have successful video content on the platform. Avoid using videos that were created in other apps and then are just saved and uploaded to Instagram. The best Instagram content is created for Instagram.

8. Go live

Instagram Live will continue to play a prominent role on Instagram. As an active user of Instagram, you have probably received notifications on your device when someone you follow goes live. Likewise, when you are using the app, you can easily find a live video in the “stories” section of the app at the top of the screen. In recent years, Instagram has added the option to allow those who go live to connect in the moment with other live users and feature them on the live stream.

If you use Instagram Live, consider the following tips:

  • Be real. Don’t script things out too much.
  • Plan ahead of time what you want to accomplish.
  • Promote your live videos ahead of time.
  • Engage with people who are watching your live video.
  • Include a call to action, when appropriate.
  • Save the live video and share it in your stories.

Instagram is sure to continue to adapt in coming months and years, but if you stay informed about new strategies and trends, you should be able to count on remaining relevant on the platform.

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About the author

Chad Buleen

Chad Buleen is a well-intentioned husband and father who loves to write about social media, digital marketing, and content strategy. His hobbies include competing in wrestling matches on the living room floor, being nominally effective at helping his kids with their math assignments, and spending time trying to convince people that working with social media is a real job.