2017 was a massive year for Instagram. The photo and video sharing app reached 800 million users and is on track to break 1 billion sometime in 2018. Key to Instagram’s growth has been its popular Stories feature, which launched in August 2016 and has already decreased top influencers’ Snapchat usage by over 33%.
Instagram has recently been adding a host of new features and tools to keep its users active and engaged for the coming year and beyond. Below, we’ll take a look at recent trends on Instagram, what the platform has planned for the future, as well as what it all means for brands and influencers in 2018.
Instagram Stories has become an integral component of the platform’s success. With the Snapchat imitation now boasting more than 300 million daily active users, Instagram is continually rolling out new features to increase users’ adoption and engagement with Stories.
Stories boasts several popular media-editing features, including Boomerang, Superzoom, GIF stickers and Face Filters. While we can expect more such additions in the future, other recent updates show Instagram looking beyond just photos and videos, as well as giving Stories more prominence on users’ profiles:
First introduced as a way to categorize and label things like groups on Twitter, hashtags have become a common functionality of many other social networks, including Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. With Instagram’s introduction of following hashtags, which enable users to follow interests similar to how they follow friends and influencers, the ubiquitous tagging device becomes even more important.
Allowing users to follow hashtags is, of course, designed to keep people on Instagram longer. However, the new search feature will also give many users functionality they want.
Users who feel their feed is cluttered with too many profiles that aren’t posting relevant content can just follow a particular category or interest instead. Furthermore, those who might be interested in a new category of content, but aren’t sure who to follow yet, can start to discover new profiles through the feature.
Instagram has over 25 million business profiles (an increase of 10 million since July 2017) and over 80% of the platform’s users follow a business account. Interestingly, however, Instagram reports that “Two-thirds of profile visits to businesses come from people who aren’t following that business.“
These errant visits could have something to do with the effectiveness of influencer marketing, which is already estimated to be a 1 billion dollar industry on the platform. Instagram influencers have a track record of successfully driving traffic to brands’ profiles through tags in their sponsored content.
With new features and tools like Shoppable Posts, which allow influencers and brands to tag products and link to external websites, Instagram seems more interested in supporting a wide range of businesses than ever.
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While it’s been an incredible platform for influencers and the brands that partner with them, traditional e-commerce on Instagram has been rife with obstacles and difficulties. However, Instagram’s launch of Shoppable Posts makes it a whole lot easier to direct consumers to e-commerce sites through the platform.
Instagram’s introduction of these and other new business to consumer (B2C) features has possibly been influenced by the launch of Amazon’s own social network, “Spark.” Instagram has just cause to be worried about Amazon — the ultimate industry disruptor — getting involved in social media.
For those in the social space — influencers, brands, and digital companies — seeing how these two giants compete and react to each other’s next steps will be something worth paying close attention to in the coming year.
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It’s no secret that Instagram has a problem with people purchasing fake followers and engagement. Our own experiment showed how easily brands may be deceived by fake influencers. Additionally, the New York Times recently ran an exposé showing how prominent celebrities, athletes, and politicians are using bots to artificially inflate their numbers on Twitter.
With negative press surrounding the issue, it’s likely that Instagram may look to do something about the problem. In 2014, the social media platform purged many bot profiles from their network, resulting in a loss of millions of accounts that affected celebrities and influencers alike.
Will we see another Instapurge in 2018, or will Instagram look to do something more novel in an attempt to permanently remedy the growing issue?
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Many macro and micro-influencers are deterred from using bots due to fear of long-term consequences. Instagram has cracked down on accounts with fake followers in the past, and it’s highly possible that there will be another “Instapurge” in the future. In response, some influencers looking to bolster their perceived value on Instagram have started to form “pods” (also known as boost groups) to keep their engagement high.
Pods are a group of a dozen or more Instagrammers that band together to like and comment on each other’s posts. In theory, this engagement triggers Instagram’s algorithm, marking the post as relevant, and sending it to more users’ feeds for additional views and engagement.
Pods aren’t as automated or pervasive as bots and are comprised of actual people with some kind of relationship. However, for some, they may be perceived as a less than organic form of engagement. As pods continue to grow behind the scenes of the platform, it will be interesting to see if Instagram takes steps to combat the practice.
Influencer marketing is a hot topic in the advertising industry, and it shows no signs of cooling down. In fact, influencer marketing continues to grow, with businesses allocating even more funds to the advertising technique.
In 2018, expect influencer marketing to become even more important on Instagram. That said, as we saw in 2017, the influencer marketing landscape is ever-changing, and will present both new opportunities and challenges for brands in the coming year.
Given the growth and maturation of sponsored content, businesses will have to be even more informed and strategic about influencer marketing techniques. Consulting with a qualified influencer marketing agency can be helpful to brands that are new to influencer marketing, or those that aren’t sure if they’re getting the most out of their campaigns.
Working with micro-influencers became a popular practice in 2017, with even large companies opting to tap a variety of smaller online personalities to promote their brand and products. Moving into 2018, the micro-influencer trend will likely continue. However, brands should be aware that working with micro-influencers presents its own range of challenges:
Consulting with a qualified influencer marketing agency about engagement rates, key performance indicators (KPI), and return on investment (ROI), can help brands decide which influencers are best for their campaign.
— — click image below to see our study on macro vs. micro-influencers’ engagement rates — —
Related Post: Micro vs. Macro-Influencers: Which Is More Effective?
Despite the service launching in 2016, Instagram may make another push for live video this year. In late 2017, the platform invested further in the service, allowing users to add guests to their video streams. If the platform continues to bolster the service with new features — as it has with Stories — we could see more live video streams and additional engagement.
However, a monetization function may be necessary in order to encourage widespread adoption by influencers and others that help to shape the trends on Instagram. Will Instagram launch something similar to YouTube Super Chat in 2018 that incentivizes influencers to create more live content? This year, we’ll be paying close attention to the fast-moving and innovative platform to find out…