Our thoughts on Instagram video’s new, cool updates

Instagram is switching things up. The traditional photo-sharing application is attempting to encourage more Instagram video sharing. If it’s not broken, why fix it you may ask? Our best guess: perhaps in a bid to compete with emerging platforms such as SnapChat and Vine that already do this, or to give marketers the opportunity to tap into Instagram’s 400-million user-base with compelling, rich video advertisements. Is it coincidental that Instagram’s video-sharing enhancements will occur the same time they announced they will soon allow your social media marketing agency to upload their own digital advertising content directly to your customers’ feed (a process that was previously heavily restricted and cost-inhibitive to the average small- or medium-sized business)? We think not. Here are some marketing insiders’ top four questions about how these changes will impact the Instagram ecosystem and – our thoughts on each.

So, what’s changing about Instagram video sharing?

Users (and more importantly, digital marketing agency analysts) will soon be able to see the number of times a given video was watched. This model will mirror watch counters on YouTube and Facebook, heralding the popularity of a given video. For users, this is one additional point of validation for their own content and a natural point of alignment with their expectations of how other social media platforms work. No big deal.

For marketers, this gives us the ability to gauge how impactful our advertising content really is and what content is generating more interest than others. This will allow the average content marketing agency or advertising agency to create more robust and targeted content. Knowing that cat videos are getting more hits than dog videos may not seem like the lynchpin to a successful marketing campaign, but knowing that customers prefer to see product demos versus customer testimonials or lifestyle campaigns is.

Who will be impacted?

Strictly speaking, this change will not dramatically impact the average Instagram user’s experience. Those who are inclined to look at the video watch counter will do so, and may be inspired to try their hand at video sharing. Beyond that, the change will feel relatively innocuous. No content will be weighted or ranked above any other based on views, so users will continue to see every post that enters their feed in the order it arrives.

This is why we suspect the real benefit of this change lies in untapped marketing potential for brands and advertisers. Brands are already using Instagram video to showcase more complicated products or engage users in more meaningful ways (this works especially well for luxury or lifestyle brands such as cars, vacation destinations, restaurants, and high fashion goods). Knowing whether these efforts are working and being able to compare and contrast certain types of content with other types of content gives marketers a competitive edge. It also allows brands to spend less money on production or advertising by getting it right the first – or at least the second – time they release a video into market.

And this is a good thing, right?

Coincidentally, this update occurs simultaneously with Instagram’s other announcement that they will begin allowing the average advertising agency to upload ads directly to their users’ Instagram feed. Instagram has released a new API that can pull content from marketing platforms such as Salesforce so marketers can create, load, and schedule advertisements without assistance from Instagram.

In the past, Instagram has enjoyed tremendous success releasing advertisements into the user experience because they have overseen the creative process from start to finish. Not a single advertisement could go to market without the Instagram seal of approval. This system kept ads in line with the authentic, artsy vibe Instagram users were creating on their own. In this way, advertisements were less intrusive or sales-oriented than traditional social media paid ads on similar platforms such as Facebook or Twitter.

The main complaint about Instagram’s impending advertising API is that this new experience will break the system. The quality of ads will dramatically drop. Engagement will then drop. And Instagram will be forced to release more ads into the market to close the profits gap. As long as Instagram does not open the floodgates for every ad to enter market, it’s true that the real danger lies in the ads themselves becoming less relevant or compelling than they once were. And we doubt any Instagram-artist worth their salt will be too pleased to see that change.

There’s good news though. We believe the advent of this video counter can actually serve as a tool to help marketing agencies get clearer on the type of content that works. A video counter allows your digital marketing agency to use each video as a mini focus group, for quick directional data, better decision making, and better advertisements. Instagram isn’t abandoning their principles, they’re giving your content marketing agency the tools they need to do their job better. Sure, Instagram’s team of creative experts knows how to capture the essence of your target audience’s latent needs … but you and your digital marketing agency should be able to do that on your own too.

When we push aside our fear that autonomous ad posting simply means more ads, we see an opportunity for marketers to work smarter, not harder.

Do Consumers Agree?

It’s hard to guess how consumers will react to Instagram video’s latest changes. It is more likely that customers will notice a change in their advertisements sooner than the addition to a video counter, but their overarching reaction is impossible to estimate without a clearer picture into the types of ads that will enter the marker. We like to think of this as a challenge: let’s make your next Instagram video campaign so good that users still don’t know the difference. Problem solved.

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