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Instagram just became a primary competitor to Youtube. The new long-form video content on Instagram proves it. At the same time, Instagram is flexing its social media muscles and further proving its relevance in the face of its direct competitor, Snapchat.
Ignoring Gen Z at Your Own Risk
Why Instagram is choosing long-form video? One word, millennials.
After pivoting from a photo-only to a visual social media platform, Instagram is gaining momentum on Snapchat and Youtube for grabbing the millennial market attention.
With teens, Gen X, Y, and Z declaring Facebook passé, the ‘ancient’ social media platform is spiralling into irrelevance. The next-gen, mobile-first, super visual content consumers are opting for Youtube and Snapchat for long-form visual content, and Instagram (owned by Facebook) for short form. With 80% of this critical market preferring Youtube for long-form content, Instagram needs to up its creator-made content game. After all, if Instagram wants to stay relevant it has to follow the generational trends and placate the millennials.
Copying is the Best Form of Flattery
It’s not the first time that Instagram has taken on a social media platform. Ever since its massive acquisition by Facebook, Instagram has been strategically integrating new features to outperform its competition. In 2013, Instagram challenged the then popular micro-video platform Vine to a dual by introducing 15-second clips (more than doubling Vine’s 6-second option). Vine is now defunct.
Then, in 2016, it further solidified its positioning in the video space by quadrupling its video offerings to 60 seconds. Essentially, beating its biggest competitor, Snapchat, at its own game.
The numbers speak for themselves. In November of 2017, Instagram’s newest ‘feature’ Stories brings over 300 million DAU’s in the ephemeral content side of the social network.
Improving Technology While Optimizing Experience
If Instagram thought that the tech for its 60-second feature was tough, then tinkering to support the streaming of 60-minute videos will make it seem like a walk in the park. The backend requirements and processing power mean some serious dev work and equally deep pockets. Guess being owned by Facebook has its advantages.
Instagram is going bold on its approach.
This drastic upgrade to its video offering is packed with a serious challenge: maintaining a consistently positive user experience without draining the battery and sucking the user dry from their data packages.
The average mobile viewing session lasts more than 40 minutes, the average video ad is tailored to suit the needs of the demand generation with a decreased attention span. In fact, 56% of all videos published in the last year are less than 2 minutes long.
Social Media Battery Drain
Social media is already considered a major source of battery and data drain. Uploading photos to Instagram generally consumes anywhere between 2 to 4MB. Posting videos uses twice that much.
When Instagram Stories was released, the feature increased the consumption to 8MB of data.
Imagine the mutiny when 500 million daily active users on Instagram, get a surprise bill from their service provider after watching one 60 minute Instagram video.
How to Beat Youtube at Their Own Game?
Why would Instagram choose to change the visual content landscape so drastically?
It’s simple business.
Youtube’s main revenue comes from serving multiple ad options. While Live is growing in popularity, it’s time for Instagram (nee Facebook) to start considering its options for monetization. With Instagram’s long form change, they’re working on beating Youtube at their own game.
Slowly reclaim their popularity among the millennials, sound familiar?
Contradiction in Disguise?
Instagram jumping onto the user-generated video bandwagon was almost expected. All social media platforms are emphasizing (ahem Facebook, Twitter) an algorithm preference for non-branded video creation. The real issue isn’t in the upgrade of Instagram, it’s the contradictory messages that tech companies are promoting.
About a month ago, they announced that they would join the overall trend of tech companies encouraging time spent on the platform be focused on ‘positive and intentional’ usage. How does binging on 60-minute videos fit in into that equation?
See, there’s a built-in dichotomy within tech companies today. Startups and tech companies are constantly innovating to prove their relevance in the market. They advertise, launch new products to generate revenue. In the context of social media, contrary to Congress’ understanding, revenue comes from ads. Eyeballs are good but engagement doesn’t bring the dollars.
On the other side of the equation, social media has created an epidemic of addiction to mobile screens. In order to combat this problem, the tech companies accomplish have embarked on a campaign to reduce screen time. But if everyone is trying to encourage less screen time, how does increasing video offerings by 10x promote that?
That’s just it, it doesn’t.
Instagram Following Other Tech Companies
Instagram isn’t the only tech giant playing for both teams. At WWDC 2018, Apple announced a series of tools to decrease screen time, setting limits to social media app usage. Of course, at the same time, iPhone launched some other fun, perhaps useless, tools that would basically encourage extending screen time.
The answer will probably not emerge from within the tech community. It’s virtually impossible to campaign for a reduction in usage of innovation while being dependent on ads and sales to sustain your brand.
One thing’s for sure, the Instagram rollout means that the company is optimizing the total experience, to ensure that it’s a complete success without the need for filters. The question is will the company’s upgrade to disrupt the current video content social media reality? Yes, but only at the expense of being part of an overall effort to curtail digital consumption and promote in-person engagement.
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