Well, it finally happened. Instagram hit 1 billion monthly active users this June - that’s over 13% of the world population.
And that’s not all - Instagram Stories just hit 400 million daily active users, plus the platform is projected to make nearly 7 billion dollars in mobile ad revenue alone by the end of the year.
All this to say, Instagram is experiencing a period of massive growth right now and launching new features left and right. The question on every marketer’s mind is: what’s next?
The never-ending Stories
This might sound crazy, but Instagram’s popular feed will be taking a backseat to Stories in the near future.
With the explosion of Stories’ popularity on social media over the last two years, both users and advertisers are spending more time focusing on Stories than traditional feeds.
After all, Facebook’s Chief Product Officer Chris Cox stated at F8 this year that Stories grew 15 times faster than news feeds across all social networks from 2016 to 2017.
On top of that, Instagram has clearly been putting in a lot of development hours into new Stories features this year with the release of music stickers, shoppable tags, and carousel ads for the format - just to name a few.
Finally, focusing on Stories is clearly a priority for the top brass at Facebook and Instagram. In January, Mark Zuckerberg himself stated, "We expect Stories are on track to overtake posts in Feed as the most common way that people share across all social apps."
Stories may not replace the feed format altogether, but they may very well become the most common way for users to share content in coming years.
Users get content with video
The launch of IGTV as both a standalone app and an added feature is sure to make waves in the ocean of video content out there.
It represents a new evolution of social video: a platform designed to be mobile-first from the ground up. With nearly 60% of all online video views now taking place on mobile devices, that’s an advantage which is hard to ignore.
At the moment, a lot of people in tech are probably skeptical of IGTV’s future given its lower-than-expected number of app downloads over the past two months. But on the other hand, the platform offers an innovative layout and many popular Instagrammers have already launched their own channels.
People’s viewing habits take time to change, but vertical video is a natural adaptation for mobile and it’s already becoming mainstream. YouTube has been attempting to adapt full-screen vertical videos to mobile for a few months, but many vertical videos on the platform were uploaded with black bars to begin with or have serious sizing and quality issues in the new layout.
Even if IGTV doesn’t take off on its own, its vertical, mobile-first design is here to stay. For example, live video content on Instagram has become increasingly popular over the last few years and is perfectly optimised for a portrait layout.
Whether IGTV becomes a serious competitor to YouTube or ends up having its features recycled into Instagram’s other video formats, mobile video is the future for Instagram. That’s not only because videos are more engaging to users than static images---it’s also because video ads are one of the most promising monetisation options on social media.
And that leads us to the final prediction - the bottom line, if you will…
Money, money, money, money
If there’s one thing we know about Instagram, it’s that it’s hugely attractive to advertisers. It boasts incredible user growth and engagement, it has very powerful targeting options, and its uniquely visual layout allows for creative new ad formats.
Given all that, it’s unsurprising that many analysts attribute Facebook’s 22% increase in stock value primarily to the ‘Gram.
The logical next step for Instagram, of course, will now be to continue monetising their platform like crazy. They’ve already added shoppable tags to Stories, and they are currently testing in-app purchases through product tagging with a select group of partners.
Beyond Instagram practically becoming an e-commerce platform, we can also expect denser ad placements both in the feed and in Stories. Facebook’s News Feed is running low on capacity for ads and prices are increasing, so it’s searching for alternative placements in its product ecosystem (look out for more Messenger and WhatsApp ads, too).
That also means more new ad formats are around the corner. Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom has already hinted at video ad placements for IGTV, and additional Stories ad formats seem likely as the feature continues to skyrocket in popularity.
All in all, Instagram is in a great place and its momentum shows no signs of stopping. It’s a powerful, reliable growth engine for Facebook and it’s constantly pumping out new features every month. As its user base continues to expand, there’s no reason for it to slow down the expansion of its capabilities for users and advertisers alike.
With the trajectory Instagram is currently on, it’s no longer just trendy - it’s the most innovative social network out there right now.