Have you been on Instagram yet today? How many times have you popped on the app? The latest reports show that Instagram has 2 billion monthly active users, with U.S. adults spending at least half an hour a day scrolling on the platform. According to internal Instagram data, 50% of users become more interested in a brand after they see an ad for it on Instagram. But with so many users in an Instagram love/hate relationship, some scheduling screen-free time or using digital detox apps, Professor of Marketing at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, David Schweidel says there’s a generational shift away from the popular platform.
“Instagram is the app that people wish they can uninstall from their device,” says Schweidel. “So as much as we use it, as much as both consumers and brands are embracing it, there’s not a lot of love for that particular platform. We’re seeing a lot of that attention shift. When I talk to undergrad students, you ask them where they’re spending their time, they’ll tell you they’re spending most of their time on TikTok, whereas with an MBA audience we’ll see more of that time being spent on Instagram.”
Vice President of Social Media for Who What Wear/Clique Brands and Columbia MBA MacKenzie Green suggests that Instagram is a very different platform than it once was.
“I think there are a lot of incredible hacks and conversations happening around reels are for growth and still photography and in-feed static images are for engagement, but I think Instagram still holds its relevance,” says Green. “I think as long as it is a big focus for brands, it will always be important to both the influencer creator economy as well as the brands themselves, and I think what Instagram has that obviously it’s biggest competitor [TikTok] doesn’t, is they have had enough time to lower the friction between user and purchase.”
As the fastest-growing social media platform to date, reaching 1 billion users the fastest of all other social networks, TikTok is attracting a variety of demographics. This despite more than half of American adults supporting the U.S. government banning TikTok according to a new Pew Research Center survey that comes amid intensifying scrutiny of the Chinese-owned video-sharing app. So just how is TikTok reshaping the social scene?
“If we think about our goal from a marketing standpoint, we’ve got to go where the eyeballs are,” says Schweidel. “So if the core audience that you want to reach is on Instagram, that’s where you’re going. If the core audience that you’re looking for is on TikTok, you’ve got to figure out how to communicate with them on their terms.”
Because TikTok trends are driven by algorithms, Schweidel explains that any user has the opportunity to create viral video content success, regardless of follower count.
“I think TikTok is such a big beast that they don’t want to even be a social network. They want to be an entertainment platform. I think where the opportunity comes for brands is the top of the funnel [searchable] piece…TikTok is also forcing everyone into the creator economy,” says Green. “You’re seeing people have to stand out by storytelling.”
The experts agree, the importance of embracing short-form video content cannot be understated.
“We’ve seen this evolution that these companies are chasing,” explains Schweidel. “Text was where we started, then photos started to get popular, that’s what pulled people from Facebook to Instagram, it was a better user experience…We’ve had platforms like YouTube for longer form content, but what we’re seeing is people don’t want that longer form content…if you are online and you don’t hold people’s attention, they’ll go to something else.”
“I think short form entertainment is the future,” Green comments. ”Video now is being served to you through shorts and reels and TikTok and people want that…I think social entertainment is not going anywhere, and I think we are all smart to kind of learn to adapt and evolve our own marketing and social strategy to take bits and pieces from how it works.”
The social audio scene
In February 2021, social audio platform Clubhouse reached a peak of nearly 10 million monthly downloads, yet as fast as it rose in popularity, it seemed to fall off the radar. By April 2021, the app was downloaded only 900,000 times that month. This was around the same time that Meta introduced a range of social audio features, including audio-only Rooms, support features for podcasts, and ‘Soundbites’, which enabled users to create short-form audio clips using a range of effects. While it has since removed audio features in a bid to cut-costs and as a reflection of declined user interest, other major players like LinkedIn continue to lean into social audio tools, like their Live Audio Events, Amazon’s live radio app Amp, both launched in 2022.
“I wouldn’t ignore it completely, but I don’t think it’s going to engage folks the same way that we’ve seen video grab them,” explains Schweidel. “Part of this, I think between both video and audio, I’d be prepared for these new emerging AI tools that we’re seeing demoed by Facebook and runwayML where they’re now able to create so much more content than has been there before.”
Even as Clubhouse announces that it is laying off over 50% of its workforce in a note sent to employees, 44% of content marketers branched into social audio in 2022 and HubSpot projections expect that number to hit 50% by the end of 2023.
“[It’s] strange to think that video now has gone short and audio has gone long,” quips Green. “But I think audio is here to stay and I’m sure it’s a bit of an evolution from the work from home, the Hot Girl Walk era, you know, I always say these moments in the cultural zeitgeist influence business larger than we think, but people now more than ever want to optimize [their] time. [They] want to temptation bundle.”
Photo from Rodion Kutsaiev