It’s fair to say that Instagram is forever changing and keeping us on our toes. I’d be lying if I said there haven’t been times this past year where I’ve felt like I’m playing catch-up! One of the most notable changes is the heavy focus on Instagram Stories, taking us away from our carefully-curated feeds and encouraging us to be more ‘of the moment’ with our posts. We can see the visual representation of this in our feeds, with the newly introduced previews of Stories which appear between feed posts. And take a look at the stats: over 300 million people are now using Instagram Stories every day, a number which blows Snapchat out of the water!
Of course, that hasn’t been the only big change this year. In June, Instagram introduced the Archive feature, allowing users to hide posts that didn’t fit with their feed, rather than deleting them entirely. One reason for this seems to be to encourage users to post more freely, knowing it’s possible to remove a photo from public viewing without making the commitment of deleting it entirely. And obviously, more willingness to post = more activity on the platform.
Then there’s the introduction of polls on Stories and live streaming with guests, encouraging users to engage, engage, engage! But what does this all signal for next year? What can we expect to see when we open the app in 2018?
This is what we’re predicting:
Instagram Trends 2018: What Can We Expect?
1. Stories will dominate
Stories is the most successful feature Instagram have introduced since they launched in 2010. Although the similarities to Snapchat are undeniable (and the topic can be contentious), it definitely paid off, with many Snapchat fans jumping ship and causing Instagram user numbers to soar in 2017. By August 2017 Instagram Stories had 250 million daily users compared to Snapchat’s 166 million. So, clearly, Instagram was wise to utilize the trend for ephemeral, instant and personal content that made Snapchat so popular.
In the past few months, Instagram has wanted us to see more Stories, in more places, more often – and that seems to be the agenda for 2018, too. In November, we were finally able to view Stories on desktop, which shows just how much of an integral feature Instagram views it to be. And, as of December, it also became possible to feature ‘Story Highlights’ on our profile, allowing us to showcase our most popular or important Story posts beyond the 24 hour limit. With this in mind, we should expect to see even more masks, effects and features over the next year, with the goal of shifting users to a more personal and immediate type of post than you find in the traditional feed. The introduction of Story polls (and also being able to see who responded with what answer), also indicates Instagram is heading in the direction of a more collaborative kind of social interaction on the platform.
What else might change with Stories? Well, currently, adding a link to your Story is only possible if you have a Business Profile with over 10000 followers – but things can change! Originally, this feature was only available to verified accounts, so maybe Instagram is planning a gradual roll-out that could end up being available to every account in 2018.
2. Instagram Live is going to be huge
Instagram Live is one to watch out for. As with Stories, Instagram Live creates a stronger, more personal connection between user and audience – even more so than Stories, in fact. Live is all about being real, being connected, and responding to ‘of the moment’ events or topics. The lifespan of Instagram Live posts make them the perfect example of immediacy marketing in action – if you can only see it now, so you’re more likely to view it (it’s human nature!).
All of the new features added to Live this year, from being able to go Live with a friend to being able to request to join someone else’s Live broadcast, reinforce the idea that community, engagement and collaboration are Instagram’s key priorities for the upcoming year.
3. It’s going to be less about your feed
There have been rumours, but no concrete proof as of yet, that a 4×4 grid is coming to Instagram. The thought may well fill you with horror if you’ve spent years arranging your feed to complement the existing 3×3 layout. I feel for you, because, well, haven’t we all been doing that?
That said, maybe this is all in keeping with Instagram’s wish to get users more engaged with video content. A shift away from the often over-stylized and less personal feed towards more interactive, ‘real life’ content might come as a welcome relief to the average Instagram user. If it does happen, maybe we can all just chill a bit more, and worry less about whether our coffee post looks good next to our beach selfie? Just sayin’.
4. We’re going to say goodbye to bots
Dodgy third-party apps promising to deliver thousands of followers and generate engagement for accounts are on the way out. At least, that’s what Instagram has been trying to ensure this year. With a goal of cleaning the platform of spam and offensive content, Instagram has taken measures to recognize and penalize bot behaviour such as liking too many accounts in a short period of time, leaving short and repetitive comments on accounts, and so on.
So, if you’re relying on bots as a part of your Instagram strategy, you might want to try and clear your account of these pests and focus instead on growing your account through good quality content and real interactions. Instagram is getting stricter and stricter on accounts using banned apps, having introduced the much-discussed shadowban this year, which resulted in many users experiencing a huge drop in engagement and visibility. It’s likely the punishment for accounts relying on bots will only get more extreme, with more accounts being suspended or removed.
Be safe out there!
5. Instagram is going to try to get to know you better (aww)
OK, maybe not ‘aww’. It really depends where you stand on this and whether you want your feed to be filled with more personalized content (like the Facebook feed), or not.
On the one hand, the push towards more personalized content means you have (perhaps indirectly) more control over your feed, which will become increasingly tailored to your interests. You might have noticed that Stories from your friends appear in your feed before those of anyone else? That’s because you’ve been interacting with their accounts the most, so Instagram’s AI technology assumes you’re going to want to see their Stories first.
Fair enough, you probably do!
And of course, you can now follow hashtags on Instagram, meaning that posts or Stories tagged with that particular hashtag appear in your feed, just like when you follow an account. However, there are a lot of different types of posts tagged with the same hashtag, so how does Instagram know which ones you actually want to see? Well, you tell them! You can click the three dots above the post and select “Don’t Show for This Hashtag” and teach the Instagram algorithm what you like and don’t like.
Whether we directly inform Instagram what we prefer, or whether Instagram makes assumptions based on behaviour on the platform, the content we’ll be seeing on Instagram in 2018 will be specifically for us. We all now have a more active role in helping the algorithm to understand what we want, what we like, and who we are, and we should expect Instgram to pursue this more extensively in the near future.
6. Marketers are going to have to pay to play
Nothing in life is free (or free for long, at least). With an ever increasing number of businesses on the platform, it’s getting more competitive for marketers to get their content in front of potential customers. There have been reports of stationary follower numbers and catatonic engagement rates for months now – could this be a sign of Instagram’s prioritization of paid content over organic content? It’s likely to be one of the causes of this slump, which seems to have affected both business and private accounts. Either way, it’s clear that advertising is becoming more prominent on the platform, in the form of both feed and Story native ads. With over 1 million active advertisers and a projected ad revenue of 2.81 billion by the end of 2017, Instagram advertising isn’t slowing down – so get saving your pennies!
7. Shoppable posts will become more common
There’s been a lot of buzz around shoppable Instagram posts this year, but most of us won’t have benefitted from the feature yet. Currently, Instagram only supports shoppable tags on posts for selected U.S. based Business accounts with a Shopify integration. It’s a pretty specific requirement that leaves out lots of eager e-commerce marketers. But, with the beta programme now closed, maybe we’ll be seeing a wider rollout of the feature soon. Shoppable content is a growing trend in the world of e-commerce, and it’s no surprise Instagram is at the forefront of this trend. There’s a huge demand from everyday users to be able to shop the products that bloggers and influencers advertise on their accounts, and it makes perfect sense for brands to monetize from influencer collaborations more easily. It’s definitely just a matter of time until we’re all buying our beauty products and health drinks through Instagram.
Instagram Trends 2018 Summary
- Instagram is going to become less about aesthetically perfect content, and more about real, ‘of the moment’ content delivered through video. That’s not to say we’ll be saying goodbye to our feeds, though they might look a little different if the 4×4 grid does get introduced.
- Instagram is going to come down even harder on accounts using bots to generate fake followers, likes and comments. If you want to grow your account, do it through genuine, high-quality content and real engagement with your followers and the accounts you follow.
- We’re going to see more personalized, targeted content based on our interactions on the platform – and we’re going to have more control over this personalized content.
- It’s time to set aside some budget for Ads. Instagram advertising is a growing industry and if you want to see big numbers, it might be the case that you have to start spending!
- Speaking of spending, shoppable Instagram posts should be rolled out to more business profiles in 2018. E-commerce marketers and retail addicts rejoice!
Let us know if you think there are any big changes ahead for Instagram marketing 2018!