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If you started using Instagram when it first came out in 2010, you might not realize how much this popular social media platform has changed over the past decade. Most people know that Instagram has evolved from a social media platform emphasizing photos to one that emphasizes other forms of rich media content, especially video content. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Instagram, according to company head Adam Mosseri
The most fundamental change to Instagram, says company head Adam Mosseri, is that it is no longer “a feed of square photos.” According to Mosseri, almost all of the growth in Instagram over the past five years has come from two different areas: Stories and DMs. And, almost all growth in the traditional Instagram feed has come from videos, not photos.
So, if you still think about Instagram as a way to view beautifully composed and filtered photos from creators, you’re doing it all wrong. Most people, says Mosseri, are no longer posting photos from their daily lives. This was something that was common even five years ago, but that’s simply no longer the case. People use Stories instead to show what’s happening in their lives. And that fact, says Mosseri, has even led to some users complaining that Instagram no longer shares photos from their friends in their feed. But, says Mosseri, their friends simply aren’t posting, so there aren’t photos to share in the feed!
The popularity of Stories, of course, has a lot to do with the impact of upstarts like Snapchat and TikTok, which have positioned themselves as younger, edgier versions of Instagram. Stories are for quick and memorable content, and they disappear within 24 hours, so they aren’t evergreen content, like the traditional photos you might think of when you think of Instagram. Long story short – if you aren’t checking out Stories on Instagram, then you are missing out on a lot of content on the platform.
Instagram, DMs and messaging
The really surprising change, especially if you’re a long-time Instagram user, is just how important messaging (via DMs) has become on Instagram. This in-app messaging feature from Instagram enables anyone to send text, photos, videos or posts. All of this occurs behind the scenes, of course, so you can’t see all of the content that an Instagram creator might be sharing with his or her closest followers, just like you can’t see what someone might be sending via WhatsApp or any other messaging platform.
According to Mosseri, the amount of content being shared in DMs is staggering. He says that DMs are the primary place where content is shared on the platform. DMs come first, followed by Stories, and then by Feed. When people want to talk to each other on the platform, they don’t do it via comments, they do it via DMs.
What does this mean for brands?
If you’re a brand manager, all of this should completely change the way you should think about Instagram and the way you interact with influencers on the platform. For one, it means that photos simply don’t have the same impact as videos. If you are hiring an influencer and paying him and her to “take over” your feed and post beautiful photos for a weekend, then you probably won’t get the same bang for your buck as simply letting someone on your brand team post Stories to your account.
And, secondly, it means that you should be thinking of Instagram as a messaging platform, and not just as a content platform. A great photo or video is what the public sees, but all of the best content is probably being shared privately. According to Mosseri, the traditional feed is just “number three at best” when it comes to sharing content.
The important thing to keep in mind here is that all companies, all platforms, and all brands evolve over time. Sometimes this is done very openly, and very extravagantly, as in the case of Twitter transforming into “X” seemingly overnight. But, in the case of Instagram, these changes have occurred so naturally, and so organically, that you might not even realize that they have happened. But it’s safe to say that the Instagram of 2023 is very different from the Instagram of 2010.