Instagram – Facebook of the Future?

If you’re an advertiser, marketer or anyone who has any product/ service to sell, Facebook has become the top digital destination to flog your wares. From global MNCs to small businesses, everyone has tried to use Facebook as a medium to advertise – albeit with varying degrees of success. Oddly enough most such people have also had a love-hate relationship with Facebook. This primarily stems from Facebook’s teenager like erratic behaviour – from enticing brands to use the platform to reprimanding them for spending money on it. And in light of Mark Zuckerberg’s recent announcement “…you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.” There’s an even bigger storm that’s brewing within marketing & social media divisions. And clearly this isn’t good for business, so what gives?

The more alarming part of this announcement was this statement: “We started making changes in this direction last year, but it will take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products…” Of course it will take months, but how long have brands actually been wasting their time and money?

The upside is that the news & media content you see will be held to the hopefully higher standards – more meaningful and relevant content, but that’s a discussion for another time.

The big question now is : What next?
**cue drumroll** Enter Instagram!

From the get-go, Instagram has been the poster child of the tech world. Right from being the fastest growing platform to having the highest engagement rate on any platform, Instagram has been loved by business houses and consumers alike.

Here are a few reasons I believe Instagram will be the Facebook of the (near) Future:

  

1) We all knew organic reach was dead. Paid reach seems to be going down the same route. Time will tell if there’s some magic formula for how to game Facebook’s up and coming algorithm, but for now – its time to look for opportunities elsewhere.

2) Anecdotally Facebook is becoming an ‘older’ person’s preferred choice of Social Media platform. Facebook is now 14 years old. So if you’re reading this and thinking that you were one of the early adopters of Facebook – congratulations. You’re old! Most of the research we’ve done in the Metro & Tier 1 cities in India seem to show that younger people prefer Instagram, as Facebook is where their parents, aunts and uncles hang out (That’s us). Bonus WTFact – 65% of India is now under 35 years of age and by 2020 – the average age is going to be 29 – definitely making a younger and more vibrant platform the port of call for younger Indians as they get their hands on smart phones.

3) With the highest engagement rates, Instagram is already a preferred platform for many brands. With Facebook’s targeting capabilities and constant innovation (copying Snapchat?) Instagram is giving advertisers new things to do on Instagram. Gone are the days when Instagram was only about visual porn – it’s a great platform for commerce too!

4) Facebook will introduce all the ad formats (and more) to Instagram that brands have grown accustomed to. Many have already found their way there and there’s always new little features that Facebook is adding all the time.

5) As Whatsapp gets in to the payments game, expect a lethal combo of FB targeting + Instagram engagement rates + Whatsapp payments which will definitely be killing people’s monthly pay checks and making big brands and businesses very happy.

6) Instagram is an open platform unlike Facebook. This makes it a much better platform for influencer marketing – the one thing Facebook lacked. There are plenty of people on Instagram with unimaginable number of followers who are more than happy to talk about brands. Combine this with Shop-ads on Instagram and you have a winner. There is also a good possibility that Instagram might regulate how influencers use their platform – much like YouTube had done a few years ago with content creators. (Revenue share maybe?)

7) The biggest reason I think this shift is going to happen is because of Facebook being Facebook. Since they opened up the social network to brands & businesses, they’ve been consistently inconsistent about what they’d like to do with the platform. It has been more reactive than proactive (News feed and Trending are Twitter’s ideas for the record). With Mark Zuckerberg’s recent statements though, it seems like they’d like to go back to their original purpose – but time will tell if they can hold their course or something forces their hand to change their mind again.

Since we’re talking about not being able to make up our minds, I’ll leave you with the one question that I haven’t been able to answer satisfactorily: India’s growth is going to come from T2, T3 and Rural over the next few years. Facebook, after Whatsapp, has the highest usage of a ‘social network’ in these areas and Instagram adoption is still a while away – Will brands have no choice but to suffer Facebook’s whims and fancies to reach this audience and drive growth for their businesses – will Facebook still reign supreme? Google Search Audience Targeting might be a potential solution, but more on that later…

In summary / Tl;DR – Instagram is probably going to be the default port of call for advertisers in 2018. So better get cracking with the revised digital/social strategies.

A shorter version of this Article was written for IMPACT Magazine’s backbeat section and can be found here: http://www.impactonnet.com/node/5838