Throughout 2021, we saw Instagram copy virtually everything that TikTok has to offer, and according to Instagram chief Adam Mosseri, you can expect even more of the same in 2022, as the platform looks to focus on its key areas of growth – and in particular, consolidating its video formats to maximize engagement.
In the above video post, in which Mosseri sums up the past year, he also says that Instagram will be focused on two key themes in 2022 – ‘Video and Control’
On the video front, Mosseri says that – you guessed it – Reels will remain the key focus:
“We’re going to double-down on our focus on video and consolidate all of our video formats around Reels”
The rise and rise of TikTok has consequently increased the pressure on Instagram, which was once the leading platform for young people to connect, and since then, IG has been scrambling to catch up, in any way that it can, which has lead to mixed results from a perceptual and usage standpoint.
But from an overall usage standpoint, those efforts have worked. Back in June, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted that Reels had become the largest contributor to engagement growth on Instagram, and with the broader consumer shift towards short-form video, it makes sense for Instagram to also move with the times, and align with what people want to see.
So what will that look like in practice?
We’re already seeing it, with Reels clips now being integrated into your main Instagram feed, while Instagram also merged its video formats back in October, and has since been automatically defaulting shorter videos into Reels clips as it looks to expand Reels reach and exposure.
Eventually – and I’ve been saying this for a couple of years now – I suspect Instagram will open to a full-screen Reels/Stories feed, moving away from the traditional home stream of static posts, which will put significantly more focus on the format, and make it the primary connection option, again moving more into line with TikTok.
Is that a good thing? Will it help Instagram slow TikTok’s momentum?
A lot comes down to your personal perspective, but for Instagram, and parent company Meta, the numbers will tell the ultimate tale. Even if you think their replication efforts are a little cheap and tacky, if engagement rises as a result…
Mosseri also notes that Instagram will be looking to make messaging a bigger focus in the app, which is now ‘the primary way that people connect online’, while it will also be looking to add more monetization tools for creators in the app.
And the final element of focus is transparency, and providing more insight into ‘how Instagram works’.
That will likely come in the form of Instagram’s coming chronological feed toggle, which will give users the capacity to easily switch to a reverse chronological post feed – though it won’t be a saveable option (i.e. you’ll need to manually switch to the chronological feed every time you open the app).
It’ll be interesting to see what other transparency elements Instagram looks to implement, in an effort to give users more control over their experience, and overall, it’ll be interesting to see whether Instagram’s continued push into TikTok-like territory will be its saving grace or its death knell.
I mean, Instagram is far from failure in this respect. The app has more than a billion users (reportedly, Instagram now has more than 2 billion users, but that number has not been officially confirmed), and it’s still a key connection option for many, while its eCommerce push is also sparking new behaviors and trends in the app.
There are plenty of ways for Instagram to remain relevant and strong – but whether becoming more like TikTok will help it maintain connection with younger audiences is unclear.
Maybe, through enhanced opportunities for creators, it can lure more big names to its app, and away from TikTok, which will be a key pathway to ongoing growth, or maybe, through Meta’s coming AR wearables, Instagram will take on a new form of relevance in the coming AR shift.
There’s a lot to come, and you can expect a lot of change at IG as a result.
Also, more TikTok – you’ll see more and more TikTok-like elements, as has become the norm for the app.
Bonus: Instagram has also published its top hashtags of 2021:
Handy trend notes for your reference.
Meta’s Developing and ‘Ethical Framework’ for the Use of Virtual Influencers
With the rise of digital avatars, and indeed, fully digital characters that have evolved into genuine social media influencers in their own right, online platforms now have an obligation to establish clear markers as to what’s real and what’s not, and how such creations can be used in their apps.
The coming metaverse shift will further complicate this, with the rise of virtual depictions blurring the lines of what will be allowed, in terms of representation. But with many virtual influencers already operating, Meta is now working to establish ethical boundaries on their application.
As explained by Meta:
“From synthesized versions of real people to wholly invented “virtual influencers” (VIs), synthetic media is a rising phenomenon. Meta platforms are home to more than 200 VIs, with 30 verified VI accounts hosted on Instagram. These VIs boast huge follower counts, collaborate with some of the world’s biggest brands, fundraise for organizations like the WHO, and champion social causes like Black Lives Matter.”
At first glance, you wouldn’t necessarily realize that this is not an actual person, which makes such characters a great vehicle for brand and product promotions, as they can be utilized 24/7, and can be placed into any environment. But that also leads to concerns about body image perception, deepfakes, and other forms of misuse through false or unclear representation.
Deepfakes, in particular, may be problematic, with Meta citing this campaign, with English football star David Beckham, as an example of how new technologies are evolving to expand the use of language, as one element, for varying purpose.
The well-known ‘DeepTomCruise’ account on TikTok is another example of just how far these technologies have come, and it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where they could be used to, say, show a politician saying or doing something that he or she actually didn’t, which could have significant real world impacts.
Which is why Meta is working with developers and experts to establish clearer boundaries on such use – because while there is potential for harm, there are also beneficial uses for such depictions.
“Imagine personalized video messages that address individual followers by name. Or celebrity brand ambassadors appearing as salespeople at local car dealerships. A famous athlete would make a great tutor for a kid who loves sports but hates algebra.”
Such use cases will increasingly become the norm as VR and AR technologies are developed, with these platforms placing digital characters front and center, and establishing new norms for digital connection.
It would be better to know what’s real and what’s not, and as such, Meta needs clear regulations to remove dishonest depictions, and enforce transparency over VI use.
But then again, much of what you see on Instagram these days is not real, with filters and editing tools altering people’s appearance well beyond what’s normal, or realistic. That can also have damaging consequences, and while Meta’s looking to implement rules on VI use, there’s arguably a case for similar transparency in editing tools applied to posted videos and images as well.
That’s a more complex element, particularly as such tools also enable people to feel more comfortable in posting, which no doubt increases their in-app activity. Would Meta be willing to put more focus on this element if it could risk impacting user engagement? The data on the impact of Instagram on people’s mental health are pretty clear, with comparison being a key concern.
Should that also come under the same umbrella of increased digital transparency?
It’s seemingly not included in the initial framework as yet, but at some stage, this is another element that should be examined, especially given the harmful effects that social media usage can have on young women.
But however you look at it, this is no doubt a rising element of concern, and it’s important for Meta to build guardrails and rules around the use of virtual influencers in their apps.
You can read more about Meta’s approach to virtual influencers here.
Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps
Meta has published a new set of safety tips for journalists to help them protect themselves in the evolving online connection space, which, for the most part, also apply to all users more broadly, providing a comprehensive overview of the various tools and processes that it has in place to help people avoid unwanted attention online.
The 32-page guide is available in 21 different languages, and provides detailed overviews of Meta’s systems and profile options for protection and security, with specific sections covering Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
The guide begins with the basics, including password protections and enabling two-factor authentication.
It also outlines tips for Page managers in securing their business profiles, while there are also notes on what to do if you’ve been hacked, advice for protection on Messenger and guidance on bullying and harassment.
For Instagram, there are also general security tips, along with notes on its comment moderation tools.
While for WhatsApp, there are explainers on how to delete messages, how to remove messages from group chats, and details on platform-specific data options.
There are also links to various additional resource guides and tools for more context, providing in-depth breakdowns of when and how to action the various options.
It’s a handy guide, and while there are some journalist-specific elements included, most of the tips do apply to any user, so it could well be a valuable resource for anyone looking to get a better handle on your various privacy tools and options.
Definitely worth knowing either way – you can download the full guide here.
Twitter bans account linked to Iran leader over video threatening Trump
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with relatives of slain commander Qasem Soleimani ahead of the second anniverary of his death in a US drone strike in Iraq – Copyright POOL/AFP/File Tom Brenner
Twitter said Saturday it had permanently suspended an account linked to Iran’s supreme leader that posted a video calling for revenge for a top general’s assassination against former US president Donald Trump.
“The account referenced has been permanently suspended for violating our ban evasion policy,” a Twitter spokesperson told AFP.
The account, @KhameneiSite, this week posted an animated video showing an unmanned aircraft targeting Trump, who ordered a drone strike in Baghdad two years ago that killed top Iranian commander General Qassem Soleimani.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s main accounts in various languages remain active. Last year, another similar account was suspended by Twitter over a post also appearing to reference revenge against Trump.
The recent video, titled “Revenge is Definite”, was also posted on Khamenei’s official website.
According to Twitter, the company’s top priority is keeping people safe and protecting the health of the conversation on the platform.
The social media giant says it has clear policies around abusive behavior and will take action when violations are identified.
As head of the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Soleimani was the architect of its strategy in the Middle East.
He and his Iraqi lieutenant were killed by a US drone strike outside Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.
Khamenei has repeatedly promised to avenge his death.
On January 3, the second anniversary of the strike, the supreme leader and ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi once again threatened the US with revenge.
Trump’s supporters regularly denounce the banning of the Republican billionaire from Twitter, underscoring that accounts of several leaders considered authoritarian by the United States are allowed to post on the platform.
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