The shot heard round the world came at the end of June when Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, announced “We are no longer a photo sharing app.” What this focus on Instagram video now means for your business, and how you can leverage the shift for your Brand growth.
Ditching Photos for Instagram Video? The Truth Behind the Noise
When Adam Mosseri announced in June that Instagram was “no longer a photo sharing app,” business owners (including me) threw a fit. With fears around how to “beat the algorithm” rampant, this update seemed like just another barrier to creating great content that would be seen, loved, and responded to as business owners looking for more visibility, and reach.
Rather than put words in Mosseri’s (and Instagram’s) mouth, we invite you to watch the announcement for yourself in this short 2:26 video.
This announcement comes off the heels of apps like TikTok and other upstarts, as Mosseri says, taking the digital world by storm with full-screen, entertaining video content.
“The number one reason people say that they use Instagram in research is to be entertained. So people are looking to us for that.”Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram
So what does this lean toward video for entertainment on Instagram, and other apps, mean for your business as you plan out your content?
Everlasting Truths in an Ever-Changing Digital World
Since growing Brands beyond their competitors for the past 12+ years, I’ve maintained that digital trends will come and go, but the core tenets of being human stick with us.
Below are two core truths which have always informed how I approach Brand growth, even amidst digital upheaval.
1) Humans are always looking for new ways to connect.
Come Alive Co is a Brand Story Studio because we understand that the #1 driving force to grow your business is not one up-and-coming trend over any other — rather, the everlasting human need to connect.
It’s why we follow our friends online, share hilarious animal videos via text, or consume content that mirrors our experiences or makes us feel some type of way: we long to feel connected.
This is good news for you, impact-driven business leader. Because if you started your business to fill a gap in the market by fulfilling a human need, you will always have a job so long as that need is unmet in the very ways your audience craves it.
Major takeaway: Remember why you started your business, and leverage trends — don’t let them use you — to show who you are, and the value of your message.
2) Digital behaviors change with the times. Your values don’t.
We see so many businesses fail because they spend all their resources reacting to the tides. Like pulling out of the stock market during a downtown can actually be a loss, long-lasting Brands stick with their values to rise through changing tides.
Let me lend you a page from my own Brand book and talk you through how I helped guide King’s Hawaiian to a nationwide expansion by rooting down in their values — not ripping them up, despite what trends had told us.
I had the privilege to lead the account team for King’s Hawaiian as the social media strategist with a past agency. The year was 2010; and Facebook, the most popular social media platform at the time (I know, I know. I’m dating myself).
When it came time to take their decades-old Brand and launch their digital presence, I knew I was the right person for the job as a longtime fan and consumer of their soft, fluffy bread. Furthermore, King’s Hawaiian was the only bread company I knew that was family-run, and built on values similar to my own Filipino family’s:
values like family time, connecting over a good meal, generous giving, and community care.
The approach, then, was not to funnel millions into Facebook advertising as was the go-to; rather, to spend time listening to customers and see how we could take the bread company’s persona online.
Digital was new for the Brand, but I extended their values across the platform and did what no other Brand was doing at the time:
- Used social media to transform one-way advertisements into two-way conversation, inviting long-time fans to contribute to the direction of their beloved bread Brand
- Asked for feedback from fans (more common today with tools like Instagram Stickers, but VERY revolutionary when Brands were accustomed to putting out ads where no one could talk back) to create helpful content — not just product ads
- While marketing practices told us to segment audience by demographic, I created content based on pillars leveraging their interests while many companies still treated social media as a one-way billboard
The result? Deep loyalty, rabid referrals, and growth 6-8x higher than competitors with much larger names, and at a fraction of the price (organic and paid advertisement) —
— all because we took the time to get to know our fans: what they needed, and how we could leverage various platforms to give just that.
Major takeaway: What are YOUR Brand Values and how can you ensure pivots (like this focus on Instagram video) uphold, not compromise, them?
Digital trends come and go. Instead of letting these changes hold you and your business hostage, knowing your Brand Story — how you uniquely serve the audiences hungry for what you have to offer — will always steer you right.
Making Sense of Our Data Since Testing Instagram Video
Since Mosseri’s announcement we’ve tested different post styles on our channel, @comealive.co, specifically leaning toward reels for their short length and huge reach based on being Instagram’s latest launch, aka favorite child.
We’ve also leaned away from posting single photos, opting instead for carousels. A carousel is a gallery of photos, 2 or more, which users can swipe through. Brand Design guru Chris Do has used Instagram carousels for a while now to grow his account and educate his followers: an approach we’ve been trying over the past 3 months.
🔥 Hot tip: While Mosseri said these changes will be rolling out over the next couple of months (i.e., not right away), it’s always good to understand the game you’re playing — in this case, Instagram video — to see how you can experiment what feels right, and succeeds according to your standards.
Now, for the results…
Our highest-engaging post (comments and shares) — was actually not a reel, but this 2-photo carousel:
Stats as of Thursday, July 22nd:
- 265 likes
- 88 comments
- 32 SHARES
- 7 saves
- 173 actions taken from this post, including 160 profile visits; 13 website taps
- 22% accounts (961) weren’t following us, but it led to 16 new follows (!!)
Okay, so this data is kind of unfair (and I almost didn’t include it) because it was a time-specific launch, BUT it DOES speak to the power of relevant content — and hype.
This photo set was the announcement of our big Brand relaunch, which we’ve planned for 6 MONTHS behind the scenes with our 10-year plan in mind, and had been teasing over the past week with both reels AND photo carousels:
The first two videos teased that “something BIG” was coming. We utilized Instagram Stickers in our Stories to engage our audience and pique their interest, along with the quite aesthetic countdown of “3, 2, 1” to increase hype.
🔥 Hot tip 2: Looking to create breakthrough content that reaches your Aligned Clients? Forget likes, which I refer to as a vanity metric, and focus instead on inviting engagement. When people engage with your posts Instagram sees who values your content, and they’ll prioritize your content to them again.
We also leaned on reels to do the heavy lifting for us, putting behind-the-scenes video of our shoot to trending songs. While that first reel only received 751 plays, the 2nd one received 2,840 — partly due to using a trending song, but also because I (Ché) shared it from my personal account to amplify its reach.
Meanwhile, the final teaser post — a carousel — garnered a sizable amount of engagement at 48 comments (the previous 2 had 38 and 25 comments to their name, respectively, which is still great engagement for a micro-influential account at 1,640+ followers).
We’ll talk about the power of a relevant launch that rallies people behind your vision in a bit, but first let’s look at non-announcement content.
But what about non-announcement content?
Surprisingly, our most popular reel in the past month was not one set to a viral song but the “Let’s have a chat y’all” reel I shared within days of Instagram’s video-focused announcement.
In this video, I simply sit on my chair with my mug to talk about Instagram’s aforementioned announcement while inviting people to share how they were feeling, too: even giving them multiple-choice options to express themselves if they were having trouble finding the words.
At 72 likes and a whopping 71 comments, this has been our highest-engaging post in months save for the launch content.
One other post that did well, and one that shows we must question how we define “success” before jumping to conclusions were as follows:
- WHAT DID WELL: My #FridayIntroduction post in a yellow dress (134 likes; 33 comments): Friday Introductions tend to do so well because the hashtag is usually used for networking, and also because by the end of the week people are looking to unplug and just use Instagram to soothe their work-numbed minds. Ergo, photos showing people’s faces do well at this time: it fosters connection, and is a low-barrier invitation to engage. We’ll see how solo photos continue to perform as video, and carousel photos, seem to be getting preference.
- WHAT DID NOT DO WELL, BY TYPICAL STANDARDS: My reel of quick cuts light-heartedly addressing how to respond to the Instagram Video announcement (56 likes; 15 comments): 15 comments is low on our page, which averages 28-40 comments per post. I wanted to try the quick cut format to entertain while educating: what I call, edutainment. Though we may not have gotten a gaggle of comments, one follower commended that this was a thought-provoking reel.
My takeaway? You never know who’s paying attention.
At least 80% of people who hire us at our highest prices pursue us because they’ve been “watching [us] for some time, and like how we…” (insert our unique value here).
When you show up consistently for the right reasons — that is, aiming to serve your audience or just celebrate being YOU, you will affect someone. And that goes a long way.
Steal our Q3 Strategy: Responding to the Instagram Video Announcement
You heard Instagram’s announcement and you studied our experiments. Now, we’ll share with you how we plan to leverage video to amplify our message of guiding impact-driven leaders to COME ALIVE in their unique gifts and audacious vision through their Brand Story.
1) Root down in your Brand Story, anchored in your values.
Remember WHY you do what we do; WHO for, and what they need in this time. This is the reason our face-to-camera talk about Instagram’s announcement did so well, I think:
- We responded to an of-the-moment topic, then and there (Timeliness is KEY and the very fuel behind Instagram’s “instant” nature)
- More than just spewing our uninformed opinion on the trend, we took to the people who matter most: our audience. We opened up the floor to ask what THEY needed, thereby rooting into our Brand Story and values — the first of which, is love. And love, to us, always means considering the other person’s feelings in that moment.
- We invited people to come as they are (again: love). We didn’t take a stance right then and there, we just waited to hear where everyone was at. We listened and engaged deeply, encouraging who needed encouragement; cheering on those who were all in.
When you understand what you have to offer and the values that guide you, you are quicker able to respond in any given time. And this is what is needed of a leader.
2) Use Instagram video; don’t let it use you.
What do I mean by this? Well, when a new trend is announced it can be so easy to uproot from our bearings and do it just because everyone else is, too. Being an enneagram 4 (and a deep thinker), I am always questioning intention — mine, and others, which stops me from acting too brash.
In the race to remain relevant, it might be temping to copy every trending reel. TikTok is succeeding because people are creatively taking one trend or audio and remixing it in a way that’s original to them. Instagram, on the other hand, is seeing a surge of people doing the exact same things to the same audio. How can you stand apart if you’re trying to fit in?
Go back to your Brand Story: how you uniquely serve your audience, in ways only you can. What are your values? What is your unique twist on what you teach? What are the secret ingredients to your boss sauce (haha, I just made that up on the fly)? Capitalize on trending audio if your goal is to rise in reach, but add YOUR own twist — this is how you stand out while staying true to you, and turn heads for it as a breakthrough Brand.
Here’s an example of how we’ve leveraged video trends while staying true to our Brand Story:
- Listen and observe. We scrolled through a few reels to see what was popular. They all seemed to share a similar theme: people doing fun, lighthearted stuff to pumped-up music.
- See what works for you. Toss the rest. Joy and celebration are core tenets of our Brand, but being cookie-cutter is not. We tossed any trend that involved pointing at the screen, and started to share what was bringing US to life at the time: in this case, behind-the-scenes video of our rebrand, set to viral, upbeat audio.
- Don’t be afraid to try something new. Sure, talking-straight-to-camera didn’t seem catchy on Instagram video, but we’ve been studying (all-night-scrolling) TikTok for some time and have seen how helpful and soothing educational content can be. Although it might not be trendy, it’s one way we can naturally provide value. And that’ll always be more impactful than following a surface-level trend.
3) Mix up your Instagram video approach to keep it fresh, and test.
And speaking of not being afraid to try something new… Not sure which medium (reels; carousel; IGTV, etc.) is right for you? Test them all! Our goal as a business is not to be perfect, but to have fun making progress along the way. The isolating incident of this whole past year was and is horrendous, but it did breed at least one good thing: the desire for connection, without the filters.
After this past year, people don’t have time or energy any longer to put on a facade. So leverage this collective grace and let yourself “fail forward”. Although, showing up and trying is not a failure, no matter how many crickets you receive.
To show up as yourself is to succeed in being yourself and caring about something, in a world where the majority of people are afraid to even try.
Some ideas to leverage Instagram video in a so-you, feel-good way:
- Scroll through reels until you find an audio, or trend, you enjoy. Put your camera on timer and just film yourself having FUN with it. If anything, use all that behind-the-scenes footage to show yourself trying — I guarantee people will applaud your bravery, and even be inspired to try the same.
- Think about what you really love doing in your business. Is it teaching? Show your audience a core tenet of your offering in 30 seconds or less. What is it they need to know before working with you? For instance, if you’re a website designer, share “3 Ways to Know it’s Time for a Redesign” or “5 Hot Tips to Optimize Your SEO.”
- On that note, think about the questions people approach you MOST about and turn that into content. You don’t have to just talk straight to the camera or DANCE if that’s not your thing — in fact, here’s a reel I shot for MissFits guiding you to test the waters with reels:
- Upload 2-3 similar photos into a carousel. When people scroll through them it’ll be like playing with a flip book, whether they’re images of you in the same place in different poses, or the same quote in different colors / styles.
- Don’t overlook Instagram Live. A Live conversation is an of-the-moment way to not have to premeditate content, while utilizing an Instagram video tool to boost your reach. We’re not 100% bought into Instagram Live yet, but are excited to test it for our upcoming series “Lift Your Voice,” which mirrors our new Brand goals of amplifying lesser-heard voices doing major things in their fields.
- Teach online? Cut it down to snippets for IGTV. Instagram TV is reserved for videos longer than 1 minute. We’ve been testing cutting down snippets of my teaching through my Mastermind into reels and IGTV: not just to test the algorithm, but also to bring greater value to our audiences by showing them what and how we teach in our program.
4) Test, Analyze, Rinse, Repeat.
If pulling insights isn’t in your monthly to-do list, now’s a great time to start. If you really want to beat the algorithm — that is, provide valuable content to people hungry for what you offer, studying the data is a surefire way to know what’s working.
By analyzing what types of posts, and when, succeed the most, you’ll get to know your audience and what they’re looking for. This will help inform your content creation efforts as you try Instagram video once and for all… or not!
Another data point I do want to mention, however, is your internal compass. I never recommend leaning into data if it goes against your gut. Stretch or tiptoe out of your comfort zone based on what feels right to you, but I never want to advocate going against your values in order to do so.
Final Words: Making Instagram Video Your Own
How are you feeling, now that you’ve made it to the end? I hope, rather than thinking “there’s so much I have to do” you’re excited to take the leap and try new things.
I love what Natasha of Shine With Natasha said: this isn’t one more thing we “have” to do to keep up in business, but a way to leverage a free app to grow our businesses from home. By staying rooted in your values and your authentic Brand Story, I have faith you’ll find so-you ways to make Instagram video — or heck, any other of their tools — your very own.