By James Whatley, Chris Walts & Bizhan Govindji

In a new move to evolve Instagram’s platform, it was recently reported that the social media giant might be looking to expand its video offering with the introduction of long-form video content – up to an hour in length – in-feed rather than clicking through on a link.

If these reports turn out to be true, there are major implications for users, brands, and for the platform itself.

Instagram Wants to Own Influence

Since its conception, Instagram has swallowed up ownership across a variety of spaces. First, the app became a destination for photographers to showcase their talent. Then, the platform came out on top against Snapchat – inhabiting the space of ephemeral content makers. Soon after that, with the advent of Live Instagram Stories, it made huge inroads with the newly minted livestreamer community.

In short: if you cared about your craft, Instagram wanted you.

That said, Instagram never quite cracked a way to become a destination for the traditional vlogger community – aka YouTube’s heartland. And with hour long video content, Instagram may well be ready to swoop in. And what timing!

YouTube’s community is far more ‘unfiltered’ in the sheer scale of videos and users currently on the platform. YouTube stars are also taking heat for being insensitive, and as a result, brands are having second thoughts when they come to consider the platform for influencer programs.

Enter Instagram: the more family-friendly version where vloggers can now share longer-length video content direct to an already established audience (no need to switch apps anymore – or create Instagram posts directing followers to YouTube).

Furthermore, data from Facebook tells us that that mobile video content consumption is still on the rise – with a particular spike towards longer, ‘lean back’ video. After the launch of Facebook Watch, it should come of no surprise to see Instagram following suit.

UI/UX Changes on the Horizon

With the introduction of longer-form content, there will inevitably have to be changes to the infrastructure of the platform. Some of our key predictions to what this shift might look like are:

- Fast forward/skip buttons, to give users the controls they’re used to on other platforms.
- Expect to see playlists similar to YouTube as a way of categorising video content and allowing for videos to be watched in succession.
- Better meta-data to allow for increased discoverability.
- ‘Save this for later’ introduced for Live Stories.

Opportunities for Brands

If vloggers start to flock (vlock? No!) – then of course, publishers will soon follow. As we intimated above, it wouldn’t be all too surprising if Facebook Watch partners are being lined up for this new feature too. 

For brands, it’s unlikely we’ll see significant investment in hour-long, Instagram-only content quite yet. An initial investment for material that only works or is tailored to this one platform will be high in comparison to potential returns. However, there is a sweet spot worth acknowledging. Longer (1-10 minute) episodic content that runs like TV programming could be perfect for this new feature, as it’s the type of ‘lean back’ content that users are already accustomed to watching and seek out in the present landscape.

‘How-To’ and ‘Help’ guides also become much easier to publish to the platform, although their usefulness and effectiveness may depend on how much metadata Instagram makes available to aid in discovery – see above, re feature changes.

For brands that want to experiment with video lengths on Instagram, as well as create more interactive content, the other opportunity is in Live and Q&A formats, which currently live in the Stories section and are a lower investment way for brands to test out what works best for them.

There’s a lot to play for here and, should the reported change come to fruition, expect to see a flurry of excitement from all the above-named parties.

All we can is: We’re ready for it, Instagram.  Bring it on.

The team is keeping a watchful eye on the story and will continue to provide our insight as things develop. We’re always available to chat further and answer any questions you may have – feel free to contact James Whatley here.