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19 December 2016, 09:55

The future of live social content


Instagram is just about beautifully curated photos of chia puddings and yoga headstands, isn’t it? Well, perhaps not. Instagram has introduced two new features in an attempt to get users sharing more in-the-moment content – rather than only posting images that take 10 attempts to perfect. Ephemeral direct messages and live video-streaming are both designed to enable users to share fun, raw, off-the-cuff content directly with certain followers.

The features build upon the already immensely popular Instagram Stories, which launched in August 2016. Despite (or perhaps because of) the platform’s similarity to Snapchat, more than 100 million people are already using Stories every day, fast approaching Snapchat’s 150 million daily users.

Disappearing messages on Instagram Direct

Introducing ephemeral messages to Instagram’s direct messaging service, Instagram Direct, is all part of the company’s big plan to get its 300 million monthly active users sharing more content. Until now, all of the messages have been permanent, limiting what some users are prepared to share. Instagram’s new feature allows users to send a self-destroying message (including video) to certain friends, rather than all followers. Just as in Snapchat, recipients can watch the message once, replay it once, and then it’s gone forever.

However, ephemeral messaging is not just for unguarded comments and those not-fit-for-the-public messages. It could also be an interesting way for brands to connect with and surprise their audiences, perhaps with a celebrity video popping up in a branded account.

Instagram Live and the push for more live content

Just as with Facebook Live, Instagram Live means you can now live-stream a video from wherever you are to your followers, and see how people are reacting to it in real time. Given Facebook’s increasing emphasis on live video content, the introduction of Instagram Live makes perfect sense, aligning the two platforms more closely. Not only is the Live feature another step in encouraging Instagram users to share more moments, it’s also a big leap beyond Snapchat, which has no live video function at all.  

There is one big difference between Facebook Live and Instagram Live, though: in Instagram, the video disappears once the stream is over. There’s no option to replay a Live video– once it’s gone, it’s gone. The fleeting nature of these videos encourages users to share more frequently, and incentivises viewers to watch right then and there, or miss out altogether.

This means the way that video is distributed to users becomes more important than ever. When someone shares a Live video, Instagram will target certain followers who have shown a previous interest in Live video with notifications to check it out, and a Live tag will appear at the top of followers’ feeds.

To help users find the best Live videos across the whole platform, Instagram is also rolling out an Explore tab, curating the top videos happening at any given moment, judged on view count, location and language.

Looking ahead

Instagram’s updates are part of an intriguing trend in live-streaming and ephemeral messaging on social media – one that is completely changing the way people interact with their friends and followers. This is great for us as marketers, as it gives us another useful tool for sharing content with a large and engaged audience! It seems that today’s consumers want to be given raw, imperfect and authentic content that connects with them on a human level, and Instagram’s latest updates will enable marketers to do just that.

Here at pslondon, we’re keen to see what innovative uses brands come up with for these new features, and we’re certainly looking forward to trying out Instagram Live for ourselves.


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