Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Battle of the apps: How Instagram is upping the ante in the live video stakes

By Emma Shuldham, Managing Director, ITB Worldwide

The pandemic lockdowns may have forced us all into social isolation in the physical world, but that only meant that we turned to the mobile devices in our pockets to get our daily media fix, purchase some new athleisurewear and keep in touch with our online social communities. You could say that 2020 spurred the revival and rebirth of social media as we once knew it and paved a new path for brands and influencers looking for innovative ways to engage with consumers. 

It’s no surprise then that social media powerhouse Facebook came up against some hefty competition for Instagram when new kids on the block TikTok and Clubhouse burst onto the scene, offering new platforms for personalised short form videos and audio-chat. The social media sphere, which until now has largely been dominated by a few key players, all of a sudden exploded, with the success of these newer apps fuelled by the people that use them looking to find new forms of creative expression.

Live Rooms ups the ante further

So, how can Instagram ensure that it remains at the forefront of the social community?

The latest weapon to be added to Instagram’s social media armoury was the recent launch of Live Rooms. It’s an interesting play as it further serves its aggressive business push to ensure creators are staying within the Facebook/IG ecosystem, and not deferring to new platforms – something that Instagram has continuously upped the ante on over the years.

IGTV took on YouTube, IG Stories took on Snapchat; Instagram Shops connected the path to purchase in-app as an alternative to ecommerce platforms, keeping traffic in-network; and just last year, when TikTok took the world by storm as the new shiny plaything to keep us all entertained during lockdown, it wasn’t too long before Reels emerged. Fast forward to 2021 and Live Rooms is now set to take on Clubhouse and Twitch, potentially even expanding to rival Zoom and podcasts.

The Zoom impact

It’s quite clear that the Zoom effect of lockdown is inevitable as platforms look to keep up and provide innovative ways to connect people, host ‘live’ events, and engage in broader conversation in this new normal for now. IG Live Rooms will certainly allow for more creativity, conversation and engagement but it will be interesting to see where traditional webinars, talks and the like go on the platform. Within the communities on Instagram there are still demographics that will need to be considered in terms of reach and accessibility for all, not to mention there is currently a limit of four people, although who knows how long it will be before that changes. Whether it ‘takes over’ from services like Zoom is yet to be seen, as these platforms are much more inclusive in many ways.

With TV viewership down and streaming viewership hugely on the rise, it’s a unique opportunity for Instagram to build something that could change the way people interact and view on-demand live video content on the platform. It represents massive opportunities in multiple categories – IG has some content planned in the fashion and beauty world but it will likely have an impact on cultural topics, food and more – and will be interesting to see how it will be monitored for accuracy.

The increased use of badges during Lives represents new potential revenue streams for influencers, which makes choosing the IG ecosystem to create this content all the more alluring for creators; they know the platform, have the audiences already and now they can make cash – which makes it a much easier choice to make than developing a new audience elsewhere.

What makes Instagram unique is its vast network of established creators on the platform who each have amassed existing audiences of fans and followers, which means it has a lot less legwork to do than platforms like Clubhouse with a similar offering. Brands who already use Instagram heavily for marketing and social engagement are always looking for innovative ways to engage with their core consumers on the platform, and now with Live Rooms this puts Instagram in a stronger position to deliver the goods.

Instagram certainly has the user base; it has the creators/influencers; and wherever they are, you can bet your bottom dollar brands won’t be far behind. And now, if the only thing missing was live-streaming and podcasts, it won’t be long before it sweeps up those audiences too – making for an attractive offering for brands to cover all bases through the full IG suite of features and products.