Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Instagram Live Video four years on: How has Instagram changed since its introduction?

By Mary Keane-Dawson, Group CEO of TAKUMI

In September, Instagram celebrated its tenth birthday, marking a decade of evolution since its inception, from a photo-sharing service to the world’s sixth most popular social media platform and a hub for social commerce.

Founded in 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Kriege, the app quickly emerged as a disruptor to Facebook’s domination of the social media space, leading Mark Zuckerberg to purchase Instagram for $1 billion just two years after its launch.

Since this sale, we’ve seen the app transform into a one-stop-shop for any social media users’ needs, with numerous new features added onto Instagram, including IGTV in 2018 and Reels in 2020.

Four years ago, the app launched Instagram Live Video which, unlike the pre-recorded Instagram Stories or IGTV videos, gave users a chance to share an unedited stream of content for their followers to tune into and engage.

The launch of Instagram Live

Following in the footsteps of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter’s live-streaming app Periscope, Instagram launched its Live Video feature in November 2016 alongside direct story messaging.

However, unlike Periscope and Facebook Live, Instagram Live Video disappeared as soon as the stream stopped. A feature which encouraged users to broadcast more frequently, and injected a sense of urgency among viewers who knew they only had one chance to watch the content.

What’s happened since its introduction?

Fortunately for viewers the time limit didn’t last, and Instagram later launched a Live Reply feature, allowing creators the option to share live videos for viewers to re-watch up to 24 hours after they originally aired.

The decision to make Instagram Live Videos accessible beyond its original broadcast has been crucial since the start of the pandemic. After the outbreak of COVID-19, creators, influencers, and celebrities have used Instagram Live Video to maintain connection with their followers when they were unable to do physical meetings or go outside to create content.

In fact, an Instagram spokesperson commented earlier this year that they were “seeing a significant increase in both IG Live and Facebook Live usage, especially as more and more celebrities and musicians are turning to these channels to stay connected with their fans.”

What’s next for Instagram Live and the app?

Since the launch of Instagram Live Video, the app has had to divert priorities to deal with the rising popularity of TikTok, culminating in the launch of Reels this year. This followed Instagram Stories targeting Snapchat’s rising popularity, and IGTV launch in 2018 to attract YouTube users.

Alongside these developments, Instagram has slowly been adding features to boost its social commerce capabilities, culminating in the app making major changes to its home screen for the first time in years this month.

On November 12th, the app announced plans to add a Reels and Shops tab to its home screen, while the like tab and create – where people can upload photos on to their account – would be moved to the top right-hand corner next to the direct messages inbox.

Instagram claimed that the updates came after changes in the way “people create and enjoy culture” and is a clear signal of intent to promote its short-form video feed in competition with TikTok. Yet, despite this, users were unimpressed, with many noting their discomfort with the shopping tab being where the notifications used to be and Reels has also received a lukewarm reception from users so far.

However, although Instagram Live isn’t currently a priority for the platform. It still forms a core part of its offering for marketers, providing lucrative partnership opportunities for brands to collaborate with influencers in particular. It’s a great format for them to share authentic, unedited content with an engaged audience where they can also promote products and brands organically. And beyond its current uses, Instagram Live has an exciting future ahead for marketers to explore.

In the past four years, Instagram has evolved beyond a photo-sharing app to both a long-form and short-form video app, a social commerce hub, and the birthplace of thousands of cultural trends. The launch of Instagram Live Video four years ago was the beginning of Instagram’s transformation, and since, it has continued to cherry-pick the best features from its competitors, while simultaneously improving its social commerce capabilities.

Now, in 2020, the app has a two-pronged approach: it offers users a range of features, including short-form and long-form video, and can give brands direct access to users through its newly established shopping tab.