While Facebook seems to have lost popularity with users in recent times, Facebook, the company, is still winning out, because running in almost direct correlation with declining sentiment around its main app, is the increasing popularity of Instagram, which Facebook also owns.
The only problem here is that Facebook makes a lot more money from its core platform - while Instagram now hosts more than 25 million business profiles, and more than 2 million of them are also active advertisers, there are close to triple both of those stats on its main app. And with fewer surfaces with which to serve ads within Instagram (no side rails, no groups, etc.), Facebook now needs to find new ways to monetize Instagram's popularity in order to maintain its overall growth momentum, and offset any potential impacts from a decline in Facebook use.
So what's the answer? Facebook's hoping that it lies in Instagram shopping, which they're now making a bigger focus. And this week, Instagram has announced two new options to better facilitate shopping within the app.
First off, Instagram's expanding its test of shopping tags within Instagram Stories.
Instagram first launched its Shopping Tags in Stories to a limited group of business profiles back in June. Now, the tags will be made available in 46 countries, a significant expansion of the option.
As per Instagram:
"More than 400 million accounts come to Stories every day to feel closer to their favorite accounts. And with one-third of the most-viewed stories coming from businesses, we’re excited to see how Shopping in Stories enable brands to tell an even deeper story about what’s behind their products."
With the rising popularity of Stories, the expansion of shopping tags at this stage makes a lot of sense, as it can help to form habitual behaviors within the option. And with Facebook seeing Stories as the future of social sharing, they also need more ways to better monetize the option - tags in Stories seemingly provide this, in an unobtrusive and intuitive way.
In addition to this, Instagram's also rolling out a dedicated shopping channel within its Explore feed.
"Topic channels, which launched in June, enable you to browse across your interests and go deeper on any area you like in Explore. Now, when you simply want to shop for fun, you’ll see a channel dedicated to Shopping posts from the brands you follow and brands you might like."
This may be the best testing ground for Instagram shopping yet - now, users will have the option to switch to a feed solely made up of shopping-based posts. And worth noting, Instagram says that more than 90 million accounts are posting 'tap to reveal' tags in shopping posts on the platform every month. That's a lot of shopping options - if Instagram shopping is going to become a more prominent part of the in-app experience, the data from usage of this dedicated shopping feed could prove a key indicator of its potential success.
But then, of course, there are reports of a dedicated Instagram shopping app which is currently in development. Is that still going to go ahead?
I'm not sure anyone is 100% on this at this stage - Casey Newton from The Verge, who originally broke the news of the dedicated Instagram shopping app, says that the development of a separate shopping app has been confirmed by several sources, so there's little doubt it is actually in development. But the lack of early success for Instagram's separate IGTV app may change things in this regard - maybe, if the IGTV app fails to gain ground, Instagram will re-assess the idea of splitting activity away from its main app, and derail a separate shopping app.
But while no one seems to know for sure exactly how Instagram shopping will happen, it is most definitely a key focus, as highlighted by this new announcement. And as Instagram seeks to build momentum around Instagram shopping, you can expect there to be more awareness efforts put into place - more in-app alerts and prompts letting users know how and where they can shop without leaving the app.
This is a key area of note for social media marketers and eCommerce businesses, and its worth investigating the various options and considering their potential fit.