Late last month, we reported that Facebook's testing out new, topic-specific News Feed options to give people more options for content discovery on the platform.
Apparently that's an offering Facebook's confident will be effective, as today, Facebook-owned Instagram has launched similar functionality - though this one is video-specific.
In a blog post, Instagram has announced 'Picked for You', a new set of channels within the Explore section which feature videos "grouped by your favorite topics and interests".
As per Instagram:
"The total time people spent watching video on Instagram increased 150 percent over the past six months. As video continues to grow, we're adding new channels to Explore to make it easier for you to discover videos you'll enjoy."
That 150% increase stat kind of came out of no where - earlier this week in an interview with Bloomberg, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom noted the figure as part of the discussion. Yet three months ago in March, when Instagram announced the expansion of on platform video length from 15 to 60 seconds, they quoted this stat:
"In the last six months, the time people spent watching video increased by more than 40 percent."
Going on this, there must have been a huge uptick in video consumption on the platform in the last three months, and maybe that's been driven by the recent update to Explore (implemented in April) which placed increased emphasis on on-platform video content.
A significant, yet lesser highlighted element of that update was the addition of auto-advance - when you select a relevant video channel in Explore, the content now flows onto the next video to keep you viewing longer. This approach was pioneered by YouTube, and it's obviously been an effective tool at getting people to consume more content, as the same functionality's been adopted in varying capacity by Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Vine.
Maybe that's been enough to push video consumption up, what, 110% more in the last three months?
Either way, Instagram is seeing big growth in video. In the same Bloomberg interview, Systrom noted that:
"Instagram is becoming more and more video dominant, video heavy, and I think that's just a sign of the times, people are taking more video, consuming more video - and frankly, all these influencers that exist on Instagram, [...] they're all video heavy as well. I think it's a generational thing."
Given that, it makes sense for Instagram to be putting more emphasis on their video discovery elements.
But one of the more interesting aspects of Instagram's new offering is the specificity of the channels within their "Picked for You" options. The way the system works is, Instagram's algorithms will decide which topics you're most likely interested in, based on your on-platform activity, then those channels will be highlighted within your Explore page, with human curators at Instagram HQ filling each relevant channel with the most popular content under each topic header.
Here's a complete listing of the channels Instagram's providing:
- Oddly Satisfying
- Special Effects Makeup
- Cake Decorating
- Comic Book Artists
- Nail Artists
- Hair Tutorials
- Makeup Tutorials
- Ballet Dancers
- Makers & Artisans
- Baseball Players
There are some obvious channel topics in there, for sure (Comedians, Singers) but the narrow focus of many of these areas (Special Effects Make-up, Pitbulls) highlight niche interests where, obviously, Instagram is seeing significant community activity - significant enough to build entire channels around them. In this sense, the topics provide something of a guide book as to some of the more resonant topics on the platform - if your business can provide make-up or hair tutorials, for example, I'd say it's a safe bet you've got a ready-made audience waiting on the 'Gram.
While not everyone associates Instagram as a video platform as yet, the numbers clearly show that that's the direction the platform is increasingly headed in. Systrom also recently noted that they may even consider a live-streaming option for Instagram some time in future, which underlines both the emphasis on video content and the confidence Facebook has in the success of live-streaming. Now that's not to say photos will ever go out of style on Instagram, necessarily, but with more than 500 million active users, Instagram's audience is now more diverse than ever, and they all have different expectations for the app.
Given this, Instagram needs additions like this to help facilitate areas of growth and adapt to becoming a bigger, more diverse offering. And if they can get it right, it could pay off big time with increased views, increased time spent. And the increased advertising dollars that will inevitably follow.
The updates to Explore are currently only available in the United States, though Instagram notes that they're "working to bring this experience to the rest of the world soon."