Here's the thing about algorithms - once you've got a filter in place to limit the reach of poor quality content, it gives you more room to introduce additional content options without the risk of those new functions overwhelming users and impacting on overall experience.
Last month, Instagram introduced a new 60-second video ad option, extending the options beyond their 15-second and 30-second variants. T-Mobile was one of the first companies to take up the option, launching an extended version of their Super Bowl commercial featuring musician Drake.
A video posted by tmobile (@tmobile) on Feb 3, 2016 at 8:37am PST
Today, Instagram has announced that this new, extended video option will be made available to all users, increasing both the capacity and potential for video content on the platform.
Looking to expand video capabilities on the platform makes sense - according to Instagram, the time people spend watching video via the app has increased 40% in the last six months. Those numbers are no real surprise, of course, the wider trend towards video content is prevalent across all social platforms, and all of them are looking for ways to better facilitate video to work with evolving growing demand.
But the question then is, do people really want more and longer videos on Instagram? The above stats would suggest they do, but then again, 60 seconds might be pushing it on a platform where the primary focus is on artistic, creative pictures. But that's where the algorithm comes into play.
While it hasn't been introduced yet - and as such we have no definitive reports on how it will work - the purpose of Instagram's algorithm is to eliminate the negative user experience impacts of low quality content. But 'quality' is in the eye of the beholder, which is why platforms need algorithms that are attuned to each individual's personal tastes, rather than just outlawing certain content or creators. Having this as something of a safety net enables more creative freedom on the respective platforms, both from users and the platforms themselves. It lessens the risk - if people don't like 60-second videos, they won't watch or engage with them, which will limit their reach via the algorithm, and thereby also limit their potential impact.
This, again, is why introducing algorithms makes sense - the platforms need to innovate and come up with new, creative offerings, both for users and businesses, and those changes aren't going to please everyone. A smart algorithm works to maximize user experience by learning what each user doesn't want, as much as what they do.
I imagine there must be a tipping point for all platforms where introducing an algorithm makes sense - I'd say it'd be right about here:
This way, you're allowing for maximum user engagement growth to boost ad potential, but then, just as ads start flowing in and engagement starts to plateau, even decline, right there is where a filter's needed to maintain user experience and limit the impact of the influx of marketing content. Of course, the algorithm won't necessarily stop advertisers from reaching whomever they want, but like Facebook, they'll also be beholden to an ad quality score that'll limit or enhance their impact based on response. This is probably even more evident on Instagram where there's no brand pages, so all content is essentially treated the same - with more users comes more attention, and marketers are gradually infiltrating the platform in every way they can.
Complimenting the addition of longer video, Instagram's also adding in the capacity (in iOS at least) to make videos out of existing clips in your camera roll. Users will be able to trim video clips, re-arrange them, add filters and captions - you'll basically be given enhanced capacity to build video clips right from your phone, which should lead to some more interesting and engaging video experiments on the platform.
The new additions present some interesting options for the platform, particularly as it moves through its user experience transition in coming months.
Longer videos on Instagram will be rolling out from today and will be made available 'in the coming months'. Multi-clip video is available as part of Instagram version 7.19 for iOS.