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Marketing Briefing: Experts say creators must ‘adapt or die’ in light of Instagram’s pivot to video

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In the span of just a few days, Instagram rolled out, and rolled back, its most recent pivot-to-video strategy after pushback from major influencers, and even celebrities like Kim Kardashian, asking the Meta-owned platform to “Make Instagram Instagram again.”

As Instagram looks to get a leg up on its presumed arch-rival TikTok, the social media platform announced it would prioritize its video products, namely Reels, over still posts. The move left influencers who have built their businesses on the photo-sharing platform disgruntled. But social media strategists say the changes have opened a window of opportunity for emerging creators.

As Instagram aims to incentivize the usage of Reels, the newer feature has been prioritized, and now generates more organic reach than other long-established features, including photos, said Brendan Gahan, partner and chief social officer at Mekanism. This means that if creators want to win at Instagram (at least for now), they’ll need to feed the beast, by creating and sharing more video content.

“Savvy creators and brands caught on to this quickly and capitalized on this. You’d have to be living under a rock to not notice that shift,” Gahan said via email. 

Influencer Ashley Gross, who goes by @ewdatsgross on social media and has more than 36,000 Instagram followers. Gross has shifted to regularly posting Reels content, and has even joined the Instagram Reels Play Bonus Program. While the move hasn’t significantly increased her follower count, Gross said she’s noticed better engagement as a result. 

“We’re exactly seeing that — people who solely invested in photos instead of video content are setting themselves up for failure as passive content (like video) becomes more popular,” Gross said in an email to Digiday. “Adapt or die, right?”

Over the years, Instagram has launched several new product features, like Stories and Reels, to maintain its competitive advantage over other social media platforms. Instagram has also introduced shopping capabilities and more ads to diversify its revenue streams.

In response to the changes, a number of influencers announced they would be quitting the platform, which they said has been sullied by sunken engagement and Instagram’s mysterious algorithm. According to Buzzfeed, it’s burnout from playing the “Instagram creator game.”

“People are creating more video because that’s the only way to get your content seen,” said lifestyle blogger Jessica Kirby. “It’s not because they want to create video. It’s because they know that if they don’t, nobody’s gonna see their stuff.”

Kirby, who goes by @jessannkirby, has more than 136,000 Instagram followers. While smaller creators leverage Reels to get their foot in the door, Kirby said the pivot to video, along with Instagram’s other changes, has pushed her to divest from the social media platform and instead invest in her own channels, like her blog.

Per Kirby, video is the future of social media. There’s no bones about it, but Instagram’s all-or-nothing push is too much. “Instagram is just trying to copy what other platforms are doing instead of carving out their own niche,” she said. 

On the agency side, there’s long since been a push for clients to embrace and produce video content, as things like Reels and TikTok pick up steam — according to both with Gahan at Mekanism and Joe Saw, director of operations at Fanbytes, a U.K.-based social media and influencer marketing agency. 

Saw said there will always be social media users who reject change, but “when you’re working on social you’re used to being reactive, being quick,” Saw said. “This change only highlights the importance of that.”

3 Questions with Ken Krasnow, CMO at Dr. Praeger’s frozen foods 

Dr. Praeger’s recently changed its marketing strategy, ramping up efforts by testing out new channels. Why now?

Vestar Capital Partners purchased Dr. Praeger’s in January. I was brought in and some other senior leaders were brought in to help the company grow even more. We’re bringing the next level of marketing thought leadership to the company. This was a family-run business. Some of the more traditional disciplines that you might pick up in a traditional CPG or elsewhere weren’t really leveraged. Building out a 360 cross-channel campaign, leveraging data in the ways to build audiences, to optimize our campaign in flight, these are things that weren’t done in the past. 

How does that impact media buying or Dr. Praeger’s media mix?

Looking at our target consumer [and] their media behaviors, we were really hyper-focused on fewer bigger, better investments. We decided that social would be kind of the center of gravity for this campaign with Facebook and Instagram being the primary place that we reached out to people to drive awareness. YouTube, obviously, would be a big piece of that as our target audience spends a lot of time there. And that provides us with a really great place to tell our story. Then we understood that we’re not going to get too far unless we drive conversion. We felt the best way to do that is to catch people when they’re in shopper mode. And so by working with a geo mobile spatial company, we’re able to serve ads to consumers when they are within a certain radius of one of our top retailers.

You mentioned social became big part of Dr. Praeger’s strategy. What makes social media an important part of Dr Praeger’s strategy?

Advertising today is a lot less about one-way communication. It’s a lot less about beating your chest, getting on the top of the tallest mountain screaming how great you are as a brand. It’s a lot more about listening. Social really enables us to listen and understand what the conversations are, the sentiment, what’s important and then create content that’s meaningful.

By the numbers

Over the last few months, marketers and advertisers have busied themselves trying to carve out space for themselves in the metaverse. That’s everything from launching a brand presence to experimental projects. Companies are also hiring creative talent to bolster metaverse efforts, and they’re willing to spend big, according to a new report from creative job platform Creatively, made exclusively available to Digiday. According to the report, “the jobs with the highest proportion of creatives commanding more than $150 per hour — the equivalent of $312,000 per year — were Web3 /metaverse creative roles.” Find more from the report below:

  • 49% of those who responded to the survey say they’re hiring more creative positions in 2022 than in 2021, while 28% are hiring fewer positions.
  • 53% say the job market for hiring qualified creative talent has become more competitive in the past year, while 29% say it has become less competitive.
  • 55% have seen an increase in wages requested by creative talent thus far in 2022, while just 27% report a decrease.

Quote of the week

“The big multinationals are still spending and that’s helping the agencies. Moreover, the U.S. consumer — while polarized — is still generally accepting the price increases being pushed through which is encouraging the brands to spend.”

Ian Whittaker, an equities research analyst at Liberty Sky Advisors, on the economic landscape amid the downturn.

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