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Social media’s growing prevalence in the global community today enables the dispersion of knowledge to a diverse and widespread audience, thereby leaving behind an unmitigated impact if its power is harnessed efficiently. However, a drawback that accompanies its unprecedented usage is that often information gets lost in the plethora of ideas and content that are being shared and exchanged. Standing out, therefore, becomes imperative. Launched in 2010, Instagram has grown to become one of the most popular and commonly used online networking sites today. As it continues to adapt and evolve with changing times, there are certain distinct trends that are predicted to dominate the platform in 2021.
1. Keeping it short with Reels
Grappling with the consequences of the pandemic, the youth across the world have found themselves spending an increasing amount of time online, becoming a part of the rapidly expanding virtual world. This trend, however, is directly proportional to the apparent decrease in attention spans which has translated into the popularity of short form videos, brief and crisp text and eye-catching visuals - all of which currently dominate social media platforms, in particular Instagram. In today’s fast-paced world, if the first few seconds of a video or the first few words of a caption don’t catch and retain the attention of the audience, it is unlikely that they will take out the time to peruse the rest of the content, let alone retain the information that is being conveyed. With such short attention spans and so much material that is floating around, it is essential to keep the message crisp, simple and to the point. Instagram reels cater to this demand for content, entertaining or educational, in short snippets, thereby, becoming the format of choice for influencers, brands and individuals alike. Reels, which is Instagram’s answer to Tiktok - as is Shorts by YouTube - caters to the huge short form video market. Currently the biggest property by Instagram, Reels are essential when developing a marketing strategy that captures all age groups and demographics.
2. Marketing for a Cause
In July 2020, Instagram introduced a new feature for fundraising following the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide (Influencer Marketing Hub). Not only is it a great initiative to further various social causes and promote digital activism by raising awareness and bringing together financial resources, but is also a very important way to let followers know of issues that a brand or a particular influencer feels strongly about. It enables a connection to form at a larger social level between a community of people. Social media users are increasingly expecting a certain ethical and moral stance to be taken on prevalent issues. With more and more social, political and environmental matters gaining traction, businesses, organisations and individuals need to have an opinion and speak up for what they believe in, support causes and take a stand on issues that transcend national boundaries.
3. Social E-commerce
With the introduction of shoppable posts on Instagram, online shopping has been taken one step ahead, driving sales on the social media platform. Posts now have the feature through which users can discover products of their choice, learn more about it and make purchases with one simple click on their smartphones. Brands and influencers are using this e-commerce feature to develop an integrated shopping experience that is hassle free for users and ensures a great source of revenue for them. The fact that the purchasing process itself has been made so much simpler means less time is spent in the intricacies and nuances and the entire transactional experience is a safe and secure one, making it a lucrative option for business and customers alike. Instagram is no longer only a platform to publicise and advertise products but now has the option to sell the very products it markets.
4. Catering to a self-aware audience
Social media users have become increasingly aware of the marketing trends and gimmicks that dominate online platforms. Thinking outside the box when it comes to conceptualising a post has become more important than ever before. A tactic that leading organisations and businesses have started incorporating in recent times is that of self-aware marketing through which they take responsibility for their mistakes, shortcomings and flaws and call out their own advertising ploys. By breaking the fourth wall and making the user a part of their marketing strategy by shedding light on the very tropes they use not only renders their content unique amidst all the noise on social media but also endears them to the audience, forging a connection at a different level. At one level, it is vital to understand what is trending – hashtags, phrases or keywords. Incorporating these increases reach and enables the reader to relate to the message. At the same time, however, any communication that deviates from the well-trodden path is bound to stand out. Users are increasingly looking for less polished content and a certain consistency. Ensuring this balance can be tough but is incredibly important.
5. Instagram Live
Recent studies have reported a 70% increase in the use of the Instagram Live feature with more than 1 million users watching live videos everyday (Instagram Marketing Hub). Users have come to value authenticity in place of an overly refined aesthetic. The instagram live feature makes for a personalised experience, almost paralleling a one on one discussion, that boosts credibility and humanizes the brand. Taking into consideration the current pandemic situation, individuals are more eager than ever before for any sort of human interaction. The Instagram Live feature is a great way to actively engage the audience. Stories that touch a cord or that create a conversation and get people talking are more likely to gain visibility. One way to do this is to solicit feedback, ask for suggestions and comments and cajole them to think through the live sessions. With an unfiltered and authentic interface and relatable content, the Instagram live feature has been rapidly gaining momentum on the platform.
Playing on the popularity of Instagram Live and IGTVs, the parent brand has also recently introduced a new feature called ‘Rooms’. Instagram Live enabled only two users to go live together in a stream, and anyone from their followers can join as an audience. However with Rooms, users can add up to three people to their Live. In addition to that, they can also invite certain selected people to attend the stream by adding them to a closed room. This allows for a more personalised interactive experience. Having just been launched, Rooms seems to be a very promising feature, one that will most likely gain tremendous popularity in the coming months with brands and individuals leveraging its features to better reach their target users.
Following a year of great unpredictability and uncertainty it is hard to say what 2021 holds for people across the world. What can be said with a lot more certainty is that Instagram is set to grow and expand like never before. Out of the 1 billion active users on Instagram, a large portion of them check the social media platform on a daily basis. With new features coming up and a myriad of options, brands, influencers and individuals can now target niche audiences. Each social media platform has its own distinct characteristics and better understanding how to leverage the tools they offer is essential in order to build an effective marketing strategy so as to send a message across that makes an impact and connects with the users.
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