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How Video Is Changing Instagram

On Instagram, users “like” still pictures a lot more than videos. In fact, selfies and such generate nearly double the number of “likes,” according to fresh data from Pixability.

So why is everyone going crazy for video? Well, as the video marketing firm finds, people are consistently commenting more in Instagram videos, and comments represent a deeper level of engagement than likes.

“After investing the time to consume longer content, people are more motivated to engage,” explains John Baker, chief data scientist at Boston-based Pixability.

“We've seen this on YouTube, with longer-form content generating higher engagement rates on average compared to 30-second videos,” Baker tells me.

Unlike YouTube, however, more passive audiences are still a relatively new phenomenon for Instagram. Near-continuous scrolling has historically been standard practice for most users.

“Though slowing down to take in longer-form content isn't a behavior legacy Instagram users are accustomed to, our data shows user engagement has been increasing over time as more videos continue to be uploaded,” Baker notes. “One derivative of this trend is higher comment rates on videos versus images."

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In other words, Instagram is changing its user experience by adding more video to the mix. To that end, the Facebook unit just announced plans to expand stream limits to 60 seconds.

For brands, the transition to video is a no-brainer. For them, engagement is the key to greater conversions.

But Instagram doesn’t want to become YouTube. Not that there’s anything wrong with the video hub, but it’s a very different animal. Without scrolling, the Instagram experience becomes stagnant.  

For Instagram, therefore, the question becomes: How slowly do you want users to scroll?

This column was previously published in MoBlog on April 1, 2016.
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