Instagram Enters the Video-First Revolution

Something major just happened at Instagram.

The social platform we’ve loved ever since we first had to choose between Sierra and Valencia filters for our Spring Break photos has fundamentally changed. 

It’s not just a social platform anymore: it’s a video-first experience. 

Hold up. What do we mean by video-first?

The textbook definition is a social platform that prioritizes video in a user’s feed so they can seamlessly scroll from one clip to the next, all powered by an algorithm that consistently delivers to users the content they crave. 

In action, video-first platforms look a whole lot like TikTok

The social giant–with over 1 billion active users and climbing–effectively fulfilled the “pivot to video” prophecy that Mark Zuckerberg predicted in 2015. Once other social platforms saw the voracious appetite users developed for this style of video, they began to glean a bit of the shine from TikTok by developing tools and features that would mimic the user experience the Bytedance platform popularized. 

You can see this mimicry in the rise of Facebook Stories, YouTube Shorts, Reddit’s r/pan, and–now–Instagram.

With the most recent update, Instagram has reinvented their Feed. Now, when scrolling through posts from friends, followers, and related accounts, the interface changes, allowing you to see an endless scroll of 9×16 videos–along with the occasional selfie from that friend you haven’t spoken to since high school. 

If you’re already creating Instagram Reels, all of this should look incredibly familiar.

In fact, to put it another way, Reels aren’t just an added bonus to the platform now–they’re the main event.

If you want to move fast on this new experience–and trust us, you can–let’s double click into Reels so you’ll have a solid foundation on where to get started.

The Present is Video. The Future is Reels. 

Instagram’s latest update is the first step into this next frontier for the platform.

But this first step is really just leaning heavily into Reels which, frankly, are already a lot like TikTok (which in itself is aping Vine, so who stole from who, right?!) Reels allows users to create their own content leveraging highly coveted features and trends like:

  • Currently popular musical track
  • Time Lapse videography that helps sell a popular “day in the life” format
  • Polls and explainer graphics, usually to correct some stereotype about x (a common trope is, “when your friend asks about…”)

For consumers, Reels unlock the ability to create content with cinematic flourishes that give an added level of gloss to highly personal content.

For brands, Reels offer a way to organically interact with their audiences and offer a sense of intimacy and connection through a language they are already speaking: the native IG experience.

Take for instance the Instagram personality, cook Carolina Gelen. She offers up recipes in short bursts, interspersed with behind-the-scenes footage of things going wrong–a level of authentic relatability that’s endearing to the Reel audience. These in turn lead to Reels advertising cooking utensils and aids that brands have gifted her. 

For marketers, this means Instagram marketing is moving prospects further down the funnel.

Related: How to Make a Custom Instagram Filter for Businesses

The Social Experience is Evolving

As data privacy changes continue impacting adland, the historic metrics that we’ve used for targeting users are shifting dramatically. That means you need to rely on iterative video content, optimized for performance, to break through the social noise and make a mark. This will also be imperative as Instagram continues to invest in building out their own features, like Shops. As users get accustomed to social commerce, brands will find success converting audiences with lower-funnel content on traditionally primarily upper-funnel platforms.

So, as a marketer, what does this all really mean for you? On Instagram, your team needs to harness video to reach new audiences with dynamic creatives that have the potential to set your brand apart in a social media era saturated with content. 

The Key Objectives for Instagram Video Marketing:

  • Awareness: Show off your product, service, or brand in new ways by showcasing unique features or telling your brand story.
  • Engagement: Capture attention quickly to stay in the forefront of a viewer’s mind. Short quick bursts of content will captivate your audience and keep them engaged.
  • Conversion: Convey a clear, simple message that drives consumers to take action, such as buying a product, clicking on a Call-to-Action (CTA), or visiting a website.

Instagram Ad Specs and Placements Types

With over 1 billion monthly active users, Instagram marketing needs to be a pillar of your social media strategy.

But In a sea of competitors vying for consumers’ dispersed attention, your brand needs to have a sustained presence across multiple Instagram touchpoints in order to make a mark. 

Here are the social specs for two of the main Instagram marketing ad placements your brand can leverage with high-quality video content.

Reels

Reels, Reels, Reels! As mentioned, these are clearly Instagram’s current and near-future focus after sunsetting the placement’s previous incarnation, IGTV.

Advertisers can and should focus on making their own and making these seem native to the platform. They can also consider branded content partnerships with current personalities. 

Reels offer insights to creators, so you can see what’s working and what isn’t. If users go to the Reels tab, they may stumble upon your videos, too, since that page shows any number of Instagram accounts. 

Reels work best when they’re short and move quickly — 60 seconds is the longest they can be. They can be created in the app or uploaded, but should be original content (not hastily repurposed). Reels are shot in a vertical, full-screen format.

Video Ad Specs

  • Aspect ratio: 9:16
  • Max resolution: None, upload the highest resolution video available.
  • Min resolution: 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Max file size: 4GB
  • Video length: Max 60 seconds
  • Frame rate: 30 fps
  • Recommended file type: .mp4

Instagram Feed

Instagram Feed video ads are integrated directly into a user’s feed, appearing in between content as they scroll. Users can engage with the ad by liking, commenting, sharing, or clicking on a CTA.

Because users scroll quickly, be sure to include a captivating hook within the first couple of seconds of your video. Several styles of content work well for this ad placement type, including live-action. 

Video Ad Specs

  • Aspect ratio: 4:5 or 1:1 are recommended
  • Max resolution: None, upload the highest resolution video available.
  • Min resolution: 1080 x 1080
  • Max file size: 30MB
  • Video length: 1 to 120 seconds long
  • Frame rate: 30 fps
  • Recommended file type: .mp4, .mov, or .gif. Additional types are supported.

You can include supporting copy, and 125 characters max is recommended as only two rows of copy will appear below an Instagram Feed video ad. Make note that video captions and sound are optional, but recommended especially for videos that have voiceover or dialogue. Use text overlay, like in this Freshpet ad, made with QuickFrame, to ensure all viewers get the same messaging whether or not they are scrolling with sound on.

Ready to Join the Video-First Revolution?

You know that your brand needs to generate and scale creative content for Instagram to stay ahead of your competitors, but it will be even more important as brands fight for attention as the platform changes course into the video-first headwinds

But with a strong creative strategy, proper pre-production planning, and a little bit of ingenuity, your business can create a hallmark visual experience that will drive engagement, build awareness, and grow your brand on this wildly popular platform.

Need more Instagram Help? Read our Instagram Video Ad Specs & Placements Guide

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