Instagram's new features are driven by deep human insights: Meta’s Paras Sharma

The new additions give users more control over their feed, help creators perfect their content, and allow fans to show appreciation through gifts while giving brands a wider reach through a bigger collaboration with creators, Paras Sharma, director and head of content and community partnerships at Meta tells Storyboard18.

By  Aashrey BaligaMay 22, 2023 6:40 PM
Instagram's new features are driven by deep human insights: Meta’s Paras Sharma
Brands create products or services, and creators create content. The product and services get sold, that's what the brand's objective is. Unless in some cases there is brand imagery, by using creators who can create the most impactful content, depending on the brand's objective, their objective will be met.

Meta and Instagram have announced a host of new features for creators and well as consumers to have a more interactive and interesting experience while using the app. For creators, there are multiple useful features like being able to edit reels on the app itself. Till now, content creators used third-party apps to edit their reels but with the new feature, Instagram has made it more integrated and easy to create and edit reels on the go. For consumers, there's now a way to showcase their creativity. From GIF comments to being able to make notes on the app, the user experience has become more innovative. Another interesting new feature is consumers can now show appreciation to their favourite content creators and/or content via gifts. The gifts are essentially monetary benefits in the form of stars. Something similar to what platforms such as Twitch and YouTube do for their streamers.

Other than the launch of the new features, there was an interactive session on optimising the use of all types of content and features available on the platform. Called ‘Instagram University’, the event included key speakers from the Meta and Instagram teams and content creators who gave useful tips and tricks that could come in handy. Paras Sharma, director & head of content and community partnerships at Meta, spoke to Storyboard18 about the app's new features, trends in the Indian market and the use of augmented reality (AR) in content. Read the entire interview to know more.

What insights went into the making of the new features that Instagram has just rolled out?

When we look at Instagram features, one of the big pillars is around creation. So we looked at what are the kinds of things through which users can enable better creation? If you look at some of the new features, for example, editing flow — you can clip it, swap it, you can slow it down. There are points in time when you want it to be perfect. Then we have photo dump as a feature. There are points of time when life can be imperfect but we can have a feature which can create something magical about it by creating a photo dump. These are derived through human insights.

Let's take the chronological feed. It's simple, again, if you were to look at it, many things around us are not controlled by us. What I want to watch? How much I want to watch? Who I want to watch?

We also launched Instagram Gifting. We have seen and heard from the fans that they want to show appreciation to the content piece or the creator. Therefore, users can buy a currency which is a star and they can gift it. Similarly, it may not be just a monetary, it's a manifestation monetary but they want to show support to their favourite creator.

On introduction of GIFs in comments, that came from the simple insight that even while engaging with a piece of content, people want to be smart and come across as creative themselves. Users can pick the coolest GIF to show that you like it, but they can still can be cool and creative around it.

Once creators start getting strong following, what follows is the pressure. Their well-being is extremely important? So we thought, can we therefore on the platform create features where they can say, okay, I'm taking a break? With our new feature take-a-break, fans will also get to know that, their favourite creators are taking a break because they need a break. There are some of the key features that we have introduced and the insights behind it.

How are brands going to benefit from these features?

Brands create products or services, and creators create content. The product and services get sold, that's what the brand's objective is. Unless in some cases there is brand imagery, by using creators who can create the most impactful content, depending on the brand's objective, their objective will be met. Enabling creators to create content which can have the best result is what we are doing with these features.

So if creators can create the most impactful content, that messaging will result in brands meeting their objectives. However, specifically, if you were to look at some of the brands and use a particular feature, let's say photo dump. A brand may can use a photo dump as a creative tool itself. Everybody can use it, but if there's somebody who has for example a clothing range, in an interesting manner, the photo dump feature can work well.

If there's a brand which wants to come across as mental well-being offering or support, they can come and support creators with a take-a-break campaign of sorts. It also depends on brands, and how they want to tie their branding and marketing messages.

What are the top Instagram features that brands are betting big on now?

I would say that one of the things which is definitely happening is AR. Increasingly, brands are using it and they are experimenting because the app allows them to, from a creative point of view. So there are two parts to it. There is a usage of a feature from a creation point of view, like the ones that I talked about in AI. Then there is the usage of features from a marketing point of view. So the branded content ads feature, which is when the brands engage with the creator and they pay the creator and then they can boost the creator's work to a large audience. Now if the brand were to use the branded content ad feature of Instagram, they can boost it to more followers of that creator as well as to the non-followers of that creator, the unconnected audience. So suddenly your reach of creator-led content has increased manifold to different kinds of audiences. That's the biggest feature they can create.

What are the top content trends that you're noticing on Instagram in India?

Content trends on Instagram are at the moment of time. They're broadly in two categories. The broad link to categories is what we all call a water cooler trend, which means everybody is talking about it, which means that if you create something that will cut across communities. Then there are trends which I would say are called interest-based trends, which are with people that I connect with on a certain interest. Now, these are broad vectors if you look at trends.

If I see what comes to mind, a few of the things, one which is always-on kind of a trend, which is right now also trending, is retro. What we call internally is the retro core. Now retro is getting manifested in, say, music. The retro music, therefore, triggered the content creation. Retro is coming in the form of fashion. So currently there is a retro fashion-based reels content which is being created. Retro is also coming in the form of a celebrity or a person at that moment in time. For example, Zeenat Aman is currently in the film industry. She is coming over there. So if you see whether there is a Jubilee, whether there is an Archies, which are all retro ones. This trend you saw last year also, this year also, I am sure it will be next year also.

First Published on May 22, 2023 6:39 PM

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