Instagram is one of the most important and most powerful marketing channels of our time. It is great for content marketing and paid advertising and, at the same time, for communication and customer service. It has the capacity to drive great engagement and better-than-average return on investment for a marketer, brand or agency.

Instagram has been growing since it was first launched eight years ago. As we can see from the following graph shared with us by Statista , the Facebook-owned photo- and video-sharing network reached a milestone of 1 billion monthly users in June.

This is an impressive number and, when it comes to marketing, impressive numbers are great. It means that you have access to a huge audience worldwide and, at the same time, due to this channel’s nature, you have access to a dedicated and engaged audience.

Moreover, there are more than 4 billion  likes per day on Instagram, and each image posted on this platform gets an average of 23 percent more engagementthan its Facebook counterpart.

As a consequence, we need to constantly stay updated with all of Instagram’s latest developments and, of course, the trends that govern it. This is why, with this article, I am going to shed some light upon the most popular trends that are expected to rule Instagram marketing in 2019.

Also, I questioned some of my peers regarding this issue and, fortunately, I received a series of answers from marketers and professionals regarding their expectations for 2019.

IGTV will be a big player

Announced and launched in June, IGTV is the new video platform dedicated exclusively to mobile users. Unlike YouTube and other videostreaming platforms, IGTV is dedicated to vertical video playback and, therefore, suitable for marketers and content producers that are addressing a mobile only audience.

Why vertical? Instagram wants to encourage people to create video content but, at the same time, to do it exclusively for mobile. We already know that people are more likely to use their mobile devices in a vertical position, hence the type of video.

Are brands using IGTV already? Chipotle was one of the first companies to create and distribute a video on Instagram.

“If you’re still not on IGTV, it’s time to hop on the train,” said Plannable’s Vlad Callus. “When thinking about the upcoming trends in Instagram marketing I believe IGTV and Instagram Stories are on the top of the list. IGTV will become the new YouTube in three to five years, and if you’re joining now, you will catch the big wave.”

Other big brands are on IGTV, as well. SocialChain is producing and distributing a regular podcast. All of its episodes are also being filmed and, afterward, published on IGTV, as well as vertical content. This is a great example of a company that adapts quickly to the latest trends in social media and acts accordingly.

While short-form videos were already available on Instagram, the new IGTV channel allows users and marketers to opt for long form content, which, in the long run, may prove more beneficial to their strategies.

“We’re going to see a rise in long-form content,” said Spendesk inbound marketing manager Patrick Whatman. “That’s intentional on the part of Facebook: It brought in IGTV specifically to let people go long. The rationale is sound, too: It knows that teens and young people love watching vloggers on YouTube. It also knows that these same people love watching videos on their phones. So, in direct competition with YouTube, it built a format that lets these vloggers create videos for the vertical screen—the same screen that young people love to watch on the bus or in the car.”

He added, “Instagram will find ways to incentivize businesses to use IGTV, and businesses will respond. And these long-form videos will then be clipped to use in Stories and in the feed.”

Micro-brands will dominate the platform

If you look at how Instagram has evolved over time and continues to, you will notice something quite unique to this platform. Being a true social channel, Instagram favors micro-brand marketing and, in fact, we see quite an explosion of small companies and brands on the platform.

Instagram favors interaction and storytelling, and it is quite different from other news-oriented social media platforms. This is why it has become one of the best content distribution channels for micro-brands.

“I think this mass of micro brands with massively efficient marketing are, in aggregate, having a much bigger impact than anyone thinks,” Scott Belskywrote. “Using hyper-targeted marketing, just-in-time manufacturing and social media, these brands find and engage their audience wherever they may be.”

One of the most successful micro-brands that was able to grow almost overnight thanks to Instagram is MVMT, a crowdfunded fashion watch designer. Instagram was a great choice, considering that it delivered a two times higher engagement rate and 75 percent stronger brand awareness and brand recall than other platforms.

“Instagram was not only able to integrate seamlessly into our day-to-day ad management by combining placements, but it also improved cost per action by 20 percent” said Steven Dinelli, ad manager at MVMT.

There are also a lot of companies and brands that act just like media companies. They have created and maintained large communities of followers and fans with whom they share their successes and news.

One of these brands is @Dunk, a basketball community that creates high engagement, thus attracting millions of followers. Its success depends on this huge community, but also on the quality of content it promotes via Instagram.

Stories ads—a new kind of vertical advertising

Instagram Stories has become one of the most important parts of the platform since its launch. It’s great for day to day users and perfect for advertisers that need to communicate straight-to-the-heart messages to their audiences. With Stories ads, you are able to insert your banners between the slides of other people’s stories and do it quite effectively, since this paid option allows for full screen banners.

Keep in mind, however, that in order for your ads to convert and give you a great ROI, they should be top-notch in terms of design, look and feel. They should also be highly targeted and in line with what the audience wants to see, hear or buy.

“Instagram Stories users will no doubt have already seen ads showing up between their friends’ latest updates,” Whatman said. “The platform has worked hard to make Stories a key feature—it sits right there at the top of the feed, and you’ll see more links to Stories as you scroll through the feed. Now that users are comfortable with and enjoy using Stories, businesses will inevitably take advantage and use this valuable real estate. We expect to see more ads appearing, and with more targeting. In other words, if you’ve been doing some online shopping, expect to see those same products showing up in your Instagram Stories.”

Data from Socialbakers shows that businesses are leveraging Instagram for advertising more than ever before. The share of Instagram ad placements is clearly on the rise, reaching 43 percent in March. This means that out of all of the ads that marketers launched on Facebook and Instagram, almost one-half were run on the latter.

Looking forward to 2019, we see three areas that will continue to trend with brand marketers, simply because they perform well.

  • Influencer marketing: Influencer marketing on Instagram, when done correctly, earns the most engagement for businesses. Working with the right influencers can help brands reach new audiences, generate high-quality leads and dramatically boost ROI. The key will remain choosing the right influencer to help you to engage with your existing audience in a relevant and authentic way and also extend your reach to new undiscovered audiences with whom your brand will resonate. Influencer marketing took off in 2018, but we believe that’s it’s really still day one in terms of the value it can bring to brands.
  • Video ads: Studies predict that video will account for 81 percent of all internet traffic by 2021, and this trend is very visible on social media, with the success of video and live video across platforms like Instagram. Media publishers and sports-focused sites, such as ESPN and the National Basketball Association, have already seen increased engagement with their video content on Instagram, and moving into 2019, we predict that we will see more and more video ads from brands on Instagram.
  • Format types: We also predict that brands will leverage even more format types on Instagram. “2018 has really been the year of Instagram Stories, and we see brands getting more and more engagement specifically with the Stories format,” Socialbakers CEO Yuval Ben-Itzhak said. “Looking to next year, we will see brands using with more engagement-based content instead of just promotional posts.”

Ecommerce shops—from one simple button

While Instagram is not yet a platform that offers native ecommerce features, you can say that it’s at list ecommerce friendly. There are a lot of shopping features already in place, and we expect more developments in this area in the future.

The easiest and most effective way to sell items on Instagram is via shoppable posts, which are available for single static images and Stories.

These posts are designated with a little shopping bag icon that appears on one corner of the screen. When a user sees this icon, he or she is able to tap in and access details on the product. Instagram opens up a new page within the application where they can see even more details. By tapping on the Shop Nowbutton, the users are taken straight to the product page on the seller’s website, where they can actually make the purchase.

Since Instagram is a social media channel based upon visuals, its shoppable posts allow you to increase sales and market your products effectively.

“One other thing that already changed for part of the industry but is going to spread to more and more brands is the tone of voice in communication,” said @lelograms owner Tammy Joanna. “You want it as informal as your Instagram community needs it to be. Being more like a person than a brand is what gets people commenting, interacting, engaging.”

Joanna added, “2019 is going to be a lot about the offline of the online—the things that happen online need to have a correspondent in the physical world. Like installations and pop-ups—something you give to a limited amount of lucky people that will create content that finds its way back online. Followers need to see a validation of your online coolness in the real world, and just good delivery of quality products to their door is not going to cut it in 2019. Putting some soul into the brand, though, will go the extra mile.

There are many features you can use in order to test your sales on Instagram. You can use the above mentioned shoppable posts and, at the same time, you can tag products in Stories. Since every audience is different, we recommend testing several features and settling for the one that fits your strategy and overall goals.

Engagement features: Spend more time on Instagram

There are a lot of features available on Instagram that will make marketers’ lives easier, including questions, the emoji slider and, of course, polls, which are a great gateway to interaction, brand awareness and influence gain.

“We’ve already witnessed brands taking advantage of the questions sticker on Instagram Stories, but I think we’re going to see these businesses take it to a whole new level in 2019,” said CanIRank communities and social media marketing associate Jessica Nath. “It’s a fun way to open direct conversations with your followers. Learn what interests them by literally just asking. Have them share stories, quotes, recipes, insights and more with you and your audience. This is a simple feature with so much potential to increase brand loyalty and engagement.”

Social media is a key ingredient in today’s marketing strategies, regardless of industry, brand or company. Instagram is one of the most popular social media channels and, as a consequence, it has become essential in the great scheme of things—a platform that cannot be disregarded by any marketer.

In order to be effective as a marketer on Instagram, you need to be up to date with the latest trends that define this channel.