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Instagram’s Co-Founders Step Down, Vertical Video Gains Momentum, Facebook Launches Stories Ads, and More!

Oct 1, 2018 12 min readThe Science of Social Media

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Looking to catch up on the latest social media news, but short on time? We have you covered! This week (episode #114) we’re chatting about all of this and more:

  • Instagram’s co-founders are stepping down from their positions at Facebook, sending a shock through the industry. We’re covering what this critical change means for social behemoth.
  • Vertical video is gaining momentum and now is the time for businesses to jump on board with this trend. Vertical video is quickly becoming the preferred method of content consumption online.
  • Facebook launches a powerful new ad format – Stories Ads. Stories are a great way to reach your customers on social media and this ad format is an exciting opportunity for businesses everywhere.
  • Facebook will now allow Facebook Pages to join Groups as a Page. This exciting announcement gives businesses a brand new way to connect with their community on Facebook in 2018 and beyond.

Join 20,000+ weekly listeners for the Buffer podcast, The Science of Social Media, where we bring you the latest and greatest in social media marketing news, updates, stories, insights, and actionable takeaways.

Let’s dive in!

Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, co-founders of Instagram. Photo: Instagram Press

Instagram’s co-founders step down, vertical video gains momentum, Facebook launches Stories Ads, and more! [complete podcast transcript]

What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the conversation between Hailley Griffis and Brian Peters.

Hailley: Hi everyone! I’m Hailley Griffis and this is The Science of Social Media, a podcast by Buffer. Your weekly sandbox for social media stories, insights, experimentation, and learning.

Brian: Welcome to episode #114, I’m Brian Peters and this week we’re breaking down what is quite possibly the biggest social media news story of the year. Instagram’s co-founders are stepping down and we’ve got the inside scoop for you on what’s next for the social giant.

Hailley: We’re also taking a look at vertical video and how it continues to gain momentum on social networks (in both usage and effectiveness). Plus, two big announcements from Facebook, including Stories ads and Groups, and more.

Brian: As always, a warm welcome to the show. Let’s kick it off!

Part I: Instagram co-founders step down from Facebook

Hailley: I guess there’s no better place to start than with one of the biggest social media stories of the year.

The founders of Instagram, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, are leaving Facebook.

Now there’s a bit of speculation around what actually happened, but according to Bloomberg, it’s at least partly due to growing tensions with CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the direction of where Instagram is heading.

Hailley: As many of you might remember, Systrom and Krieger, have been at the company since Instagram’s acquisition by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion.

That 1 billion turned out to be an incredible investment for Facebook with Instagram now valued at more than $100 billion.

Systrom said that they’re planning on taking some time off to explore their quote “curiosity and creativity” again. And that building new things requires that they step back, understand what inspires us and match that with what the world needs.

Hailley: Of course, Zuckerberg praised the Instagram founders in a statement and said that he wished them “all the best and I’m looking forward to seeing what they build next.”

However, it does raise some questions about what the true reason for the founders’ departures was and what the future holds for Instagram.

Facebook continues to face a ton of criticism. For much of the past two years, critics have accused Facebook of things like being careless with user data and for not preventing foreign interference.

Brian: Exactly and those issues have started taking a toll on Facebook’s business and stock. Facebook shares fell about 2.2 percent after the news broke on September 24th.

This news certainly raises some questions about what’s going on over there. Many publications like the New York Times and Bloomberg are speculating that the Instagram co-founders weren’t happy with the direction that Zuckerberg was taking Instagram.

Saying that it’s going in a direction that goes against their original vision for the company.

Hailley: I can totally see that.

As a public company, Facebook has their shareholders to take into account, which means that generating revenue is often a top priority when it comes to product decisions.

I think that Systrom and Kreiger leaned more towards the organic “community” side of things rather than the revenue generation side of things. Which isn’t necessarily good or bad either way, they might have just come to a natural end to their time at Facebook.

Brian: Agreed, Hailley. Sounds a bit like what we went through here at Buffer over the last few years, though we ended up on the organic community side of the spectrum.

But it’s worth noting there that from a product and business perspective, Instagram continues to be a major opportunity.

In fact, Instagram is on track to provide Facebook with $20 billion in revenue by 2020, about a quarter of Facebook’s total revenue.

Hailley: Instagram continues to attract a younger cohort of users who are critical to Facebook’s growth.

And they’re spending a ton of time on the platform as well – with users averaging about 53 minutes per day.

Plus, Instagram is rolling out lots of great shopping features in the feed, Stories, and explore making it a great platform to be on for ecommerce brands.

Brian: All-in-all, and I might be alone here, but I think that the departures of Systrom and Krieger create a unique opportunity for Instagram moving forward.

The decisions they make on who to hire to replace them and where to take the product over the next few months will be critical in determining the longterm viability and success of Instagram.

I don’t know about you, but I’m very excited about what’s in store.

Hailley: As always, we’ll keep you posted on all of the most important and breaking news here on the Science of Social Media.

Part II: Vertical video gains momentum and popularity with brands

Brian: If you do a quick search online for “vertical video” you’ll quickly uncover hundreds of blog posts — even whole websites — telling you to stop shooting video vertically.

It’s no secret that people love to hate on vertical video.

But for businesses, it’s time to reconsider because vertical is the new default.

How to Master Vertical Video

Hailley: The reason vertical video isn’t going anywhere and why it’s the new default is because smartphones are driving the trend and as more content is both created and consumed on mobile devices we’ll see increasing amounts of vertical video.

It’s not hard to imagine a day where the majority of time spent online browsing, reading, and shopping is done on our phones.

Brian: For creators, vertical is a compelling new storytelling format that can help you connect with your audience in new ways and is yet to be embraced fully by marketers, leaving you a great opportunity to start today.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube all support vertical video and studies show that it produces more engagement and converts better than traditional landscape video.

Hailley: Just this year Instagram reported that more than 40 percent of its users said they’re more interested in a brand or product after seeing it in an Instagram Story.

But more important than vertical video converting customers and driving sales, which is obviously important, is that vertical video helps brands to look and feel authentic on social media in feeds filled with friends and family.

Brian: Great point Hailley.

And just to elaborate on that further. Think about what types of videos everyday people are creating. Are they creating highly-produced landscape videos or are they shooting with their phone in vertical mode?

I’d guess the latter. And so brands that can make their content look and feel like a real users’ content are the brands that are going to succeed.

Vertical video’s secret weapon is that it feels like it’s coming from a friend, even if it’s coming from a brand.

Hailley: The vertical-first stories format is incredibly versatile. For example, Netflix designed a mobile-exclusive stories format for movie trailers.

It looks just like the button you’d see on Instagram to launch a story, but offers a new way to breeze through movie trailers.

And by the way, if you want to see this Netflix example, or read about how your business can succeed with vertical video, we just launched a brand new 4-part email series. Check out our Blog for details.

Brian: The series is super good. Definitely go check that out.

Anyways, what can be intimidating for many of us is actually making the shift to creating vertical-first content, and adapting that across your social channels.

Despite being years into the video-first world, many businesses are afraid of the format: The skills required to produce or edit a video are difficult to find, and it requires a sizable investment.

Hailley: However, filming vertical is easier than you think, and it might even make it less scary to take your first video steps.

Because vertical video is native to mobile devices and the majority of vertical-first content is filmed on a smartphone already, the expectation of your audience is dramatically different than in the past.

In fact, The Guardian invested heavily in Instagram and found that “heavily produced” videos with scripts, studios, or professional editing weren’t worth the effort when analyzing the data.

Brian: Instead, they discovered that quick explainers and even static graphics were more popular and made it more likely that a viewer would stick around until the end.

News UK found similar results, saying that vertical video had “increased interactions sixfold,” and it plans to experiment with them for other intents, such as advertising items for purchase.

Hailley: The key, if you’re excited to jump on this vertical video trend, is to remember that watching vertical videos is almost synonymous with being on-the-go, meaning that your viewers are likely to be interrupted by their surrounding, notifications, or just their arms getting tired.

Attention spans are getting shorter, particularly as you grapple with being alongside the user’s friends, filling their screen

Brian: The arm getting tired is real!

But what that means for video is to get to the point quickly, and give the viewer the hook almost up front — bite-sized, instant content means that they’ll consider continuing into your feed and end up seeing more of your content than they would on a 5-minute explainer.

Mercedes Benz has some great examples of getting the balance between content and length right, where it successfully reached more than 2.6 million people with short ads that crammed in lots of information, quickly, by using the format in a new way

Hailley: Again, you can check all of this out and more on our blog now on our Blog!

Part III: Facebook launches new Stories Ads format for Pages

Alright a few quick, but important updates on the Facebook front before you go.

First is that Facebook has officially announced that it’s rolling out Facebook Stories Ads to advertisers globally.

More than 300 million people now use Facebook Stories every single day, and as is tradition with Facebook, they’re now offering businesses a way to tap into that massive audience base.

Facebook Stories Ads

Brian: Ads everywhere!

But you know they are working.

A survey from Ipsos discovered that 62 percent of people said they became more interested in a brand or product after seeing it in a story.

And Facebook says that “brands testing Facebook Stories ads are already seeing results”.

Hailley: We’ve done a little experimenting with Stories ads as well, right?

Brian: We have for sure and I must admit they are working really well. Right now we’re driving traffic to lots of Buffer pages for less than $0.15 cents per click, which is pretty awesome.

Hailley: Lots of brands are seeing similar results, Digiday found that the flight-booking service Hopper has seen both Facebook Stories and Instagram Stories ads performing better than ads in Facebook’s news feed and in Instagram’s feed.

In fact, the results for Hopper have been so great that the businesses has been quote “prioritizing designing ads for the Stories format, then adapting them to the other formats”.

Brian: Facebook Stories ads have been rolled out globally as of the recording of this show.

To get started with Stories ads, head over to Facebook Ads Manager and create your ad, then when it comes to selecting ‘Placements’ you’ll see the option to include Facebook Stories.

We’re going to be running lots of tests over the next few weeks so stay tuned!

Part IV: Facebook will now allow Pages to join Facebook Groups

Hailley: Last but not least, and I thought this one was really cool, is that Facebook will now allow Pages to join Facebook Groups.

FB Pages to Groups

Image: Social Media Today

Supposedly a spokesperson at Facebook told social media today that they’ve heard from lots of businesses that a “more intimate setting” can be meaningful for brand building.

Facebook previously launched the ability for Pages to start Facebook Groups so they can engage with their communities, but now they are testing the ability for Pages to join existing Facebook Groups as well.

Brian: As usual the new option was spotted by Mari Smith and shared by Matt Navarra and it could be another way for businesses to offset some of their losses in Facebook organic reach as a result of platform’s algorithm shifts.

And so as of right now, the ‘Allow Pages to request to join as group members’ is active by default, so unless a group admin has chosen not to let Pages join, Pages included in the test pool should be able to join most groups.

Hailley: Of course, this isn’t necessarily a game-changing function, and it probably won’t bring back most of the referral traffic you’ve likely lost as a result of Facebook’s algorithm changes.

But it is another interesting consideration for businesses and marketers, and another learning opportunity to help generate more attention for your business on social media.

Brian: Thank you so much for tuning in to the Science of Social Media today.

If you ever want to get in touch with me or Hailley, we’re always here for your on social media using the hashtag #bufferpodcast. You can also say hi to us anytime and

Hailley: A huge shoutout to you all – the more than 20,000 people that tune into our show every single week. You make this fun and are the entire reason we do what we do so thank you! And thanks for telling your friends, family and colleagues about us as well.

Lots of great shows coming your way in the next few weeks.

Until next Monday, everyone!

How to say hello to us

We would all love to say hello to you on social media – especially Twitter!

Thanks for listening! Feel free to connect with our team at Buffer on Twitter, Buffer on Facebook, our Podcast homepage, or with the hashtag #bufferpodcast.

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About The Science of Social Media podcast

The Science of Social Media is your weekly sandbox for social media stories, insights, experimentation, and inspiration. Every Monday (and sometimes more) we share the most cutting-edge social media marketing tactics from brands and influencers in every industry. If you’re a social media team of one, business owner, marketer, or someone simply interested in social media marketing, you’re sure to find something useful in each and every episode.  It’s our hope that you’ll join our 20,000+ weekly iTunes listeners and rock your social media channels as a result!

The Science of Social Media is proudly made by the Buffer team. Feel free to get in touch with us for any thoughts, ideas, or feedback.

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