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Sandeep Bhushan & Vishal Shah on what makes Instagram a vibrant platform

At an event in Mumbai yesterday (November 1, 2019), ‘Instagram Experience’ (IGX) showcased how it brings users closer to the people and things that they love. With most people in the Instagram community using it to pursue their passions, the app highlighted a ‘Born on Instagram’ initiative to discover creators all across India, the ‘Impact, Influencer and Interactivity’ approach to leverage Instagram for business, and an ‘Unlabel’ content series that outlines how it is the kindest community online. 

Speaking at the event, Sandeep Bhushan, Director - Facebook and Head of India GMS, highlighted the experience Instagram is trying to put out for the Indian market, which is native to all Instagram users. He talked about the various elements that make Instagram a vibrant platform and host multiple vibrant communities. He mentioned about stories of creators and businesses that are big or small or completely exclusive to Instagram. Through the IGX, they also showcased the progress of the communities and the platform itself. Bhushan also spoke about showcasing the elements of user safety. He said, “One of the most important parts of Instagram on the basis of which it differentiates itself is consumer safety. It is welcoming and warm.” 

Meanwhile, Vishal Shah, VP of Product at Instagram, California, spoke about the various tools being introduced on Instagram, and Instagram as a product itself. He spoke about the new Threads feature which is being tested. This feature creates a private space for the user to message their close friends only and is totally under the control of the user. He also spoke about other tests being carried out, like Instagram Shopping and how people discover new products on Instagram; Testing the removal of likes from the platform; the Explore Tab, Stories, etc. Shah emphasised on how the tools that Instagram introduces is to support the people and communities. He also informed that 50 per cent of Instagram users use the Explore Tab. 

A new feature called Restrict is being introduced to fight against online bullying. Unlike blocking, this feature allows the user to see what the other people are doing and control what they do when it comes to user. People would require the user’s approval before mentioning him/ her in a comment or commenting on the user’s post. The person who has been added to the Restrict list will never know that they are a part of that list. 

Shah further said that Augmented Reality was being introduced on the platform, where people can try on products using this technology. This feature will first be introduced for make-up and fashion brands on the platform. 

A brief Q&A session with Vishal Shah

Regarding Instagram Shopping, is a payment platform also being developed?
Today, shopping on Instagram is about discovering products and then when you decide to buy, you go on the advertiser or brand’s website to purchase it. We have started to test on a very small scale, the option to buy directly from Instagram in the US. The idea is to make shopping easier. We want to make sure that people can trust Instagram when buying from it. If they have a bad experience with even one brand, that will ruin the experience for everyone. It is a very deliberate and slow rollout. You can imagine the integrations here like logistics and shipping and making sure people get their products. Over time we hope to bring this up more broadly to brands and markets. 

ASCI recently announced guidelines for every business and creative post on Instagram. Will this affect the Instagram users and is Instagram looking at any policy changes?
We believe that it is very important for businesses and creators to follow the local policy regulations. We have put tools in place like the branded content tool, which allows you to disclose whether the content was from commercial terms and is branded in some way along with the reach they actually see. There are insights on both sides. The advice we give the creators is to balance their own short or long term monetisation. Creators are very aware about the authenticity of their content on the platform and we try and put tools in place to maintain transparency. 

After Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger left, how is the Instagram culture different?
In so many ways, the culture is exactly the same. When Kevin and Mike quit late last year, we were already a platform with a billion users. We had a large employee base and the business was very healthy. The main point was to retain the values they had written down. It was important for us to retain some of those values, because it is this which made Instagram, Instagram. One of those values was simplicity – keeping the product as simple as it possibly can be. Second value is craft, the product should feel finished and complete. It should feel like one person put it together, instead of a thousand people. The third is people first, which is the most important. We shouldn’t build something until it is clear to us as to why we are building it for the users. We should really ask why we are building it. These seem like really simple values, but they really define what we are and what we stand for.

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