What Instagram’s ‘Lite’ version means for brands and content creators

A look at how newer audiences joining the platform changes the content creation game.

Earlier this week, Facebook announced the launch of its no-frills ‘Lite’ version of Instagram in India. The company had tested out this particular product in key markets including India, sometime in 2018, only to withdraw it in mid-2020 due to unstated reasons. However, it’s back now albeit only on Android phones, with India being the first market to be receiving the app. It already has over 5 million downloads.
 
The new avatar, like all of Facebook’s prior stripped-down app versions – Facebook Lite and Messenger Lite – is less than 2 MB and does away with some significant features. The result? Faster loading times and less usage of data, but overall perfect for consumers facing data limitations and low phone memory.
 
What’s new?
 
Brands and content creators need to pay close attention to what’s missing from Instagram Lite. For starters, Facebook has done away with ‘IGTV’, Instagram’s long-form videos feature. Other features, like the products tab (where creators tag brands and products in their content), some filters for static photo posts, and primary and secondary categorisation of the inbox are missing, too.
 
Most importantly, though, Facebook has made changes to its latest feature ‘Reels’ (its three to 15-second video feature) wherein Lite users can only view Reels as normal videos in their feeds. They will not have access to a separate Reels tab. This is a significant change, considering content creators rely heavily on creating short, entertaining videos for their audiences. Reels allow for innovative content opportunities thanks to the variety of filters, effects, editing tools and audio options they offer. Needless to mention, Lite users won’t be able to create any Reels either.
 
Aanam Chashmawala, content creator and founder, What When Wear will miss Reels over IGTV, wishing Instagram had retained it in the new version. Weighing in on the missing features, she says, “’Products’ doesn't affect creators as much as it does brands. The ideal way of looking at is that we're now able to give our content to potentially newer language markets through static photos and Instagram videos, which should help with followers and engagement on the platform.”
 
The impact on reach
 
Chashmawala’s viewpoint makes for the perfect segue to the most important aspect of Instagram Lite: its effect on content’s reach. Sagar Pushp, co-founder and CEO of influencer marketing platform ClanConnect says, “The Lite version is Instagram’s approach to reach users in Bharat and expand its presence beyond tier 1 regions. Available only for Android phones, the app has been developed keeping in mind the needs of the other side of the spectrum – users who are consuming the content, and not the creators.”
 
While brands may not be able to create IGTVs to reach an audience that relies on Instagram Lite, Facebook is set to welcome more users into the app’s fold with this move.
 
“This move opens up Instagram to a variety of vernacular content creators considering the perception and the reality that Instagram is primarily and heavily an English medium platform,” feels Gerard Jayaranjan, COO at The TLBX, an influencer marketing, management and brand consultancy. He believes that now it has become more inclusive.
 
May the best content strategy win
 
Instagram Lite will definitely force brands and creators to rethink their content strategies. For instance, a blanket IGTV-led campaign for all audiences will definitely not work anymore.
 
“For brands, the strategy for Instagram Lite will need to be very clear. While they might have strategies to engage tier 1 audiences through Instagram’s entire suite, brands will need to rethink their approach with Lite. With this app, the objective for brands will be to drive top-of-mind recall and top-funnel awareness by way of static and display posts,” says Pushp. Further, marketers will also need to plan their posts according to the intended media outreach, he adds. For example, since the Lite version does not support Instagram Shopping, posts that focus on last-mile shopping calls-to-action will need to be limited to the core app, while the Lite version can work well for posts that focus on building reach and recall for a brand.
 
Creators are definitely going to have their hands full. Without the comfort of several new-age features, they will have to think of ideas more suited to an Instagram of some years ago. Chashmawala says, “The focus will shift back to the classics of static photos, carousel posts and videos under a minute that go on the feed. I hope that this will also make more creators want to make multi-lingual content which could make this a very interesting space to be in.”
 
Overcoming challenges
 
For creators and brands, the most obvious challenge now is the new addition to an already existing audience base that’s used to a certain kind of content sensibility. Any posts that cater to one kind of audience cannot alienate the other. Jayaranjan agrees this is tricky. “Brands and creators have already built a certain image of themselves, and wouldn’t want to completely change because of a new audience base and their expectations. Striking a balance and experimenting without losing their identity will most likely be the biggest challenges anyone creating content will face,” he believes.
 
In closing, however, Pushp says to look at this as an opportunity more than a hurdle. “It is an opportunity to get creative and make simpler content with subtle brand integrations which are suitable for users who are just starting their internet journey on Instagram,” he says.

A version of this article first appeared on Campaign India

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