As augmented reality arrives on Instagram, how should we expect the platform to change?
Augmented reality has been given new life in the past few years as an innovative technology that could transform social media as we know it. Snapchat was the first social media platform to incorporate AR with its fun and interactive lenses, and other social networks are now scrambling to follow suit.
The latest of these is Instagram, which has just jumped onto the augmented reality bandwagon with ‘face filters’. What could this mean for the future of Instagram, and how can marketers benefit?
The rising trend of augmented reality
The idea of augmented reality is not new, but it exploded into the mainstream with the launch of Pokémon Go  last summer. This was the first example of how the technology could be fun and engaging for a large audience of people of all ages.
Augmented reality is about enhancing a user’s surroundings, creating a virtual experience that does not alienate them from their actual environment. Unlike virtual reality, it does not create a new world, but it rather supplements the existing one (hence the term “augmented”).
This means that it also doesn’t require additional equipment, which makes it easier for brands to use it as part of their marketing campaigns.
“I view AR like I view the silicon here in my iPhone; it’s not a product per se, it’s a core technology,” Cook concluded. “But there are things to discover before that technology is good enough for the mainstream. I do think there can be a lot of things that really help people out in daily life, real-life things – that’s why I get so excited about it.”
Only a few months ago, Facebook introduced its Camera Effects Platform, a new technology that allows people to design their own AR experience. One tool in the platform, AR Studio, allows augmented reality effects to be applied to photos, videos and Live broadcasts captured with the Facebook camera – suggesting that augmented reality has a much wider future across Facebook.
Why AR got popular
According to a forecast report by eMarketer , AR usage is expected to increase by 30.2% over last year, with 40 million people using it at least monthly in the US. The trend is not expected to die down anytime soon, as it is projected to reach 54.4 million users by the end of 2019.
Why did it become so popular, though? There are many reasons that could be attributed to the success of augmented reality over the past year:
It’s fresh and innovative
People were excited to test the rising technology that allowed them to blend virtual reality and their actual surroundings. This created a sense of excitement once it started showing up in practical uses.
It’s appealing and engaging
The most successful uses of augmented reality are not just engaging, but also appealing. What’s important is to convince users to commit to their usage and not just abandon them after the initial test.
This started with Snapchat’s fun and addictive filters, but it has also seen success in the more commercial uses of augmented reality.
Technology adds value
Ecommerce brands see augmented reality as a big opportunity to blend fun, creativity and value. For example, a customer can apply the technology to decide on an outfit, to test products, to explore real-time deals, et cetera.
This brings additional benefit to the fun aspect of its usage, which opens up numerous opportunities for new creative directions.
Tech giants embrace it
It’s a good sign when a new technology is supported by tech influencers. Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, Evan Spiegel and a long list of powerful people in the tech industry believe in the potential of AR, and are actively planning to stay ahead of the game – promising plenty of competition and innovation to come.
AR arrives on Instagram
In early May Instagram announced the launch of face filters, a concept that is similar to Snapchat’s popular filters.
Instagram has a long history of additions that were inspired by Snapchat, and for many users this was probably one of the most anticipated ones.
Face filters allow people to creatively enhance their photos and videos with real-time face tracking filters. Moreover, they enable users to add a hashtag to their Stories  in the form of a sticker, which can also be selected to explore more relevant content.
Although the additions sound familiar, they may also mean that Instagram is ready to expand its influence to an even bigger audience, especially with Facebook’s support and creative guidance.
How Instagram could benefit from AR
Instagram is determined to maintain its popularity and find new ways to grow even stronger.
Fun and creative filters and the introduction of augmented reality to its platform prove that there could be more ambitious plans ahead.
Sponsored filters are already present on Snapchat, which means that it’s only a matter of time before Instagram explores similar possibilities. This could be a big opportunity for the platform to monetize the use of AR technology, in a way that will push more and more brands towards getting on board with this new technology.
Even with the tools we have now, marketers are still realizing that there are new creative ways to tell a story about their products, giving rise to further innovative ideas for their marketing strategy.
Building on the idea of UGC (user-generated content) , Instagram could allow users to create their own filters, by taking advantage of Facebook’s new AR tools. This may not happen overnight, but it doesn’t seem out of the question.
Geolocation meets AR
What if geolocation became more creative by blending check-ins with augmented reality? This could be a fun way to gamify location services and give Instagram a unique offering to win over brands and users.
Ecommerce brands seem eager enough to apply augmented reality in their business, and Instagram can take advantage of this trend. Even the use of its creative filters could encourage brands to spend more time on its platform, increasing the engagement with their audience.
It may be early days yet for AR on Instagram, but it looks to be the beginning of an exciting period.
Marketers need to keep a close eye on this up-and-coming technology, as unlocking its benefits could be key to the next generation of marketing on social media.
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