- Facebook is adding a vanish mode to its Messenger and Instagram apps to let people send messages that disappear after others see them, per an announcement. The social network also is updating Instagram with a Reels tab for users to view short videos and a Shop tab to buy things directly, according to a separate announcement.
- To activate vanish mode, users can swipe up on their smartphone screens in a chat thread to share disappearing messages, and swipe up again to return to regular chat mode. The app will notify a user if someone takes a screenshot of a message sent in vanish mode, which only can be used with other connections.
- By adding and highlighting new features, Facebook continues to adapt core functions of its main competitors. Vanish mode resembles a core feature of Snapchat, in which messages disappear after viewing, while the more prominent Reels tab showcases Instagram's TikTok-like video functions.
Facebook's updates to its Messenger and Instagram apps have different implications for mobile marketers. The "vanishing mode" in Messenger and Instagram isn't likely to affect the way people communicate with marketers, though it may give consumers another reason to use the apps for more private conversations and increase their usage — possibly at the expense of Snapchat. The messages don't carry advertising, taking user attention away from other parts of the apps that are more meaningful to mobile marketers looking to raise awareness of a brand campaign or to drive direct sales.
The addition of the Reels tab is a user-oriented feature that may help to drive engagement with the app. Facebook rolled out Reels worldwide in August to compete more directly with TikTok, the popular social video app owned by China's ByteDance that was banned in India and faces an uncertain future in the U.S. because of national security concerns. Instagram Reels currently doesn't carry advertising, which limits the ability of marketers to reach people with video ads. Facebook likely seeks to boost usage for Reels by offering a user experience without intrusive advertising, but that may change as the company faces pressure to monetize its services, giving marketers more opportunities to participate.
Instead of running paid ads in Reels, brands currently can run influencer campaigns to generate organic reach, as General Mills' Yoplait yogurt brand did in September with the launch of a dance challenge starring Jennifer Lopez. The brand asked Instagram users to create dance videos with the celebrity's latest single as the soundtrack and share them with their app followers. Yoplait donated $1 to nonprofit group Feeding America for every video that people posted with a special hashtag.
By adding a Shop tab to its app, Instagram may help retailers and brands during the holiday season to reach high-intent audiences, especially younger shoppers who are less likely to consume content on traditional media like linear TV. Instagram in the past few years has added more shopping features to help brands make direct sales. It's not clear how many users shop on Instagram, though the company last year said 130 million people tap on shopping posts every month. The app is used by more than 1 billion people worldwide, and is especially popular with younger adults and teens.