Meta is putting its full weight behind Instagram and Reels as creators in large numbers are using the platform to deliver interesting content. Meta (formerly Facebook) recently organised its first ‘Creator Day’ in Kolkata, the company’s annual flagship event to celebrate creators. It was also an occasion to highlight Meta’s partnership with the International Cricket Council for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup and as a part of it, Meta has sent a ‘Reels squad’ to Australia, which is a group of creators selected to be part of unique experiences. The Telegraph spoke to Manish Chopra, director and head of partnerships for Facebook India (Meta) on the sidelines of Creator Day conference. Here’s what he has to say.
Manish Chopra, director and head of partnerships for Facebook India (Meta)
What’s happening with Instagram and Reels at the moment?
We’ve just announced a very interesting and impactful partnership with ICC. And what we’re doing with them on Reels involves creating highly-curated moments. Reels has got a great response across India. Users will get on Reels the best content involving what is happening in a match as well as interesting content around a match. We’ve sent a bunch of people whom we call “The Reels Squad” — Danish Sait, Shubham Gaur and RJ Karishma and others.
How important is Bengal to Instagram?
Bengal and the region are very important to us. We’re seeing music trends taking place in this region. If you want to define culture, there are a few things that define culture more intrinsically than music. On Reels it has become very clear that the new and I might even call it the new currency of impact of music is number of plays on Reels. We created ‘1-Minute Music’ as a new format, where artistes can drop their original songs first on Reels and get tremendous distribution. That has been an incredible success. Jeet Gannguli and Iman (Chakraborty) have done it from Kolkata; there are more than 100 artistes who were part of our ‘1-Minute Music’ programme.
Can you share about the work that is being done with creators and brands?
If I have to look at how impactful Reels is I must talk a little bit about how impactful it is for creators and brands. We work closely with brands that want to reach audiences and creators. To give you a perspective on brands…. In India, more than 50 per cent of the followers for businesses that are on Instagram are coming from tier-II and tier-III cities. This phenomenon has spread through the country. I think it’s a very interesting phenomenon as to how Instagram has become across the country.
Brands find this very promising. We’re constantly figuring out how we can create more interesting, engaging and relationships. The last time I was in Kolkata it was for Born on Instagram. It started with us saying let’s help creators and educate creators; it was so useful for creators that we scaled it up and we made it an online programme, completely free, available in seven languages, including Bengali. Well, 2.2 lakh creators have registered for the programme. What do they get out of it? They get learnings and information and training modules not only from Instagram but also from top creators. The big creators teaching other creators and that connection that was happening on Born on Instagram is one of the reasons why we wanted to do the physical connection like this.
More than 65 per cent of the creators are coming from tier-II and tier-III markets as part of Born on Instagram. This is now an incredible vehicle for them to start and move to the next level of growth.
Instagram is pushing video content more and more. What does that mean for someone who likes to have a photograph-focussed feed?
Video and short-form video are what users are using more and more. The feed and the availability of other posts and the access to all sorts of posts remain exactly the same. We think that what we’re seeing on the platform is more videos being used by creators, and more users and creators are making videos. It does not take away from putting out incredible photographs or incredible posts… that is also continuing to happen. More than 50 per cent of the content that is on Facebook has become video in terms of consumption. On Instagram we see significant growth… Reels is growing very fast. We are making sure that we have easy tools for them to create and the entire consumption for video is something that’s of meaningful nature.
Moments from Creator Day in Kolkata
I am seeing a lot of advertisements even if I am searching for something. Are ads dampening the experience of being on Instagram?
What we do is measure how people are responding to seeing ads and then either reduce the number of times that they’re seeing the ads or personalising it or customise it for you. There are these tools that are in place already. I’ll be honest here, not everybody is seeing the same ads as such… the same number of ads. We are constantly testing. So there are some people who are not seeing any ads. They are in a test group. Maybe you’re in a test group that is seeing slightly higher ads to see whether you actually shut down a lot of ads. It’s a test method that we constantly learn and adopt. Like we were talking about videos. We constantly try different video formats — a full, immersive video format, sometimes or a shorter video format. It’s all to learn and see how people respond to it.
How important India is as a market for Meta?
India is a very critical market from multiple dimensions for our platforms. First dimension definitely is users and engagement. And Mark (Zuckerberg) has always made it clear in his manifestation of where growth is… as to how important India is. India is a market where we have seen a lot of new product learning and incubation and development being done. It raises a clear case where this is the market where we have done the most amount of testing of new product features and growth. If you look at the new things that we’re doing across our platform, be it Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp, India is the largest, the most significant market where the focus is.
Do you see a future where Oculus will also be an important part of how we experience, say, Instagram? Do you see a future where there is more integration?
The way I would like you to take away some thoughts around this is what we today are calling the social connection that Instagram and Facebook allow, and even WhatsApp allows. Connecting people with their friends and followers or connecting businesses with their users, their loyal users… we believe it is happening on our platform. What will happen in the metaverse? The metaverse is not going to be a completely different manifestation. What we believe is the same kind of social connections happening in that immersive world which is a mixed-reality world.
The latest Oculus that we have released tracks your eye movement and your face movement and it understands how you’re reacting… if you are laughing, smiling, angry, your avatar will behave the same way. This is the mixed reality world but this mixed reality world is going to continue to need social connections. And that social connection is going to transcend from a 2D device that you are using to the time you want to put on your headset and you want that connection to be there. Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp will be the richest apps in that world.