Instagram has been a rapidly-developing platform since Facebook first acquired it several years ago, and it clearly has no intentions of slowing down.
This month, Instagram has rolled out new interactive features for Story Ads, which may take brand awareness to a whole new level.
They’re also testing features that could add to other types of interactivity on the platform, along with improving the overall user experience.
Have we piqued your interest yet? If so, keep reading to see what the new Instagram updates have in store for us this month.
Polling Available for Sponsored Stories
Instagram Story stickers have easily been one of the best developments the feature has had since it was released a few years back. And consider the number of updates and developments Stories have gotten since they’ve gone live, that’s impressive.
What I’m going to call “sticker effects” have now come to Instagram’s Story Ads, bringing interactivity to an ad format that previously really only was limited to “click here” as an option.
When creating a Story Ad, advertisers will be able to add a polling question to the image or video they’re using during the Creatives portion of the creation process. You can ask users a question, and give them two choices to choose between.
If you’re running Story Ads, take advantage of this feature. Users are now familiar with the polling feature from native Stories, and speaking from experience, many who watch are happy to engage. I’ve had up to 70% response rates from the audience who viewed each Story, which is a pretty high engagement rate for almost anything on social media.
This is a great way, therefore, to start to build new relationships with your audience and grab their attention right off the bat. They may not work quite as well for conversion-focused ads, but they’d be great for brand awareness purposes.
In Testing: Lockout on Old Usernames
Developer Jane Manchun Wong is lightning-fast when it comes to catching new changes and in-testing features on Instagram, and she’s caught an interesting one this month.
She noticed that Instagram is appearing to test an experimental feature that will put a hold on your older name for 14-days after you change it. If you decide to revert your name back within the grace period, you can do so with no concern that someone else will have claimed it.
This feature is likely a direct response to username grabberbots, which have become an increasingly prevalent issue on the platform, particularly amongst high profile accounts.
This is a great call. While it’s not as common that may affect all businesses, if you’re ever in the position of a rebranding or needing to update your social profiles, you absolutely want to be able to hold on to your current name if a sudden change happens within that two week time period.
I once knew someone who had experienced this firsthand; they had just rebranded, and were distributing 10,000 postcards to reach cold audiences, but had their old Instagram ID attached. By the time they noticed the mistake, only a few days after the name change, someone else had claimed their generic but high-traffic name. They had to reprint all the postcards.
Ideally, try to double check everything before you change those names, but since mistakes happen or you may get cold feet for whatever reason, this is a great option to have.
In Testing: Co-Watching Video Tool
Both Facebook and Instagram seem to be putting a lot of effort into encouraging users to interact more and in new ways on their platforms, and Instagram seems to be testing another new feature along these lines (also spotted by the wonderful JMW, who took the following screenshots).
Similar to what Facebook’s Watch Party currently offers, Instagram users may be able to co-watch videos synonymously within Direct Messaging.
This will be private (direct messaging) instead of the public or group-based Watch Parties on public, but it’s the same basic idea and encourages users to engage together on the platform.
This feature could be used for brands offering exclusive content to small, exclusive groups. Coaching businesses, for example, may have good results with this if they break their clients down into smaller groups on Instagram. That being said, it may not be quite as useful as Watch Party on Facebook, especially since they can be held in Groups that are already niched down and exclusive, but we’ll keep an eye on this and let you know more when we do.
In-Testing: Scrubbing Option
We’ve got one more in-testing feature, which was again spotted by Jane M Wong (who is pretty much my personal hero at this point).
Instagram is apparently testing a native scrubbing option, which will allow users to scroll through to the point of the video that they want to watch.
This feature in and of itself isn’t overwhelmingly groundbreaking. It’s already offered on most native platforms, including Instagram’s own IGTV, which makes this new addition feel a little late.
Still, better late than never; if users are able to move forward or backwards in your videos to find what they need to see, they may be more likely to take action overall, helping you make every video on the platform just a tiny bit more effective.
Instagram’s updates recently have been focused on community building and security for users and marketer alike, and these changes have really stayed the course.
More interactivity between both brands and users seems to be key here, and Instagram likely knows that the stronger the community they can build, the more valuable its platform will become to users.
It’s interesting to see what they’ll come out with next, so stay tuned and keep an eye out for next month’s edition to see what’s new then.
What do you think? How do you feel about the new updates and in-testing features? What are you most excited to get first? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below!
Top Instagram Updates in March 2019
In this month’s Instagram update, we’re going to give you sneak peeks at all the upcoming features we’re waiting on, including an Insta-checkout and new, great tools for influencer campaigns.
Intrigued yet? Let’s dive in.
New Native Insta-Checkout
Instagram’s Shopping posts have been a huge asset to businesses, allowing them to tag products in their pictures, which can then send users to the product’s page on your website to purchase.
Now, they’ve taken this a step further, taking a leaf out of Pinterest’s book, and have released a native checkout feature.
Users can actually checkout right from Instagram without ever leaving the app to a web browser.
This will be a huge advantage; the easier it is for customers to purchase, the more likely they are to do so.
And since users inherently trust Instagram more than businesses they’re not incredibly familiar with, this could help to make people more likely to purchase who may have been wary otherwise.
This feature is only in beta testing and available to a small number of retailers, but Instagram historically has progressed from these tests to a more widespread launch very quickly. More brands will likely be seeing this very, very soon.
New Title Option for Instagram Live
Are you using Instagram lives to keep your audience engaged and establish real-time interaction with your followers? If so, you’ll have to keep an eye out for the new title option.
Instagram is currently testing a new feature that will allow users to add titles to their live videos.
These titles are a valuable asset. Users coming into your live, after all, are otherwise typically left a little lost and confused when they first arrive; unlike other live platforms, there are no descriptions or titles. Having a title will tell people what the broadcast is about, bringing them up to speed a lot faster.
Right now, this feature is only in testing, and we don’t have more information about a wider rollout just yet, but we’ll keep an eye out and let you know when it’s here. If you happen to see it pop up, take advantage of it to increase your live engagement and viewer retention.
Expansion to Influencer Campaigns
There are reports that Instagram is working hard to improve their campaign options for influencers and the brands they work with, and there’s now news from AdAge that Instagram is working on developing “Branded content ads.”
These ads will allow brands to sponsor posts that are created by celebrities and partnerships, then promoting them as they would their own posts or ads. It’s essentially an extension of their current branded content tagging system, which works with the “Paid Partnership” tags.
This is partially due to Instagram’s work to make the platform more authentic and transparent, while also more friendly to businesses. If brands are able to take advantage of transparent influencer marketing and promote it further, that’s only a good thing.
We don’t have news about when this new feature will emerge, but since it was announced at a conference and not spotted “natively” or by code hackers, there’s a good chance we won’t have this one for a little while still.
New Updates for IGTV
IGTV hasn’t quite taken off the way that Instagram likely hoped, with usage sticking more to their super-short, still-disappearing Stories as opposed to heading to the third-party app for more long-form content.
Even with this in mind, Instagram isn’t abandoning IGTV, and instead is doubling down to make it more appealing to users.
A few users have seen that Instagram has started rolling out a new layout for IGTV and increased search functionality.
IGTV’s main page now looks similar to Snapchat’s Discover page, putting more of a focus on finding content that users are interested in instead of just watching whatever pops up on the screen.
This will hopefully give brands some extra visibility, getting them spotted by interested users, and people will hopefully stay on the channel longer instead of just losing interest right away.
This news is coming on the heels of Instagram allowing profiles to share previews of their IGTV videos onto Instagram directly, which can then transport interested users to the secondary app to watch more. If you want to get more views on your long-form content, that feature is still the best one to rely on.
Instagram is typically fast with the updates, so this is one of the first months where we don’t have multiple new features to get our hands on and play with first hand.
That’s ok, though, because we just had a ton in January and February, and the features currently in testing are pretty big and could have a great impact on our native, on-platform marketing.
Watch out for these, and hopefully, next month’s update will be able to feature some tutorials showing you how to use them, along with whatever is coming next!
What do you think? Which of these new updates are you most excited to test out for your business? Which of the latest Instagram updates has been most useful to you? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
Top Instagram Updates in February 2019
Yep, you guessed it– we have a handful of new, great updates to discuss from the month of February.
We only have been given full access to two of the new Instagram features, but we’ve got close looks at several exciting innovations that are currently in testing and hopefully coming our way soon.
First on the list is a big one: a new integration for IGTV and Instagram.
Let’s get started.
Instagram Releases IGTV Previews In Main Feed
Quick recap: IGTV is a standalone app that allows users to upload long-form, vertical video content that takes up the full screen.
The idea is that there are different user “channels,” and like on television, something is constantly playing while you go from channel to channel.
Though it’s a standalone app, there is an integration with the main platform, and your followers on Instagram will be notified if you share new content on IGTV.
This integration was just taken a step further, allowing users to share previews of their IGTV videos in the main Instagram newsfeed.
Since Instagram has higher engagement and viewing rates, this provides an effective way to drive more relevant traffic over to watch the rest of your content.
Want to maximize the visibility of your content? You can share a one-minute preview of your IGTV video when you upload it. Users will clearly see the prompt to “Watch Full Video,” allowing them to click and be taken directly to the full content.
If you’re using IGTV as a marketing platform, take advantage of this to get as many views on your video content as possible.
Instagram Rolls Out Creative Tools for Black History Month
In the U.S., February is Black History Month, and Instagram responded with new creative tools and a promotion to showcase relevant creators on their platform that featured content on the official Instagram account.
The creative tools included camera effects and stickers that were designed by black designers.
In addition to being a great thing on its own, this also marks a big step that could indicate campaigns Instagram runs in the future.
This is a relatively socially-oriented campaign, and we may see more features (creative or otherwise) in the future for different events, holidays, or causes.
Instagram Removes Self-Harm Images
Instagram just announced that they’ll be removing any images that violate their new self-harm regulations, with the goal of protecting vulnerable users from seeing and being affected by the images.
Most brands won’t be heavily affected by this, and likely (read: hopefully) aren’t using any sort of images or captions that would make light of any sort of self-harm, but sometimes edgier brands can take things right up to the line and should take note.
Please note that this does include healed scars from self-harm or suicide attempts, so if you’re sharing an inspirational story, be careful here.
Again, this is good on its own, but it also indicates that Instagram is becoming more socially aware of how their platform impacts users and they want to make it safer and improve the user experience.
This falls in line with the ban against content that glorifies eating disorders a few months ago.
In Testing: Direct Messaging Online
Last month we saw an announcement sharing that Facebook may eventually merge their WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram direct messaging platforms into one integrated system, allowing users to potentially connect cross-platform. This won’t be rolling out (if it does happen) until end of the year at the absolute latest, but it looks like we may be seeing one step towards it very soon.
Instagram is reportedly testing direct messaging online, which was a feature previously only accessible through the mobile app.
They confirmed to TechCrunch that the product isn’t available for public testing, so it’s likely in early stages. But it’s still a big deal.
Instagram has been slowly shifting to a desktop-friendly experience over the past year, and as direct messaging is available to users, it will create one more direct interface that brands will need to respond to.
Hopefully, in the process, the API will be released so that third-party tools like Hootsuite will be able to add private messaging to their dashboards to make this a little easier for brands.
It’s good news, and I feel we’ll learn more soon.
In Testing: Donation Stickers
Facebook has had a big fundraising push in the past year, and it looks like Instagram might just be following suit soon.
This aligns with the social-oriented awareness they’ve shown with a few other updates, and it’s taking the form of the currently-in-testing donation stickers for Stories.
Jane Manchun Wong spotted this feature. It will seemingly allow users to search for non-profits or select from one they already follow on Instagram, and then use the donation sticker to encourage other users to contribute.
Ideally, this would happen on-platform, which can increase user trust and the effectiveness of campaigns.
Brands who are involved in charity work should take note of this one, as should nonprofits.
We’ll keep you updated when we learn more.
We only got access to three updates this month, and only two that we could actually use (even though users will benefit from each one).
The IGTV previews are easily the biggest development this month, but the knowledge we have of new features like the coming-to-desktop direct messaging are incredibly exciting.
We’re getting new hints at where Instagram may be going in 2019, and so far, it’s looking great.
What do you think? How do you feel about the updates we saw this month? Which is your favorite? What do you most hope to see this year? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Top Instagram Updates in January 2019
In this month’s post, we’re going to take a look at all the changes that have happened in the past month, stretching over that crucial Christmas break period where things are easier to miss.
There were some big changes on Instagram in the past few weeks, including the ability to schedule videos, share posts to multiple accounts, and new Stories stickers, along with a few new great features in testing.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started.
There Are No Changes To the Instagram Algorithm
Our first update is technically a non-update, but there have been a lot of rumors going around, and algorithm news is always a good place to start.
A post went around claiming that Instagram’s algorithm must have changed and was only showing content to about 7% of any profile’s followers. This, supposedly, was the reason why so many engagement-oriented strategies were being used.
Instagram took to Twitter to debunk this. They’ve said that the algorithm has not changed, and
They’ve confirmed that the algorithm is still based on factors that include relevance, timeliness, frequency in posting, and the number of people following you.
This is the same algorithm that’s been in place for a while now, and as far as social platforms go, they’ve been transparent about what affects your ranking within it.
Posts with a lot of engagement will help you in the algorithm, as they always have, so keep creating high-quality, engagement-oriented content in the feed and you’ll be just fine.
Now on to the actual updates that have really happened!
Instagram Video Scheduling
Instagram post scheduling has been a huge asset, and one of my favorite features of social media publishing software like Hootsuite. It allows you to upload and create content from both a mobile app or a desktop (I seriously prefer the latter) which creating a cohesive content schedule that will help you reach your goals.
At the tail end of last year, Instagram quietly updated its API, allowing third-party social media management tools like Hootsuite to offer video scheduling, too.
This is a game changer for a lot of businesses and social media marketers, especially since video is such an important and effective part of most marketing strategies.
Now, you can make sure that your video is fitted into time slots that align with your social calendar and are posted at peaking posting times, helping you to maximize reach and the results it can drive.
Instagram Allows Sharing to Multiple Accounts
It’s a little funny; several months ago, Twitter forbid exactly this on their platform, and now Instagram has rolled out a new feature to make it possible on theirs.
Over the last month, they’ve slowly rolled out a new feature that allows users (including personal accounts) to share a single post to multiple of their linked accounts at the same time.
This feature is exclusively for feed posts, not for Stories… at least not yet.
Ideally, it’s typically a good idea to create unique content for each account you’re sharing, but if you have sister accounts for some reason that benefit from overlapping content, this can benefit you.
Examples of this would include an account that has a sister company, like Banana Republic’s separate men’s and women’s accounts, or if you’re doing marketing for a franchise and each location has its own profile.
It’s worth pointing out that this feature isn’t anything too groundbreaking– social media management software has already made this possible, allowing a single account manager to publish the same update not only to different accounts but to different platforms, too. Still, if you’re keeping it small or don’t have the budget for the software, this can be a perk as long as it’s used sparingly.
This feature is currently only available for iOS devices, and there isn’t currently any word about when it will be available for Android. Typically the cross-device rollouts follow soon after, so keep an eye out for it, Android users.
New Sticker Features Available
Last year, we saw a ton of new, interactive stickers being made available for Stories, making them even more dynamic and engaging. At the very end of last year, they kept that trend going strong, and we got two big developments along the same lines: an update for the Questions Sticker, and a new Countdown Sticker.
The Question Sticker rolled out at the end of last year, and it allows you to place a sticker on your Story that encourages people to ask you questions. They can respond right there on the sticker, and you’ll see what they’re asking. You can then respond publicly to the ones you want to share.
The new update allows Question Stickers to be available for live usage, making the question-and-answer session more immediate, more urgent, and more engaging.
This is an excellent way to make those Q&A lives more interesting for viewers while also making them easier to manage; trying to keep up with all the live comments can be difficult and overwhelming, but this will make it easier to sort and you can even show the question on the screen while you’re answering the question, keeping everyone up to speed even if they’re joining you halfway through.
The Countdown Clock Sticker, on the other hand, is brand new but just as exciting.
You can create the date and time you want to be counting down to, add it to the sticker, customize it with text, emojis, and color schemes, and watch a live countdown clock form on your Story. Every time someone watches it, they’ll see a live countdown in real time.
This will be an outstanding way to use Instagram stories to promote events, including online specials like flash sales or new product releases.
Instagram is starting the new year off with a bang and a whole lot of changes, so make sure you’ve taken some time to look at the new features and see what they mean for you.
The biggest news is easily the video publishing abilities, but the new Stories stickers are excellent developments, too, and we’ll likely see a lot more of them as we move through the year if 2018 was any indication.
We’ll also keep an eye out for those exclusive in-testing influencer accounts we discussed last month and let you know when more info is available on that front.
What do you think? Which update are you most excited to get your hands on? Where do you think the platform will go in 2019? What are you most hoping we’ll see this year? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
Top Instagram Updates – December 2018
Last month, Instagram rolled out a whole lot of selling features just in time for the holiday shopping rush, and this month they’re giving us new ways to better connect with our target audience.
This makes sense; we saw the big selling features in time to use them, and now we’re getting features focusing on relationship-building that you can start to implement now and in the new year.
And remember, that’s what social media is really about– establishing communities and relationships with your audience.
Have I caught your interest yet? Maybe a little?
Let’s go ahead and say I did, and start taking a look at the Instagram updates that have been released and how they impact marketers and brands.
Instagram Releases Alternative Text Descriptions
Anyone familiar with blogging, site design, or SEO is already going to know what alternative text descriptions are, and yep, they’re pretty much the same thing here.
Alternative text descriptions are exactly what they sound like: you place a description of what’s happening in the image or video in a designated place.
Users with screen readers will have the text read out loud to them, giving them the context of the image even if they have trouble reading it.
Instagram’s alternative text descriptions are making the visual platform more accessible to visually impaired users, and it comes with two options:
- You can rely on automatic alternative text, which uses pretty impressive object recognition technology to create audio descriptions on their own.
While this is undoubtedly efficient, remember that technology does have its limitations. This is available when users are seeing photos in feeds, Explore, and on individual profiles.
- You can manually create your own custom text-based descriptions when users click on the photo or scroll through.
This takes more time, but it’s the better option, because it allows you to ensure that the description is accurate and that it highlights specific things you want to showcase.
Right now, it doesn’t seem like there is a big search benefit (which is one of the biggest reasons many bloggers use the alt image text so religiously), but the accessibility features alone are more than enough reason to take some time and use these features.
Connecting with every audience member possible is definitely worth the work.
Instagram Announces Profile Changes
Right after our November update, Instagram announced that there were going to be a few changes to both personal and business profiles.
These are all cosmetic interface changes, with new icons, buttons, and tabs.
One example is the new “mutual followers” option, which allows you to see which followers you have in common with any given account (just like you do with friends on Facebook).
Fun tip: can also see what the “Shop” tab will look like (if you don’t have it yet) in the third picture all the way to the right, which lets users look at a feed of only shoppable posts.
The look of Instagram business and personal profiles are also changing a bit, with updated layouts.
Users will be able to see which of their friends follow a certain profile; this feature will be a fantastic addition for marketers and brands, as it gives you the opportunity to leverage social proof.
It’s one thing to think that a brand looks cool and another to see that three of your friends follow it, too.
We don’t have all the information on what these changes are going to be yet, because Instagram is still testing them and figuring all that. Keep an eye out for the changes, and remember that we’ll let you know what they are exactly when we know more.
New Voice Messaging in DMs
This feature has been rumored to be in the works since it was spotted in testing earlier this year, and now it’s official.
Voice messaging is rolling out on a wider basis for use in direct messaging.
Voice messages can be sent in one-on-one chats and in group chats, and they can be up to a minute long.
Unlike other direct messages in Instagram, voice messages are going to stay; instead of disappearing like other content, they’ll stick around permanently.
Take this into consideration if you’re using disappearing DMs as part of a strategy to create urgency for sales, discounts, or events with your customers.
While this feature will likely be used mostly for personal use since text is more efficient and video is more personal (and we already have both features), this is a feature that we can keep our eye on to look for interesting, innovative use cases.
That being said, this feature may develop into something even more impactful over time; we’re seeing Facebook focus more on the voice market, especially with the big push towards Portal.
Close Friends List for Stories
If you want to create segmented lists of users to show certain Stories, now you have your chance. You can actually create “cost friends lists” on Stories, ensuring that the only people who can view it are those that you’ve chosen to see it.
Good news: business profiles have this ability, so you can actually create a single group of “close friends” to show exclusive content to.
While you have to be careful with this because you don’t want anyone to be excluded, one potential use case for this is to create a close friend group of your top-tier, platinum level, loyalty, and rewards member customers.
Show them exclusive offers like “early access sale to gold members with code GOLDNOW,” and make sure that you mention in the story that it’s exclusive.
You can create your “close friends” group under your settings, and then just select them when publishing your Story.
Restrictions on Eating Disorder Searches
This may not affect many brands, but it’s a good move by the platform so we’re covering it! Starting in 2012, Instagram started making certain phrases and hashtags “unsearchable,” meaning they wouldn’t yield search results.
This included terms that seemed to promote eating disorders, but a recent study from BBC trending found that this had somehow missed hashtags promoting bulimia, including offering 38 alternative spelling suggestions for a single term.
Since then, Instagram has updated to the list to include bulimia-related searches.
You can learn more about banned Instagram hashtags (which is often how users search) here.
These are all the updates that have been confirmed, but there are two investing that we want to keep our eye on:
- New influencer features
- Side-scrolling feed views.
Let’s look at both.
Side-Scrolling Feed Views
According to WABetaInfo, Instagram is currently testing a side-scrolling format for feed viewing that’s similar to the Stories format, instead of the traditional up-and-down feed similar to Facebook.
We don’t have a lot of information about this just yet, but it could impact Instagram usage; people may be less willing to swipe to see each post, or we could find that the act of swiping and seeing one post at a time keeps them more engaged.
If this format does roll out for good, it will be particularly important to create high-engaging posts so that you stay at the very top of the algorithm.
New Influencer Features
There are rumors that Instagram is testing a new kind of profile called “creator account” profiles that will offer additional analytics or features for influential, high-profile users.
This is likely to keep these users engaged on the platform and to help them get better results with their audiences.
Right now we don’t know who would qualify for these accounts or what new features would roll out that business accounts don’t already have, but we’ll keep you updated.
It’s been an enormous year for Instagram– so big that we have full-length posts every month detailing all the new things the platform is doing.
This month’s biggest additions are easily the alternative text and roll out of the voice messaging, which will offer new functionality to users and give brands and marketers new ways to connect with them.
If I had to put money down on what I think we’re going to see more of in 2019, my guesses would be:
- More tools to manage influencer/brand relationships or sponsored content in general,
- Big continued developments to Shoppable Instagram tools,
- New Stories features.
These are in line with where Instagram has been going this year, and allows marketers and brands to sell more in authentic and engaging ways.
But those are just my guesses. You’ll have to check back in January to find out!
Do you want to look back at what happened last year month by month?
Click here to go to Instagram Updates 2018 Edition
What do you think? What was the biggest change that impacted you on Instagram so far? Which changes are you most excited about? What do you most want to see going into 2019 from Instagram? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!