Are you ready for this month’s Instagram updates? I certainly hope so, because we have a lot to go over.
In June 2018 we got four really big, game-changing updates to Instagram (like IGTV to name one).
This month, we’ve been handed a lot of smaller but still important updates that are going to increase the functionality, efficiency, and features available to us as both marketers and users of the platform.
We’ve got everything from video chat in direct messaging to proof of profile verification. Yes, that’s right, the #MostWantedBlueBadge is becoming available to select users.
In this update, we’re going to go in-depth into each one, taking a look at how to use the new features and what they mean for marketers.
So let’s go ahead and dive on in and get started.
New: Instagram Topic Channels
At the very end of last month, Instagram announced their new Topic Channels in the Explore section.
These “channels” can appear at the top of the Explore section and will show users different categories of posts they can click to see.
These recommendations will be based on the user’s on-platform behavior, and they offer a new great way to potentially connect with more members of your target audience who haven’t met you yet.
Pro tip: These Topic Channels will show you hashtags related to the channel you’re viewing. Use these hashtags to elevate your own posts and get more reach, because if they’re popular enough for Instagram to list, there’s a good chance people are using and searching for them. Those people are likely your target audience.
New: Video Chat in Direct Messaging
Video chat is now available in direct messaging, and you can video chat just one person or a group of up to four different people, with each appearing on the video chat screen as they join in.
This chat function works like FaceTime or Google Hangout, and it lets you connect “face to face” with other users in real time.
You can start a live broadcast in a chat box by clicking on the blue camera icon next to the “Write a message” box.
The functionality of this new feature is pretty great.
I’ve tested it with a few friends and didn’t experience as much lagging as I sometimes have with Skype or other options.
The video chat will actually ring, alerting the users you want to chat with so they don’t skim over it to come back later like they would with a typical message.
You can video chat anyone who you have a direct message thread open with.
Pro tip: This opens up new potential ways to connect with your customers who have messaged you directly with concerns, and could be particularly valuable if you’re trying to help troubleshoot a problem and video could benefit you.
New: Instagram Introduces Music to Stories
Stories are such an effective medium on Instagram because they’re dynamic and they’re engaging. The creativity involved in images and videos that are uploaded to Stories is exceptional, and it’s part of why users love the feature so much.
Now, we can ramp up that dynamic quality even more by adding music to our Stories.
Instagram users can now click on a music icon that’s found in the stickers and GIFs that can be added to a story, and then select the tunes of your choice from a music library.
You won’t have to worry that the music will somehow break or violate copyright rules, because all of the music is free for commercial use on the platform.
Right now, this feature is available with the latest Instagram update in select countries. The feature to choose a song before capturing video is also only available on iOS, though it will be coming to Android soon.
Pro tip: Take advantage of this, because music playing can help you set the stage of your Story and draw user attention even more. Both of these factors can help you get an edge and encourage users to linger a little longer on your Story before swiping away.
New: Question Stickers for Instagram Stories
More Stickers! Hurrah! In addition to music for Stories, we’ve also gotten a new Questions Sticker for Stories.
This is another great interactive sticker in the same spirit of the poll and emoji slider stickers, which can generate engagement and yield social proof at the same time.
The Questions Sticker allows you to ask your followers any question that you’d like. Users who view the story can reply to the questions, and you’ll be able to see all their responses privately.
If you choose, you can share these responses publicly within the Stories feed, so this is a great way to start a conversation and gather social proof all at once.
I think that’s going to be the best way to use this feature; the buildup of social proof.
Pro Strategy: Create a Story with a question, and let users know that the best answers will be shared on your Story. Then, add subsequent Stories sharing the replies, creating one continual stream of UGC and social proof. Once the Story has expired, you can add it to your Facebook Stories or add it to a Highlight, or both.
New: Instagram Shares IGTV Creators Handbook
Instagram recently published an IGTV Creators Handbook. This is an actual official 50-page guide that you can download and read, and it includes everything from tutorials for using the platform (including how to upload videos on both mobile and desktop) and best practices they recommend.
They also have a list of recommended apps that will help you create your IGTV content to maximize your results on the platform.
You can read the IGTV guide here.
In Progress: Non-SMS Two-Step Verification
Here’s a concerning fact: our Instagram accounts are particularly susceptible to hacking, because the current SMS two-step verification currently makes it easy for hackers to get access to your account by reassigning your phone number to a different SIM card. This may sound like a giant conspiracy, but it’s a legitimate threat for larger businesses with large audiences, because the hackers could sell the account for a big payday.
Instagram knows this, so they confirmed to TechCrunch that they’re currently building a two-step authentication process that won’t involve SMS. Instead, these verification systems would rely on security apps like Duo or Google Authenticator, which are much more difficult to hack and would add an additional layer of protection to your Instagram account.
Once this is available, all business profiles should be using it to protect their accounts and their followers. We don’t have any more details about when this will be available, but keep an eye out, because we’ll hopefully see this one sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, if you don’t have the current two-step verification enabled, go ahead and switch it on. It’s not the best solution out there, but it still gives you one more layer of protection than if you forego it all together.
In Testing: Instagram Verified Badge
You know that coveted blue checkmark that everyone wants on their Facebook and Twitter profiles? The ones that show everyone that you’re someone?
Instagram is testing an in-app form that will allow brands and public figures to apply for that sought-after blue check, which requires that they confirm their identity.
This would ideally allow more businesses (including smaller businesses) to become verified by Instagram, giving them a nice boost of credibility on the platform that can help drive trust.
Right now, the form is only accessible to a select number of users in a test group, and it’s only available to iOS users. Android functionality is supposedly coming in the next few weeks
Pro tip: Since on-platform shopping is now available with tools like the Shoppable tags, becoming verified by Instagram could absolutely have a huge effect on whether or not users are willing to buy right then and there, or even click to your site when checking out your profile.
In Testing: The Ability to Remove Followers from Public Accounts
Right now, you have two options to deal with people you maybe don’t want following you on Instagram if your profile is public (and all business profiles are). You can block them, keeping them from seeing anything you post, or just leave them be.
The Verge reports that this may soon change, stating that Instagram is widely testing a new ability that will allow public profiles to manually remove specific followers.
This is a feature that’s always been available to users with private accounts, and the idea of having it available to public profiles is an interesting one.
Right now it’s only being tested on a few select accounts.
Pro Tip: While this is a cool update, we’re not sure how beneficial it will be to public accounts. If you want to remove someone, after all, the most efficient way to do that is to block them. Otherwise, they can still see and engage with your content, and if you’re removing them as a follower, you likely have a good reason. It will be interesting to see if other moderation tools come out alongside this one, or if it rolls out on its own.
While a lot of these updates may seem small in comparison’s to last month’s big game-changing features, they’re all still important because they can each improve the marketer’s experience in some way.
Being able to add music to your Stories and learn more about IGTV and help your business gain credibility by potentially getting that coveted blue check mark?
All of these updates (and the rest in this post) will benefit you on the platform as long as you use them to their fullest potential.
What do you think? Which of these Instagram updates are you most excited about? Have you gotten access to any of them yet? If so, what did you think? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
Top Instagram Updates – June 2018 Edition
When it comes to Instagram updates, we’ll sometimes get one big new feature (if we’re lucky) and a lot of little ones. New stickers, new camera effects, things that absolutely matter and can help us step up our marketing game, but nothing necessarily overwhelming.
That is not what happened this month.
In June we’ve got four new really big updates that will majorly impact how we’re marketing on Instagram. Each is significant, ranging from news about the algorithm to the much-talked-about IGTV (yes, that’s Instagram Tv!).
Let’s start with the star of the show this month: Instagram Tv or, as you’ll learn to call it, IGTV. This is a massive, massive update. Still, keep reading after this section, because all the updates are important.
#1 – Welcome IGTV
IGTV is a new stand-alone app that can be accessed on its own or from within Instagram.
It just rolled out last week, and it allows content creators to upload videos up to an hour long and share them on this platform.
When I heard about this, my first thought was “Awesome. Hour-long videos on Instagram.” Then I thought “Who would use that? We already have YouTube.” But then I thought about Instagram’s Snapchat-takeover, and I reconsidered.
This app is going to prioritize long-form video content that’s vertical and full-screen, kind of like a much longer Story.
Because it integrates with Instagram, your followers can be notified about your new videos, and your video content will show up in their IGTV feed.
As soon as users open the app, a video will start to play, not unlike turning on an actual TV. Users will automatically be shown content Instagram believes they’d be interested in, and the platform will deduce that utilizing a mix of interest targeting and content from pages they file.
If you want to change the channel, so to speak, or find specific content, you can swipe up to discover more options, including specific “channels” (that’s what I’m calling them, anyway) showing you content only from people you follow, currently popular, personalized content based on interests, or content you’ve already been watching.
Also significant: when users follow a creator on Instagram, they’ll be able to see and view their entire IGTV channel. This will give interested users (and first-time users) an uninterrupted stream of long-form content that you’ve created.
I started out a little weary, but am really excited about this. The ability for brands to create and share long-form content is going to be exceptionally valuable.
Remember though, that just because your videos can be an hour long doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be, or that they should be.
Keep your video as long as you can keep it valuable and you’ll be good to go.
#2 – Instagram Shares Algorithm Information
Instagram’s algorithm has puzzled marketers and brands alike since it’s been released, shifting the feed from strictly chronological to showing users “prioritized” posts.
While we don’t exactly have a formula for this new algorithm, we do have new insight into how it works and which factors are most important.
First, Instagram clarified why it was so important for the algorithm to be created in the first place.
According to Instagram, users were missing 70% of all posts, and about 50% of their friends’ (non-branded) posts. They claim that the switch has allowed users to see 90% of their friends’ posts, subsequently increasing time spent on the app.
That’s largely thanks to the fact that users are now seeing content more relevant to them.
Instagram has also shared that there are three main factors that most heavily effect algorithm placements.
- Interest the user has in content like yours,
- Recency of your post, with more recent posts being given priority over older ones
- The relationship of the user with the person sharing the content; if they interact with a lot of your content, they’ll be more likely to see more of it moving forward.
Looking to leverage this information moving forward? Here’s exactly what this algorithm means:
- Engagement-building techniques on the platform are essential.
Get more likes and comments to show Instagram that your content is high-quality. The more users interact with your content, the more likely they’ll see it moving forward. This means more potential engagement and more users, and it’s all a big upward spiral.
- Timing still matters. New posts are given a bump over older ones, so try to find peak posting times and see which yield the best results.
#3 – @mention Sharing for Stories
UGC stories have always been welcome because they can reach a large audience and the @mention stickers could help drive brand awareness and traffic to your profile. All good.
UGC stories have been made instantly more valuable with the new @mention sharing for Stories feature.
This update allows you to share someone else’s Story to your own with a tap of the button if they’ve used a mention sticker in theirs.
As a social media manager, I love this feature.
Clients were sharing UGC all the time, but it felt weird to ask to screenshot the Story (because they get a notification), so we stuck to sharing other forms of UGC and knew that all that great Story potential was just going down the drain. It was unlikely, after all, that they’d add it to their Stories highlights. Now, I share my clients’ UGC mentions (with permission, as you’ll see below) in our Stories, and then add those Stories to a designated Highlight in order to extend the value long beyond 24 hours.
Now, when users mention you in a public story, you’ll see a blue “Add This to Your Story” prompt above the image you’ll be sent through private message.
I always ask before sharing, but once you get permission, just press that blue prompt.
You’ll immediately have a carbon copy of that story show up as a sticker-like image. You can move it, resize it, and even tilt it. Draw on top of it, add text, and more.
For most of these Stories, I like to add context showing that the content came from a customer, and tag them in it.
For good measure, you can use a @mention sticker, even if you hide it behind the main image.
I’m a big fan of this feature, and I can’t wait to see more brands using it, too.
#4 – Shoppable Tags Extended to Stories
Shoppable tags are an excellent feature that allows qualified business profiles to tag products in their images and videos, which makes purchasing a quick and easy task for customers.
These tags have now been extended to Stories, which now has an estimated 300 million daily (and very engaged) users.
When users see a stoppable tag in a Story, they’ll see a shopping bag icon, an image of the product, and a “See details” note. When clicked, this will take them to the product page, which will include price and description.
Right now this feature is still in testing and only available to a few select, big-name brands, so we don’t have a ton of info on it or a tutorial just yet. Still, this offers huge potential to businesses, and is hopefully going to be accessible soon, so stay alert.
I personally haven’t seen these used natively yet (which makes sense due to the current limitations), but I’m keeping an eye out because I believe that they’ll have mega marketing potential.
It’s not common to have this many big updates happening all in the span of one month (Facebook’s latest security updates aside, because we all know that’s been one heck of a whirlwind), but I’m not complaining.
Each of these features offers immediate new functionality to brands who are trying to get the most out of Instagram marketing, and understanding the algorithm update is an enormous advantage, too.
Being able to share content in new ways and having a stronger understanding of how it will be shown to users? That’s a pretty great month’s worth of updates in my book.
What do you think? Which new update is your favorite? How much value do you think IGTV will give marketers? Do you think users will be on board? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
Top Instagram Updates – May 2018 Edition
Instagram is all about putting the users first, and in some cases, that means improving the experience and functionality on the marketer’s end so that we can better serve our customers. This month, we’ve gotten some great new features that can help us do that.
The highlights of Instagram May’s updates are definitely the simplified inbox and the new CTA buttons.
But there are some other great features that users will love like the new muting features and sliding emoji-polls.
Let’s see them up close.
Instagram Updates: Inbox Simplification
Responding to customer message has always been a bit of a tedious activity on Instagram, especially with the constant barrage of Story mention alerts weighing down the rest of your inbox.
Instagram has finally tackled that problem head-on, giving us a new, improved, and heavily simplified inbox.
With this new update, messages will be sent to the Direct inbox (instead of in the pending folder).
In addition, you can now star and filter messages you want to follow up on, allowing you to ensure that nothing (and no one) falls between the cracks.
In the following weeks, Instagram will also be testing a new quick replies feature in the to assist you in replying to common messages, saving your team even more time.
These big additions will make it easier for you and your social media team (if you have one) to sort through the onslaught of messages, alleviating some of the clutter and allowing you to respond to customers faster and more efficiently.
It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
New CTA Button Options
In addition to the changes made to the messaging process, Instagram is also making it easier for users to discover and utilize the products and services of businesses.
With this in mind, they have decided to roll out 4 new Call To Action buttons:
- Get Tickets
- Start Order
These new CTA buttons are fully functional; they don’t just send users to a business’s website, but they actually allow you to book appointments or make reservations right through the app.
This is largely thanks to the ability to integrate with new partners:
From the user perspective, the process will look like this:
From the marketer’s perspective, it’s clear to see that Instagram is actively working on new and better features to make a business owner’s life even easier.
These are huge opportunities that businesses in the service and hospitality industry can take advantage of. After all, the easier it is to get customers to convert, the more likely they’ll be to do so.
Sliding Emoji Scale
On a scale of 😠 to 🙌, how would your customers rate your business? Or your products, or your event, or even just the summer thunderstorms?
Not really sure? Have no fear, with Instagram’s new Sliding emoji scale, you can find out for yourself.
Now, you can add this new type of poll sticker to any of your Instagram Stories.
It can (currently) be found in the third row of stickers, right next to the original poll sticker.
Conduct market research, build social proof, and drive engagement, all while you ask your followers any question you choose while taking advantage of the interactive Story experience.
You can pick from any of the most popular emojis, or even one from your own library. You’ll be able to see users’ answers in real time, giving you all the information you need.
For a full guide on how to set this up, you can find Instagram’s help article here.
New Muting Feature Announced
I don’t know about you, but I personally love being able to “unfollow” someone on Facebook without having to unfriend them.
All those work colleagues I can’t kick to the curb despite constant screaming barrages of political commentary no longer popping up in my feed is music to my ears.
Now, users will have a similar feature through Instagram.
Instagram has announced that their new muting feature will be rolling out in the next few weeks, allowing users to essentially unsubscribe from updates without actually unfollowing someone.
It’s unlikely that business pages will have to be too worried about this; if users don’t like your content, they’ll just unfollow you, as there’s no personal consequences for doing so.
Still, make sure you’re at the top of your game and pumping out engaging content to avoid that mute button as much as possible.
Existing Instagram Posts Can Be Turned Into Ads
I can honestly say that this wasn’t a feature I was expecting or holding out hope for, but that I’m really excited about.
Now (or soon), we can turn organic Instagram posts into Ads, just like we could previously with already-published Facebook posts.
This can be done through the Power Editor or Ads Manager, instead of just boosting the post on Instagram itself, which means better targeting (and thus more results).
More good news: all social proof like comments and likes that are aggregated during the campaign will go to live permanently on the original organic post.
This is an excellent way to get visible social engagement, having a very real and permanent effect on your organic content long-term in addition to whatever other benefits you’re targeting through the ad campaign.
If you don’t have this feature yet, you will soon; it’s supposedly rolling out globally in the next few weeks.
We’ve been seeing Instagram evolve into a more dynamic and interactive platform for a while, and I think this month’s updates push us further along that scale.
Users can now book hair appointments through the app instead of having to call, but if they choose to send a message, it’ll be easier than ever for that salon to catch it.
We’ve got muting and more interactive polls and so much more, and as the user experience improves, so does the value of the platform for marketers.
What do you think of this month’s Instagram updates? Which are you most excited about? Have you seen any of the new features rolling out to you yet? Share your thoughts, comments, and knowledge below! Or keep on reading, to make sure you did not miss a thing of the past months!
Top Instagram Updates – April 2018 Edition
If you’re keeping up with social media changes, it’s likely that you’ve been drowning in the recent Facebook updates. They’ve had a big reaction to all the controversy, and we’re excited to see how they’re making the platform better for both users and advertisers.
But with Facebook getting all the attention, it’s been easy to miss some really exciting updates happening on Instagram if you weren’t looking out for them. Fortunately for everyone, we here at AdEspresso are always keeping an eye on all things social media, and all the changes that are happening.
And Instagram has kept us busy this month.
In this April edition of our monthly Instagram updates, we’ll go over new great features like adding hashtags to your profile and new portrait modes. And we’ll also take a look at how the privacy and data concerns have affected Instagram, too.
Ready to start?
You Can Add Hashtags To Your Profile
This is my favorite update in this batch, so I’m listing it first.
You can now add functioning, clickable hashtags to your business’s profile on Instagram.
Now when you type an @ (see next update) or a # followed by text in your bio, it’ll appear as a live link on your profile.
By clicking them, visitors can get to other profiles, or see other posts with the same hashtag. This is an excellent way to promote your branded hashtag to get clicks.
Even better, clickable hashtags give users new to your business a great way to check out what you’re all about.
They click, and they can see not only what you’re posting, but also all the great UGC your customers have been uploading on your behalf.
To add a hashtag to your profile, click to edit your profile. Add the “#” in the bio, and then search for your specific hashtag.
Select it, and it will be added (and clickable).
This move is the next step towards the hashtag’s rebirth as a spark for our passions, in love and in war.”
You Can Add Clickable Links to Other Profiles in Your Bio
Not only can you now add clickable hashtags to your profile’s bio on Instagram, you can also add clickable links to other profiles in your bio.
If you have a sister company that you want to promote, this is your chance to do it. Or, if you’re hosting a contest and are discussing it temporarily in the bio, you can also link to the other sponsors’ profiles while the contest is live.
This gives you a chance to help promote other businesses that you want to invest in.
Want to add a clickable link to another profile to your bio? Just follow the instructions above, but type in “@” instead of a hashtag, and search for the username.
Remember that when you mention someone else in your profile, they’ll receive a notification, and can choose to remove the link from your profile.
Good Bye Instagram API Platform
Alright, so very few readers will be surprised by this, cause we all knew that it was gonna happen. But nobody was ready!
On April 4th, in a press release published on Facebook’s newsroom, Mike Schroepfer, Chief Technology Officer at Facebook, announced that Instagram will immediately shut down part of its old platform API that was scheduled for deprecation on July 31st.
The API platform was released just within the past few months, and now it’s going back under lock and key a bit.
The older API has been shut down (in January we were told we’d have until midsummer, but the privacy updates have changed that), and access to the new platform is being severely limited.
The platform has also significantly reduced the rate that developers can pull information from the API, making it more difficult to access user data. Blame it on Cambridge Analytica if you want!
Third party tools will have their work cut out for them with this change, but again, if it’s protecting user data, it’s all good news in the long run.
New Focus Portrait Mode
Ok, now back to the fun stuff.
Instagram has released a new Focus portrait mode, which will make sure the subject of the photo is crystal clear, while the background will be slightly blurred.
This effect is similar to what many photographers and photo editors do in their own images to bring the subject of the photo center stage, and now you don’t have to hire someone expensive to do this.
This has the potential to help small businesses improve the quality of their images on Instagram and their Stories without any extra cost or training.
Instagram is Preparing to Release Nametags
This isn’t a feature that we actually have yet, but it’s one that we’ll likely see coming to us soon.
It’s Instagram version of Snapchat’s QR codes, and it works by letting users create unique images that people can scan with their Stories feature to follow you quickly.
The use case for brands on this one is excellent.
Placing the nametags and QR codes for other platforms on your in-store signage, for example, has a much better chance of helping you get new followers than asking them to type out your full Instagram username in the search bar, finding you, and then following you.
Ease of use is always a plus, and this is about as convenient as they could make the process of following someone.
Instagram Is Reportedly Developing a Data Portability Tool
TechCrunch was able to snag some great information from Instagram when they found out that the platform is reportedly developing a data portability tool.
What exactly does this mean? It’s pretty straightforward, fortunately.
Users would soon be able to use these new features to download content they’ve uploaded onto the platform, including pictures, videos, and possibly even messages they’ve exchanged.
This is happening partially (or maybe largely) in order to stay compliant with the upcoming European GDPR privacy law that’s affected Facebook. This law requires data portability, which allows users to download their content and potentially leave to upload it on a competing site.
Historically, Instagram has had poor data portability, both for users and business profiles. You can’t drag, or tap and hold on images to save them. And you can’t download images you’ve already posted
While we don’t know exactly what other feature this will lead to, there’s a chance that we could eventually get features that would allow us to export information like follower data, which we could then use for other retargeting campaigns.
Keep an eye out for future updates of this post for more info on this.
Instagram and Facebook are sister companies, so it’s no surprise they were unable to escape unscathed without some changes being made to better protect user information.
While the rollback of the API has frustrated some businesses and third-party tools, it will only be good in the long-term if it makes the platform better and safer for users.
Fortunately, this set back has been counteracted by all the great new features we’ve gotten and the ones that are in testing or development.
There’s lots of great things happening for users and marketers, and plenty to be excited about.
What do you think? Which Instagram updates are you most excited to get your hands on? What do you think about the API decision? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
Top Instagram Updates – March 2018
Last month was a huge month for Instagram Updates, with all sorts of really big new features being dropped and announced (hello, scheduling). This month’s updates are a little smaller, with several being rumors of new features possibly in development, but that doesn’t make them any less important.
We’ve got some new privacy controls, along with some glimpses at big new features that Instagram may be quietly developing behind the scenes.
Are you ready to see what’s new with Instagram this month, and what we think is on the horizon? Let’s jump in!
New Replay Privacy Controls
There’s no denying that Instagram has copied Snapchat more than a few times, especially when it comes to the tell-tale Stories feature that’s basically an exact replica of Snapchat. Despite the fact that Snapchat did it first, however, Instagram has consistently released new features to the point where they do it better.
A prime example of this is the replay privacy controls. When users send a direct message in Snapchat, there’s no way to control how many times someone replays it, though they can only continue to view the private message for a short period of time. Instagram let’s users decide whether they want the recipient of the message to be able to play it just once, or allow multiple replays.
Now, they’ve added a new and original option, which is the “keep in chat” privacy option. This will keep the image or video permanently available as a thumbnail in chat. This gives users and businesses contacting them more flexibility, sharing private messages that are meant to be available on a more permanent basis.
For businesses who use private messages and images to send out exclusive offers and discount codes to customers, this can work to your advantage if you choose to extend it’s life, giving users a coupon code that they can use at any time (even if only once). This is a strategy I’ve used several times with my own clients, so it will be nice to have a little more flexibility with how long users have to come in store with the coupon code.
Rolled Out Access to Last Month’s Stories Features
Last month we got previews at a lot of new features that many of us– myself included– didn’t have just yet. If you’re waiting on any of them, go ahead and update your app and see if you have access yet, because a lot of these features have rolled out.
- API scheduling, and using third-party scheduling apps like Hootsuite to now post directly to Instagram (instead of just getting an alert for you to do so)
- Type Mode for Stories, which allows you to create a story without any image or video
- The ability to post Instagram Stories in all sizes and formats, having it stretched to fit the screen (just pinch and tap the screen to accomplish this)
Remember to always keep your Instagram app up to date, as this will give you quicker access to new features and give you access to bug fixes, too.
Instagram Updates Potentially in Development
The next three updates are all marked “potentially in development” and have been uncovered by people poking around in the backend of Instagram, where they can find clues and icons about what’s coming that have been buried deep.
#1 – Cinemagraph
We don’t have a demo of how this would work, just a screenshot that WABetaInfo spotted when digging around in the app, so we’re not entirely sure this will be a feature that will ever come to Instagram.
If it’s being tested to the point where the option is integrated in the interface, however, it’s a possibility.
This feature will most likely offer the option to create a classic cinemagraph, which is basically a still photo or image that has a small portion of the image in motion.
Here’s a few examples all compiled into one video to help you get the idea:
If this feature is released, this could take over boomerang as a newer more subtle approach to catch users eyes and draw them in quickly.
It would also be exceptionally visually interesting, which Instagram is all about. I can already picture the rain falling around the still couple dancing the rain as we speak, and I think the possibilities are endless.
#2 – Portrait Shutters for Stories
Month after month, we’ve consistently seen updates to the Stories feature almost every single time I write a post. TechCrunch may have found the next Stories shutter that could gain access to, which looks to be some sort of portrait mode.
It’s being tested under the name “Focus,” and may allow people to take or create stylized portraits in-app, blurring out the background and focusing in on your subject. Because it’s being tested, it’s a lot more likely we’ll be seeing this before the other two features on our “rumored” list.
Check out the example found “in the wild” here:
#3 – Voice and Video Calling
And for our last update this month, TechCrunch has also discovered that Instagram’s coding reveals that an unannounced, unreleased feature that will be big: voice and video messaging through the direct messages channel.
Right now, we only have icons of the video and voice call buttons that were uncovered by Ishan Agarwal.
The possible voice and video calling is one that surprised me, as the direct messages feature isn’t used nearly as frequently on Instagram as it is on other platforms, so maybe this is their way of taking a step to try to change that.
Either way, it will be interesting to see. It could provide an opportunity to provide more thorough and personal customer service to customers, but since this feature isn’t used often I’m Facebook, I’m not entirely sure how valuable it would be.
The biggest Instagram updates for this month are those that haven’t actually been confirmed, but which have strong evidence that they’re currently in development.
This is still significant, as it gives us a lot of insight into what directions Instagram is likely to be moving towards in the future.
More creative flexibility is always a plus, and shows that Instagram will continue to use new aesthetic and animation features to set itself apart from, competitors and keep itself as the premiere visual app.
And don’t worry– when there’s more information on any of these updates, you’ll be able to find them right here.
What do you think? Which of these updates (or potential updates) are you most excited about? Which will be the one you hope to get your hands on first, as a user and a marketer? Share your thoughts, knowledge, and experience in the comments below!
Top Instagram Updates – February 2018
This is a really, really big month for Instagram updates. The biggest month with some of the biggest updates we’ve had in ages.
We got the announcement of two really big new features, that are a huge deal for the platform: Instagram scheduling and carousel ads coming to Stories.
The scheduling, in particular, can actually change how social media marketers are interacting with the platform, and the carousel ads give Story ads access to one of the highest performing ad features Facebook and Instagram have ever had.
There’s a lot of great stuff this month, so let’s dive in, shall we?
Instagram Scheduling (Beta)
This is easily the biggest announcement we’ve had in a very, very long time on Instagram, and as someone who does a lot of Instagram marketing for a lot of clients, I was pretty much bouncing up and down in my chair when I read it.
Instagram has released a new API that allows for on-platform native scheduling. Business profiles will be able to schedule posts through the API, or–even better– third-party scheduling and social management software like Hootsuite.
Why is this such a big deal?
Previously, you could use social management software to create full, complete posts and place them on a calendar. These tools, however, could not post directly to Instagram the same way they could on Twitter or Facebook. Instead, the mobile app would ding you with a notification, and you’d enter into the app, transfer the post to Instagram manually, and then post it.
It saved a few steps, but it was still a pain.
Now, these third-party apps will be able to post directly to Instagram, making them even more valuable, and saving marketers a lot of time.
Carousel Ads Brought to Stories
Carousel ads are one of the highest engaging ad formats. They have significantly higher engagement rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates.
It’s why you see them so often in the Newsfeed; they’re downright effective. And now they’re available for Instagram Stories, too.
Now, Stories Ads can have up to three slides of different media, including images and videos.
It reminds me a great deal of the Canvas Ads, sliding horizontally instead of vertically. They are, of course, not quite as interaction-friendly as Canvas ads, but advertisers can still include interactive elements like the “Swipe up to see more.”
This feature has not been widely released yet, and is only accessible by select big-name brands like Coca-Cola, but it will probably be here before we know it.
Keep an eye out for these Stories Ads to start to get an idea about best practices and how you’ll use them for your campaigns when it rolls out to more advertisers.
Stories Alert Feature: Secretly Testing?
This will likely affect users more often than it will affect brands, but it’s still worth mentioning.
Instagram is supposedly currently testing an alert feature that will let users know if someone else has taken a screenshot of their Stories. Sorry, stalkers. Your day is over.
Instagram currently has declined to comment on this discovery when asked about it directly by Mashable, but this is just another Snapchat-lookalike feature that Instagram may be trying to replicate.
We’ll keep an eye on this one and let you know how it develops, because I know I’ve personally taken screenshots of content just for these blog posts and want to know if the brands can find out. (Though I guess as long as you aren’t taking snapshots of Stories of your ex or that college roommate you hated, you’re probably ok).
New Stories Creative Flexibility
Right now, you can only post images and videos to Stories if it fit the exact 16:9 dimensions (or full-screen view), no questions asked. Soon, that’s going to be changing.
Within the next few weeks, Instagram is going to be rolling out incredible new options for creative flexibility.
You’ll be able to post videos and images of all sizes to Instagram Stories, including landscape and square aspect content.
All you have to do is “pinch” the image when you upload it to your Story in order to get it to be displayed at its original aspect ratio.
It will be interesting to see how many brands use this feature, and whether partial-screen Stories get as much engagement as full-screen Stories.
I’ll be doing some A/B testing with this and will let you all know.
Type Mode Released for Stories
You know that relatively new type of Facebook post, where the post shows up like an image with a colorful background?
Personally, I wouldn’t rely on type mode alone; I’d use it in a series of Stories to make announcements, engage customers, and share information, but I’d definitely combine it with images and videos like those we’re accustomed to.
Stories and Instagram are both highly visual platforms, after all.
Instagram has done a lot to make the platform more friendly for marketers, but the ability to schedule posts– not just natively but with third-party tools- is going to make an enormous difference in ease of use by advertisers.
I’m not going to have to wake up at 8am on a Saturday to hit “publish” on a post for my client so it goes live at the optimum time in his time zone, for example, which is something I currently do.
The additional Stories updates are also all excellent for businesses, particularly the carousel ads. The more flexibility we have with it, the more we can benefit from it.
The new carousel ads are easily the biggest development we’ve had in this arena for a few months, but every single month in recent history has given us more Stories features, which is a good sign for what’s to come.
What do you think? How do you feel about these new updates? Are you as excited as I am about the new scheduling capabilities? Share your thoughts, knowledge, and questions in the comments below!
Top Instagram Updates – January 2018
There’s a lot of great stuff to dig into this month, so let’s get started, shall we?
First up, let’s take a closer look at why Instagram is about to grow even more in importance for social media marketers…
Facebook Pages Are Possibly About to Tank
I know what you’re thinking– this is the Instagram updates post, not the Facebook updates post, but bare with me here. I promise it’s relevant.
Some pretty big news has been breaking over the past week, and while we don’t know exactly what it means for sure, we know that it isn’t necessarily good for Pages. Facebook posted an announcement saying that they’re shifting the focus back to staying in touch with the people that you most want to hear from, which, simply put, is not Pages.
Basically, as Michael Stelzner says in the video below, this could potentially mean the “end of days” for Facebook Pages. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be quite that severe, it’s definitely going to be a massive and irreparable hit. Even Facebook acknowledges this.
So here’s why this is so important for Instagram: Facebook currently acts as what I call “the social media marketing hub” for most small businesses. It’s their primary source of interaction and news delivery with customers, and now, reach is going to be driven down further. As a result, other social media platforms gain even more importance.
And Instagram, with it’s high engagement and excellent reach, is primed to gain dominance as a primary social media marketing platform as a result. Get ahead of the curve and increase your Instagram marketing now if you haven’t already, focusing on growing followers and doing hashtag research. Users will see your content here more than on Facebook, so use that to your advantage.
Alright, so now that we have that covered, on to the traditional Instagram updates!
Ability to Follow Hashtags
At the end of last year (yes ok, it means a few days ago!) Instagram announced that users have the ability to follow hashtags on Instagram.
Now, users don’t have to search out hashtags regularly to find new content they’re interested in, they can just follow a hashtag to have the content regularly delivered to them, instead.
Just as there is a “people” feed, users can also create a “hashtags” feed where this content will appear.
This is a big advantage to brands for several reasons.
With great hashtag research, you can increase the likelihood that you’ll be showing up in more people’s feeds. And all the while, you’ll be providing content that they actually want to see.
You can also encourage users to follow your brand’s hashtag. This can make user-generated content (UGC) even more powerful.
Users will see the content about your brand created by other customers, and it will be endlessly more persuasive than if you were the one delivering it to their feed.
Brands, of course, can use this feature to monitor their own hashtag and easily review the best UGC, though they should be doing this already. They can also use the hashtag tracking feature to keep an eye on industry trends and your competition.
Rights Manager Enabled
Instagram seems to be rolling out a Rights Manager on the platform, which makes it easier for copyright owners to monitor and protect their content.
Facebook already has this feature, and it’s incredibly useful to help content owners see how their images and videos are being used and that their copyright isn’t being violated.
This feature hasn’t rolled out to everyone (or at least it doesn’t seem like it yet), but all you have to do is upload videos to the library, and Instagram will watch and alert you if it’s being used elsewhere on the platform.
We don’t have a lot of information on this one yet, but this is a cool update to check out once you have access to it.
Recommended Posts: In Testing
Right now, users only see posts in their feeds from other users they follow, and the sponsored content Instagram shows them.
This may change soon, with Instagram testing a “recommended posts” feature that’s not dissimilar from Facebook’s. Now, you may see content that Instagram believes that you’ll like.
This means that Instagram’s algorithms will be showing users either content that their friends’ have liked, or content they think you’ll be interested in. If you follow a lot of fitness bloggers, for example, they’ll show you more content along those lines.
This could be a big deal for businesses, and could make on-platform engagement even more important.
If one user liking or commenting on your Page means that even just ten of their friends see it, that’s a huge development that we shouldn’t ignore. There’s already plenty of incentives to get a lot of engagement on Instagram, but this gives us just one more.
Instagram has had their Alpha testing program available for Android users for awhile now, allowing users who have signed up and been approved to gain the earliest access to new features in order to test them.
Now, iOS users can sign up to be in this program, too.
For marketers who want to stay on the cutting-edge side of Instagram, this isn’t a bad program to look into.
Some of the features may be a little glitchy, but imagine being able to create in-Story links before anyone else, or the new multiple-image posts first. It could help you stay ahead of the competition, which is never a bad thing.
iOS isn’t currently taking any new testers at this point, but that could change at any time. You can sign up to be an Android tester here.
Instagram is already one of the key players in social media marketing platforms, and we’re about to see that become truer than ever with Facebook Pages tanking.
While I’m glad the ad systems are joined (giving Instagram Ads so much more power), I’m so glad their algorithms are not identical. And now, with new features rolling out, it’s clear that Instagram is marketer and business-friendly, making it even more valuable.
What do you think? Is Instagram marketing a staple part of your social media marketing? Which Instagram updates are you most excited about this month? What new features would you most like to see? Let us know in the comments below!
Do you want to look back to what happened last year?
Click here to go to Instagram Updates 2017 Edition