Every month, we come here and discuss all of the new features that have hit the Instagram app or that are potentially coming very soon, and there’s always new tools, features, and strategies to test.
This month, however, is a little different.
It’s finally happened, marketers: We’ve had 30 days with no new major features rolling out on a wide-scale basis on Instagram.
This in and of itself somehow feels like an impressive milestone, but don’t tune out just yet, because that’s far from the only news we have!
Just because Instagram hasn’t actually released anything new yet this month doesn’t mean that they’re not currently in the middle of developing several new features that could impact marketers and businesses across the globe.
The platform is currently actively developing and testing several, in fact, that are well worth examining and keeping our eyes on.
In this version of our Instagram Updates post, therefore, we’re going to take a look at everything that’s potentially up-and-coming on Instagram so that you can start to prepare for The Next Big Thing right now.
Shopping Posts Are Being Tested as Ads
The biggest and most exciting update that we have news about this month is that Shopping Posts are currently being tested as ads.
That’s right: Soon, you’ll likely be able to turn those clickable, shoppable posts into ad campaigns to show users more products and hopefully drive purchases faster than ever before.
With over 130 million accounts currently having Shopping posts up and running on their account, this could be a major development, especially since the feature works so well as it stands now as an organic-only feature.
The user experience will be the same; users are going to be able to see an image, click to see product tags, view a landing page, and then click to the site to purchase.
The only real difference will be the “Sponsored” tag showing up at the top of the post and the likely massive increase in reach the ad system could deliver.
Right now, the ads testing is in early stages, so it’s likely we won’t see a wide release for a little while, but this is still exciting nonetheless.
A Tik-Tok Copy-Cat Feature May Be In Development
Instagram did it with Snapchat’s Stories, and now they’re at it again, up to their good ole’ copy-cat tricks. This time, though, Tik-Tok is the target.
If you’re unfamiliar, Tik-Tok is the app that allows users (primarily teens and tweens) to create amateur music videos and share them with their audiences.
Blogger and reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong has uncovered evidence that Instagram is currently engineering a Tik-Tok feature called “Clips” that will allow users to record segments of video into a single Story, overlaying it with music while adjusting the speed and timer of the clips themselves.
Some businesses may be able to use this to their advantage, especially those with “fun” brands who could see themselves making fun music videos to entertain their followers.
We’ll let you know more about this feature as it rolls out.
New Messaging App Called “Threads” Is Being Developed
Instagram direct messaging has increased in usage overall over the past few years, and with the platform semi-regularly rolling out sister apps like IGTV or Layouts, it’s perhaps no surprise they’re developing a new standalone messaging app.
According to The Verge, this new app called “Threads” will focus on creating more regular conversations between smaller groups of people, with a big emphasis on sharing content.
Think like Snapchat (again, copy-cats), but with more functionality.
Some of the sharing options, however, may be more concerning to some users, actually sharing automatic updates about what you’re doing like being “on the move” and between locations. Many users are deeply concerned over privacy issues right now, and automatic location sharing even with groups of friends you choose feels like a bit much.
It will be interesting to see what exactly happens with this app, because so far what we know about it seems to be working against Instagram’s favor instead of for it.
We’ll also need to see exactly how it fits into Instagram’s framework and usage, especially since Direct messaging is going to be folded into the three-platform integration of Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp that’s likely rolling out later this year or early next year.
Instagram Officially Debunks a Hoax About Photo Re-Use Rule Change
There’s recently apparently been a viral hoax going around “informing” people that Instagram is going to suddenly make everything you’ve ever posted public.
This goes for accounts set on private and even private messages, too.
And then, to cap it all off, they’d go so far as to use your pictures for their own gain, too! That’s shameless! Or is it?
It goes without saying that this isn’t happening, but since we’ve had a few clients reach out, we wanted to address this here since the hoax is making its rounds again.
Instagram can’t suddenly make everything public; it would actually not be legal as the platform’s terms of service stand now, and it would have required a major change in rules that you would have needed to explicitly agreed to. It would also clearly make major headlines.
Something else worth pointing out: When you’re publishing content online, including images on your Instagram that you’ve taken or created, you’re protected (at least legally) by copyright law.
Thanks to the DMCA act, all content published online (including images, videos, and copy) is protected by copyright law. Legally, someone can’t take their pictures and claim them as their own, including Instagram. (Practically, unfortunately, people do this all the time, but that’s another matter for another day.)
While there is some disappointment that we don’t have anything shiny and new to play with right now, that’s ok.
Instagram has spent a lot of time this year making some big changes to the platform, and with news from last month about how they’re testing removing public likes in more countries, they’re still considering how to continue reshaping their app.
The shopping posts as ads is easily the biggest development we know about right now, and it’s one that we hope to see soon, though it will be interesting to see how the potential messaging app is used and how it fits into the Messenger-Instagram Direct-WhatsApp integration currently in the works.
Right now, there’s some waiting and seeing that needs to be done, and we’re on it.
Check back next month and we’ll let you know what we’ve learned and we’ll share what else is new on the platform!
What do you think? How do you feel about the in-testing developments? Which are you most excited to get your hands on? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below: We can’t wait to read them!
Top Instagram Updates in August 2019
We’ve only got one big update (though it’s a good one) in August, and multiple news stories that absolutely impact how marketers need to approach the platform moving forward.
Interested to see what this month had in store for all of us? Let’s get started.
Instagram and IGTV Get Desktop Publishing Access
Instagram and IGTV have historically required mobile-heavy usage. Scheduling content and even creating content all from desktop wasn’t possible unless you were using third-party apps like Hootsuite, and even then some level of mobile involvement was necessary for publication until only recently.
Now, however, all of this has changed. Instagram and IGTV are now supported in Facebook’s Creator Studio. After you link your Instagram account to your Facebook Page, you’ll be able to create, upload, and schedule content on your desktop for publication on Instagram and IGTV. You can pull images and videos from your existing library or upload new ones.
In addition to publication access, Instagram direct messages will now be supported through the Creator Studio, allowing businesses to manage incoming and outgoing direct messages on desktop natively.
With many busy brands and marketers heavily preferring to work through desktop instead of using the slightly-more-time-consuming mobile, this is a huge advantage, especially if the businesses didn’t want to utilize third party apps for whatever reason. Most third-party tools don’t even have access for IGTV publishing, giving the Creator Studio a unique edge here.
Instagram Gets a Minor Rebranding
We’ve all known that Facebook owns Instagram and the messaging app WhatsApp for a while (read: since both companies were first acquired by the social media juggernaut), but now it seems like Facebook really wants to make it obvious for anyone who didn’t get the memo. This has resulted in a minor rebranding, with Instagram now being terms “Instagram From Facebook” on the homepage, even though it’s showing up in fine print.
Facebook has confirmed that they’re making the change to be clear about the services and apps that are part of the Facebook family.
This is a minor change, but it’s still noteworthy. This is likely happening for two reasons: 1) All the transparency issues surrounding Facebook and 2) The upcoming integration of the messaging platforms.
We’ve known for a little while now that Facebook is restructuring each platforms’ chat features so that soonish (likely by early next year), all three chat platforms will be integrated. Users will be able to read and respond to messages from friends seamlessly across Messenger, Instagram Direct, and WhatsApp. This will make direct communication easier for brands who are trying to manage multiple channels, but it will be interesting to see how users respond.
Instagram Purges Memes Then Sets Up Partnership
Instagram recently went and purged an enormous number of meme accounts on their platform, resulting in a large number of accounts with huge followings to be suspended or banned entirely. Some of the accounts had hundreds of thousands or millions of followers, and the account owners lost income that came from selling promotional spots in their post.
After the public outcry from both account owners and the users who followed them, Instagram is trying to set up a partnerships manager to focus exclusively on managing meme accounts and dealing with digital publishers. This individual would ideally identify new formats while connecting with and serving “memers” already on the platform.
Instagram originally announced that the purge happened because the accounts violated terms of service, which likely has more to do with the fact that many are essentially stealing content instead of creating their own.
The lesson we’re learning here: Instagram is open to working with what their user-base wants, but a sheer number of followers won’t protect you. Make sure you’re abiding by Instagram’s terms of service.
Instagram Claims Growth Hackers Are Behind Fake Stories Views
Recently, users and brands have noticed a surge of strangers watching their Stories in the past few months. Many brands were getting excited that their activity was picking up, but noticed that many of the accounts seemed to be fake and/or from Russia.
Instagram has released a statement saying that growth hackers are currently behind the surge of Stories Views, and confirms that the views are from fake accounts. A tell-tale sign is that the accounts don’t follow you and don’t have much activity on them. Growth hackers are trying to pay third parties to like, comment, and share their content. This is nothing new, but the Stories views on unsuspecting accounts is a little different.
Instagram has also confirmed that they’re working on cracking down on the fake views and the growth hackers causing them. They’ve also expressed that in the coming months, we’ll get new features that can help reduce the activity, but we don’t know anymore about this just yet. In the meantime, the only solution is to change your account to private, which is the last thing most businesses should be doing. You can block accounts if any become problematic, but otherwise just be wary of surges in Story viewing.
Instagram’s Ad Partner Tracked Users’ Locations and Stories
Alright, this is a big one, especially when we’ve been hunkered down in a battle over privacy concerns.
A trusted marketing partner of Facebook and Instagram called Hyp3r has been secretly collecting and storing data on millions of users against the policies of both social networks, including their locations and their Stories content. This has been happening over the period of multiple years, with the partner secretly and intentionally collecting the data to create detailed personal profiles.
Instagram has since issued a cease and desist against the company and kicked them off the platform. That being said, it’s hard to understand exactly why it took so long for Instagram to catch on. This was a Facebook marketing partner, and the company was pretty clear about the fact that they were fleshing out detailed personal profiles. Instagram has acknowledged the issues and said that they’ve made changes to the platform to prevent this from happening again, but they haven’t specified exactly what those are.
Hyp3r did only scrape public information, but that’s still not ok, especially right now with so many transparency concerns. We may see an increased crackdown, particularly on the API in the coming months. We’ll keep an eye on how this will affect marketers, businesses, and advertisers.
There’s a lot of Instagram news that we’ve been hit with in the past month.
While the Creator Studio addition was certainly incredibly exciting and dead useful, it’s important to pay attention to all the news surrounding the platform in the past month, too.
Increasingly visible integrations with Facebook and a focus on security issues is now impacting Instagram more than before, so it will be key to watch this moving forward.
It could result in changes on the platform, impact metrics, or even shift consumer behavior.
We’ll keep an eye on it and let you know what’s happening as it all unfolds, so make sure to check back here next month!
What do you think? How do you feel about the news that came with this month’s Instagram updates? What surprises you most? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
Top Instagram Updates in July 2019
Instagram is consistently keeping up with the fast pace they’ve set for their platform’s own evolution, constantly rolling out new features that are small and large alike.
Keep reading if you want to know more about the launch of ad placements in the Explore section, the Like Removal testing, the updated Ban Policies, and much more!
New Chat Stickers Roll Out
Over the past year, we’ve gotten almost one new Story feature per month with only a few exceptions, and this month we got the Chat Sticker!
Here’s how they work: Users add the “Chat” sticker to their Story, which essentially invites followers to request to join a new group chat in Direct based on that Story. When users click, they can request to join said group, and the account holder can approve these requests as they see fit.
Right now, Instagram is positioning this as a way to start a massive group chat if a large number of people wanted to make plans or talk about something in common. This sticker can be a little tricky though; accounts with large audiences may end up swamped with requests, and chats that are too busy for anyone to really interact can lose a little value.
For marketers, a good option here may be to show a story to a small, segmented audience. This could be members of an exclusive group associated with your brand, high-value customers, or those who participate in specific programs or services. The group would then have something in common, whether you’re offering them access to beta-test something, an exclusive sale, or even just for their opinion.
Overall, this won’t be a sticker than marketers and brands will rely heavily on, but it’s a cool feature that could have interesting uses, especially for smaller brands nurturing tight-knit communities.
Ad Placements Open in Explore Section
Instagram has announced the addition ad placements in the Explore section of the app.
When users are scrolling through the Explore section of their app, they can click on a post and then scroll through a feed of similar posts compiled by Instagram that the algorithm thinks the specific user would like to see. Users typically peruse this section to discover new brands and accounts to follow. Now, when someone is scrolling through the feed generated by Instagram, they can see ads here just like in their normal feed.
More ad placements on Instagram is great news. More placements mean that ad costs may be stabilized a bit, because more supply can counteract the increasing demand (thanks, economics 101!). It definitely means that there’s a chance for more impressions overall, which is a plus, and it will be interesting to see how well this new ad placement performs.
The new adds will be “slowly” rolling out over the next few months, but IGTV’s explore ads are already up and running now.
Stories Camera is Storing Content Longer
The Instagram Stories camera has historically held true to the nature of Stories themselves, and would only store a picture or video taken with its camera for a mere 24 hours– even if you didn’t post it. Brands who used the native in-app Stories camera had to clammer to use the content on time or risk losing it. The latter happened to me more than once, especially when you’ve got to get the timing exactly right.
Instagram will soon be rolling out a small adjustment that will allow Stories cameras to save content for 7 full days. This is essentially just a tiny tweak, but it’s a big deal for brands and advertisers using those native cameras to shoot Story content. Now, you can create more content in advance, making the social management and creation process a tiny bit easier.
Instagram is Still Testing Like Removal
In May, we reported that Instagram seemed to be testing a version of the app that removed the public like counter on users’ posts. The owner of the post could still see how many likes the post accrued and who left them, but they would be invisible to everyone else; all that an accounts’ followers would see would be any comments that were left.
Instagram didn’t say much originally, but this month they confirmed the test and announced that it was being rolled out to 6 more regions. Both likes and video views will be hidden in these tests, which have expanded to some users in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand.
Instagram likes and video views will still be part of the platform, and both metrics will still be used to assess quality and relevance. Posts with more video views and likes, therefore, will still be gaining priority in the algorithms. The social proof that is currently available as a result of public video views and like counters, however, will disappear completely.
Right now, if you see a post with thousands of video views or likes, it can catch your interest just a little more. Soon, if the tests go well and Instagram releases this on a wide scale, the only social proof you’ll have to go on is comments. This is a big deal, because users are much more likely to hit that little heart button than they are to comment, so social proof can take a big nosedive. Comments will be more important than ever before for this purpose, so try to start coming up with strategies and ideas for how to generate discussion in your posts (including responding to every comment possible!).
These tests are just that– tests– but the fact that they’re rolling out on to more regions is something to take note of. We’ll let you know when we know more.
Updated Ban Policies and Pre-Ban Warnings
Instagram has made some changes to their account disable policies that are designed to improve the user experience and better warn individual accounts when they’re getting a little too close to landing themselves in hot water.
Instagram currently disables accounts that have a certain percentage of content that violates their community guidelines. Unfortunately, this is easy for troublesome accounts to get around, especially if they’re producing massive amounts of content. Moving forward, there will also be a policy in place that allows Instagram to shutdown accounts that have a set number of violations within specific windows of time. There’s no getting around that one, and allows them to hold accounts to higher standards than before.
In order to let brands know that they’re toeing the line, Instagram has introduced a new pre-ban warning, sending these accounts notifications if they’re at risk for being shut down. The warnings (pictured above) explain what the community violation is, what recent violations have been made, and what the guidelines you should be following include. These notifications are clear and to the point, and will make it easier for accounts to understand where they’re going wrong and how to fix it (if they want to).
This is in line with a lot of changes that both Instagram and Facebook have made over the last few months, increasing transparency and trying to create a safer and more supportive space for all users. I think we can expect more updates like this to appear down the line, making it easier for Instagram to remove the offending content and their associated accounts as needed.
This month we didn’t get any major upheavals in terms of new changes on the platform, but that’s okay– we’ve had a lot of those recently.
The biggest news is the official opening up of ad placements in the Explore section, if only to add more opportunities to reach new users and hopefully stabilize the ad marketplace just a tiny bit more.
The other features, though, are still welcome, whether they’re adding new functionality (chat stickers), making it easier for marketers to do our job (camera storage), or improving the user experience overall by making the platform a better place to be (warnings).
Slow and steady wins the race, after all, and with so many changes made to continually tweak and evolve the platform, I think we can count on it being a top performer for marketers for a long time to come.
What do you think? Which update are you most excited about? What do you hope Instagram rolls out next? How do you feel about the potential like counter removal option? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
Top Instagram Updates in June 2019
This month, we have one update that comes directly as a result of a change happening on Facebook, and two that offer entirely new features that Facebook hasn’t really seen.
And we’re going to go over all of them right now, discussing what these new changes mean for marketers and businesses everywhere and how you can be ready for them.
Clear History Tool: Rumors Confirmed
Instagram Ads belongs to the Facebook Ad empire, so we need to take a look at a big Facebook update that’s about to change the ad game.
We’ve known about Facebook’s pending “clear history” tool for more than a year now, which is a long-awaited feature that will allow users to wipe away all of the information that Facebook has stored regarding their personal activity. In terms of all the transparency and privacy concerns, this is good news for users, but it’s not necessarily such great news for advertisers.
Facebook just recently confirmed our suspicions that the clear history tool could have a big impact on how effectively advertisers are able to reach audiences with certain types of targeting criteria.
This will likely include retargeting capabilities for users who are disconnecting their off-Facebook activity, meaning that advertisers won’t be able to reach those users with custom audiences built from website visits or app activity.
While Facebook’s analytic system won’t be impacted because it’s currently anonymous (which we’re grateful for), the retargeting potential is a big hit.
If users start wiping on-app activity, that could significantly impact behavior and interest targeting, too, but losing triggered retargeting campaigns might hurt most of all.
A large number of advertisers have justifiably made these campaigns a central part of their overall ad portfolio because the ability to show ads to interested users right when they’re most relevant is undeniably effective.
We don’t know exactly when Facebook’s clear history tool is coming, but we do know for sure that it’s coming and it will likely be later this year. “Later this year,” however, is getting closer by the day, so we need to start preparing our Facebook and Instagram Ads (which is why this is in our Instagram update) and the strategies we’re using now.
Take advantage of the retargeting through Instagram Ads as long as we have access to it, but be prepared to use other targeting strategies as necessary.
Consider more funnels with video ads, retargeting based on viewing activity, and adding in more lead ads to the mix so that you can retarget to warm leads who have filled out (or even opened) the form. Having lists of specific users to target will also be helpful.
Horizontal Video Comes to IGTV
Alright, onto the truly original Instagram updates: horizontal video is now available on IGTV!
Previously, IGTV has only supported full-screen vertical video, which takes up a users’ entire mobile device. Now, horizontal video can be used on the long-form video platform that’s integrated with Instagram.
Traditional landscape videos– which often have aspect ratios of 16:9– of up to 60 minutes long can be uploaded to IGTV.
Users can watch the video in landscape mode, but they also have the option to turn their screen sideways, displaying the video in full-screen mode once again. This landscape-to-full-screen change can happen whenever users turn their phone sideways both in IGTV and in Instagram’s main app.
This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s a great feature to have.
Plenty of video works better in landscape mode as opposed to vertical viewing. Imagine, for example, an interview where you’re trying to fit more than a single person on the screen, or a real estate agent showing off a house.
Wide-screen views can give viewers a much bigger view and appreciation of the environment around you, while vertical is typically best for close-up shots in the majority of cases.
IGTV hasn’t quite picked up steam like Instagram likely hoped, but the continual integrations between the two apps is definitely helping with that. IGTV content is now showing up more prominently in Instagram’s Explore section, so consider testing out different IGTV video formats and see what helps draw in users both in the IGTV app and within Instagram’s discovery tools.
Branded Content Ads Roll Out
Influencers– or, as Instagram is calling them in their announcement post, “creators”– have played a big role in marketing on the platform for a while now.
Instagram is now taking that one step further with their release of branded content ads, which allow businesses to run ad campaigns from partnered creators to help them reach new audiences in new ways.
Here’s the gist of how it works.
Business profiles on Instagram can establish partnerships with specific creators, which can be done under Instagram’s “Advanced Settings.” Brand creators can then enable their business partners to promote their organic posts as part of an ad campaign.
Once they do this, the brand will see the posts in the Ads Manager under the “Existing Post” option, and can then promote it like they would as if it was their own.
The ad campaign will be shown from the creator’s account, but a “paid partnership with (brand name here” will be attached underneath the image below the social proof. This will help capture the attention of users who are already familiar with certain influencers, and may be more effective than if the brand’s name was the one featured at the top of the ad, even though the brand is the one paying.
This is a great system, because it allows brands to be the ones promoting ad campaigns from creators, so they get to control and manage the ad spend, targeting, and other crucial details that impact campaign success.
They’ll also get to see what content from which influencers are helping their businesses most with careful split testing, helping them make better financial investments with creators on the platform moving forward.
In some ways, it feels like Facebook has been caught in scandal after scandal, starting with transparency issues and extending all the way to inflated video view counts (up to a whopping 900%).
Though Instagram has been impacted in some ways by the changes Facebook has been forced to make, they’ve also continued to grow in their own direction, too. The branded content ads are a great example of this, giving us something new, and the horizontal capabilities for IGTV may mean that even more great things are heading that way, too.
Right now, we’re bracing ourselves for more changes, too, which could significantly shift how we’re using Instagram to market.
We discussed last month that Instagram was spotted testing an app format that hides like and view counts, which could shift the social proof of organic marketing, and we know that Facebook’s clear history tool could have an enormous impact on Instagram Ads’ retargeting ability.
Make sure you check back in for next month’s Instagram update to see if we have more info on these changes yet, along with all the other new features that we’ll get our hands on soon.
What do you think? Which of these updates do you think will have the most significant impact on you? How do you think these changes will affect how you advertise on the platform? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
Top Instagram Updates in May 2019
This month’s updates come with several new features for Shopping on Instagram and Stories, giving them even more functionality that businesses can better use to connect with and market to their target audience.
That’s not all, though– we’ve also got news about indications of a beta test that could eliminate the display of vanity metrics, which could send social proof spiraling out of control in a not-great way for brands.
All of these updates– in testing and otherwise– can affect your marketing campaigns, so we’ll discuss each one and what it means for you.
Are you ready to see what’s new on Instagram this month?
Creators Will Be Able to Tag Products
Instagram is currently beta-testing an in-app checkout, and the brands participating in these test also have access to another great feature that’s currently being evaluated: product tagging from “Creators.”
This will essentially give “influencers” the ability to tag the products that they’re wearing or using on Instagram, just like brands can currently tag their own with Shoppable Posts. This will send users to the tagged product’s in-app product page, and users will be able to checkout directly within the app.
Influencers carry a lot of weight on Instagram, whether they’re micro-influencers or big-name celebrities, and thus can drive massive sales for brands. The ability to hire an influencer for a sponsored post who will then not only tag your brand and hope that users connect the dots themselves but actually tag the product for a near-instant checkout (if the customers want that) is a massive opportunity.
Right now, this is in the early stages of public testing, but this could be a big game changer for brands working with influencers to drive sales and get on the map. We’ll keep you updated as this gets closer to a wider release.
Quiz Stickers for Stories Released
Quiz stickers are the latest addition to the Stories feature, which allow brands and businesses to ask their followers multiple choice questions and provide answers. Users can choose an answer and see if they’re right or wrong, and the brands can see the responses in real time.
All of the examples Instagram featured, of course, showed questions like “What’s My Biggest Fear” or “What’s My Favorite Flavor of Ice Cream.” You can use these features, however, to generate interest and awareness in your products and drive engagement from your customers.
A health-oriented brand, for example, might pose questions like “Which fruit has the most potassium” or “what should you eat after a workout to avoid cramps?” These quizzes can be used to share information with your audience and offer value, making them more likely to engage, care, and remember the experience afterwards.
Since these appear in Stories, follow the story featuring the quiz sticker with one explaining the answer for maximum impact. Explain why those bananas are so great at relieving muscle cramps and how they’re good for the heart. This will keep that content relevant and memorable.
Donation Stickers for Stories Rolling Out
It’s a double sticker month for Stories! This month, Instagram users in the US are now able to raise money for nonprofits with donation stickers. Users can add these stickers to their profile and find accredited, verified nonprofits to tag and raise money for. People who are interested can click on the stickers to donate to said charity in a few simple steps.
Brands can use this feature to draw attention to charities they’re supporting and even host entirely digital fundraisers. This obviously does good for the community, but it also can semi-selfishly help with brand-building purposes, too; people love brands who do good and who care.
For nonprofits who can be tagged through the platform, this is also outstanding, as it could help them gain more donations and more visibility as users and brands alike take up their cause.
Note that it’s only possible to add donation stickers to registered nonprofits, so influencers can’t leverage this to try to manipulate users or funnel money their way.
In Beta Testing: Instagram May Hide Vanity Metrics
Our favorite coder Jane Manchun Wong recently found evidence that Instagram is testing a version of the app that hides “vanity metrics” (aka likes) on posts from everyone except the person who shared it.
If this update rolls out, it could potentially be a game-changer for brands trying to leverage social proof– and not in a good way. Right now, users are most likely to pay attention to content that, all else being equal, has strong social proof. It’s got strong psychological ties; not only do we see a post with 600 likes and see it as a potential indication of trustworthiness or high quality, but it’s also easy to get a little #FOMO and think “well I want to know what that’s about, too.”
It’s also possible that likes disappearing could sometimes discourage other users from liking the content, too, because social proof can have a chain reaction effect.
We’ll have to see if this ever rolls out or comes to fruition. If so, it’s definitely not the Instagram; comments are still excellent social proof, after all, and Instagram is still an incredibly high-engaging platform; we just hope that most of those likes will stay visible anyways.
This month brought some great features our way, and as someone who works in social media strategy, I’m excited about a lot of them. New Stories features are always welcome; the new quiz sticker may be one of the more immersive options we’ve gotten so far, and the donations sticker will be huge for nonprofits. I’m most excited about the new product tagging for influencers, especially considering influencers’ power on the platform and seeing how it can drive even more meaningful results for brands than their content already is.
As always, stay tuned– we’ll let you know about all the upcoming changes as they’re rolling out!
What do you think? How do you feel about the latest and greatest in Instagram news? How will these new updates impact your marketing strategy? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
Top Instagram Updates in April 2019
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!