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In 2012, Mark Zuckerberg paid $1billion for Instagram, an app that had 30 million users and only 13 employees. Fast-forward four years and Instagram has over 500 million users, and that growth shows no sign of slowing down.
Social media users are often resistant to change, but updates are necessary from the networks’ point of view. As new startups enter the landscape, the old guard need to stay fresh by expanding their features.
This can really be seen with Instagram, which has evolved from a simple filter and photo app to one that includes videos, disappearing content, direct messaging, Buy Now buttons, and more.
The dominant Instagram trends see the platform adding and expanding features that both individuals and brands will enjoy. Instagram seems intent on increasing the scope of what the app can be used for.
In August, Instagram launched Stories, which was in no way similar to Snapchat Stories. Except that photos and videos will vanish after 24 hours. And you can use a range of filters or add text and drawings to your content. And the name. The name is pretty similar.
The idea behind the update seems to be that Instagram users tend to post their very best photos, but not their everyday snaps. As Instagram said in the announcement, “With Instagram Stories, you don’t have to worry about overposting. Instead, you can share as much as you want throughout the day — with as much creativity as you want.”
The product launch came out of an Instagram trend directed by users: the rise of ‘finstagram’. The term stands for fake Instagram, where people create a secondary account to share content that they wouldn’t want on their main account. Primary accounts have to play by the unwritten rules of Instagram like you must post a filtered photo of smashed avocados at least once a week.
So Stories aims to change the way people use Instagram, which is a pretty bold move. Stories allows you to tag people in updates, add a link to your content (useful for brands directing people to their site), and it even supports Boomerang.
I wouldn’t be surprised if it launched as a separate dedicated app once it is established, like Boomerang, Hyperlapse, and Layout. It allows users to not become confused by a bloated app.
Last year Instagram updated Direct, the messaging side of the photo-sharing app. Since then, user numbers have grown from 80 million to 300 million. With numbers like that, it’s no wonder Instagram will continue to improve this part of the service to encourage people to use the app more.
Instagram has just introduced a few new features that will be familiar to users of Snapchat, and to users of Instagram Stories. Users can now send disappearing content to individual followers and friends. The content is removed from a user’s inbox once it has been viewed. Senders will be able to see whether the recipient has taken a screenshot of a video.
In a recent update, Instagram trialed shoppable product tags with 20 fashion brands, allowing the tagging of certain items in a photo. This presents a much more seamless shopping experience for the user. Rather than having to find a link in the bio, users will be able to click a tag for a detailed view of the product. The shopper can then continue researching the product without leaving the app. If the user wants to continue with the purchase, a Shop Now button will take them to the product landing page on the businesses website.
This update makes a lot of sense.
Social selling hasn’t quite taken off yet, but it could make money for the networks so there have been various attempts to make it work. Instagram, along with Pinterest, is a very visual network and shopping would seem to fit the platform well. I expect to see shopping options extended if this initial offering takes hold.
It has long been a frustration for businesses that Instagram offered little in the way of analytics, but a recent update has changed that.
Instagram Business Tools allows accounts to be verified as a business account for the first time. This new feature allows you to add contact methods, directions to your business and unlocks access to promoted posts and analytics.
Insights on Instagram allows businesses to uncover details about their followers, such as behavior and demographics. The analytics allows you to tell which posts have performed best so you can optimize your posts. Until this recent update, brands had to use third-party Instagram analytics tools.
Finally, this update allows you to turn well-performing posts into ads from within the Instagram app, helping brands to reach more people. This may be linked to the algorithm based feed that was introduced earlier in the year: if Instagram follows parent company facebook, the algorithm will gradually reduce organic reach, meaning brands have no choice but to pay for promoted posts.
One of the recent Instagram trends has seen video play a bigger role in the app.
Were 15 second videos too short to tell your story? Instagram has expanded the video options available, with 60-second videos now allowed. This increases the options brands have to try and engage users.
The biggest upcoming change, however, is in live video. Like Periscope, Youtube, and Facebook before it, Instagram has confirmed it’s testing live video.
There’s no word yet on when the feature will be rolled out fully, but you can expect the feature to be available once the initial tests are completed. Once live is available to regular users, brands and influencers will inevitably start experiment with how they can best use this new feature.
Instagram has various options for brands wanting to advertise on the platform, but I expect these options to gradually increase as the year progresses.
Mark Zuckerberg has said in the past that until a product reaches one billion users it isn’t a “meaningful businesses”, and that “we’re not going to try to monetize” until then. The sentiment seems to be that overly aggressive advertising makes the service less attractive to users and restricts growth.
Once you’ve hit 1 billion users a critical mass has been reached that makes it too inconvenient to migrate to a competitor. At this point, we should begin to see more ads and advertising options available to brands.
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