Social media is constantly changing and platforms are introducing new features and updates faster than ever. As a result, it can be difficult for freelancers, small business owners and everyone else with limited time resources (we all only have 24 hours in a day) to keep up.
Just starting with Instagram? Check out my 2-part Guide to Instagram.
Aside from major changes on Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is another platform that has evolved a lot since it launched. In 2017 and early 2018 especially, Instagram announced many new features and new rules for users.
Let’s have a look at the most important Instagram updates and what they mean for your business:
Probably the biggest deal was allowing 3rd party apps to schedule posts. We’ve been waiting for this functionality for years (together with the edit button on Twitter) and Instagram finally decided to allow 3rd party apps like HootSuite, SproutSocial and Buffer to add direct scheduling to Instagram (no push notification and then manually publish needed).
What does it mean for your business? Well, now you can spend less time thinking about the right time to post on Instagram and being disturbed by notifications, and more time actually engaging on the platform (with peace of mind knowing that your posts will go out automatically).
Read more about the scheduling update here.
Hashtags and profile links now available in your bio
As of March 2018, you can now add hashtags and profile links to your Instagram bio section. Instagram says it’s a “new way to express yourself and the things you care about”.
The best part is that these hashtags and profile links actually appear as clickable links, linking to a hashtag page or other Instagram profile accordingly.
If you choose to link to another Instagram profile (maybe that of your business partner), they will receive a notification to confirm the link.
The hashtags are particularly useful as you can use them to showcase your skills, hobbies and interests.
New timeline algorithm
Another big deal is the latest announcement and changes to the Instagram algorithm. The purpose of this update is “to make sure that newer posts will be more likely to appear first in your feed” and “showing more relevant new pictures, while still striking a balance with the algorithmic feed to make sure you don’t miss important posts that you care about (like a friend posting in a different time zone, for example)”.
Personally, I’m looking forward to my ‘fresher’ Instagram feed, as recently I’ve got really sick and tired of seeing posts that are weeks old and no longer relevant (e.g. Valentine’s day updates or Mother’s day offers a week after the events).
Here’s more info about changes to your Instagram feed.
Instagram Stories are almost as a platform on its own
Instagram Stories Type Mode
If you already use Instagram Stories, chances are you’ve come across “Type Mode”. It’s innovative for Instagram as it allows users to post text-centric graphics without including an image or video. The creative text styles and backgrounds allow you to turn your random thoughts into something that really stands out.
You can also apply the cool text effects to your own images and, as with everything shared to Stories, Text Mode creations disappear after 24 hours.
Learn how to use the Type Mode in Instagram Stories here.
Did you know that you can also now tag people in the photos and images you post on Instagram? This simple addition is one that many people will welcome, especially when posting pictures of friends and family members.
You can also tag people in photos you’ve previously uploaded. Simply look for the ‘Tag People’ option whenever you upload an image and select people accordingly.
Advertising has been available on Instagram Stories for over a year now, but it’s only recently that users have been able to take advantage of Carousel Ads. It means that ads displayed in Stories can now include up to three pictures or videos.
This functionality has been available on Instagram for some time now, so it makes sense for it to be expanded to the Stories platform too.
Older but still underused features:
Up until December last year, Instagram users were able to interact with hashtags by either clicking on them in posts or manually searching for them in the Explore section of the app. However, new functionality has since been added that allows Instagram users to follow certain hashtags in their main feed in the same way they do other Instagram accounts. It’s a fantastic way to stay updated on all the hashtags that matter to you without having to perform manual searches.
Support for all picture formats (not only portrait)
Instagram now lets you post photo albums with landscape and portrait pictures. This means that all your beautiful landscape pictures can be viewed in all their glory and not cropped down to a simple square (like they used to be).
What we might see in the future:
Reshare/Regram for sharing other people’s stories
Instagram has never allowed the sharing of other people’s posts, but it seems that limitation could be lifted in the future. That’s because the company has apparently been testing a sharing feature for its Stories platform. Basically, it will allow people to share other people’s posts in their own story.
For privacy, Instagram users can choose whether their posts can be shared or not. Such a feature would be a great addition to the platform, right?
Focus – New portrait mode for stories
Apple’s portrait mode has been a fan favourite for some time, so it’s no surprise that Instagram has also added a very similar feature.
The app’s Focus Mode enables users to blur the background on both photos and videos to make whatever is in the foreground (usually a person) stand out.
This functionality is still being rolled out across the board, so don’t be surprised if you don’t see the option on your Instagram camera screen immediately.
Which one of these updates and new features are you excited about? Are there any other features that you’d welcome on Instagram? Let me know in comments or find me at @lenkakopp and DM me.