It’s been an ongoing evolution for Instagram update releases and new features. Let’s recap.
[This post has been updated to reflect all of Instagram’s new releases to this day.]
The almighty app that’s essentially changed the way we consume images and, let’s face it, the way we live our lives, is more ubiquitous than ever. Instagram introduced new vocabulary and now dictates how we dress, how we eat, where we take a holiday. It determines our self-worth, altered how we shop, birthed new brands, breaded a new era of celebrity. It’s given us so much, like a goldmine of hashtags and the era of influencer marketing, for which we are eternally grateful. Wait, is Instagram real life?
It was a classic sink or swim scenario: marketers had to adapt quickly to the ever-evolving landscape, or fail miserably at remaining relevant. Inevitably, there’s been a few cases of drowning, but for the most part, brands have welcomed this new medium with enthusiasm because it meant getting closer than ever to their consumer. Instagram became a social media darling in no time, surpassing Twitter in just a few short years.
But something has been brewing at the crown jewel’s HQ. Instagram’s been undergoing a serious transformation since the summer of ’69 2015. From Instagram Stories to promoted posts, you certainly should not feel bad if you’re having a hard time grasping of all the latest features. Keeping up with the updates being pumped out is almost a full-time job (ours). At this frequency rate, even the most social savvy of marketers are still wrapping their heads around all the changes.
In an effort to keep on top of everything, here is a full list of the Instagram updates from the time they opened up their API. The first part is from September 2016 to January 2017, and the second recounts the rest.
All of the Insta knowledge, right here.
- Save draft feature. Where we last left off (scroll to the very bottom of this page), we had been hearing rumblings of Instagram testing a functionality that would let users save a draft once a photo had been edited. Well, it is officially released to the general public in September.
- Comment moderation. This was announced back in August, but it becomes live and available to all users in September. Safety first, kids.
- Shoppable posts. Whoa whoa whoa. Is this what businesses had been waiting for or what?! This news is welcomed with a huge gasp of excitement by brands the world over. Marketers are going to need to remember to tread carefully and not forget about the platform’s sensibilities and user habits once the functionality goes live. It has yet to be officially released, but brands are currently testing within the US. This is going to be a hot one to watch.
- Instagram Stories updates. It’s only normal that Instagram would continue to develop their Stories function to make it as good as possible. There was a batch of updates released in November, which included:
- Boomerang. Yep, Instagram’s cult favorite not-a-gif-not-a-video format was integrated into Stories. Why would they let the permanent galleries have all the fun?!
- @ Mentions. People can now tag other users directly into their Stories.
- Swipe up for more. This one only applies to verified accounts, but this functionality essentially enables users to attach external links to their clips to redirect their audience members. This is big time for businesses.
- Vertical ad format. Instagram hit a big milestone in September: the app hit 500K advertisers. It’s only natural that they would want to cater to that community, which is exactly what releasing vertical ads does. The portrait format certainly optimizes Instagram sponsored posts. This way to learn more on how to advertise on Instagram.
- Instagram Live. This one had a lot of folks like, what the whaaa?! Yes, Instagram is trying to be everything, but it’s super fun and totally working. Instagram Live is a function that derives from Stories, and that essentially enables a live stream that your followers can tune into. If they miss it, there’s no replay. FOMO alert!!!
- DM Instagram Stories. This was a no-brainer to implement: for all those Stories snippets that you want to send privately to certain individuals, or groups. Sharing in the moment has never been easier.
- Saved posts. How many times have you taken a screenshot of a post to save it for future reference, only to never think of it again and clog up your camera roll? We feel you, and so do the folks at Insta HQ, cause they made a save button for users to be able to anonymously house all of those posts they’re dying to revisit at a later time.
- More Instagram Stories updates. The Instagram sprites were hard at work before Christmas, eager to deliver the goods before D-day, no doubt. Here’s what they dropped:
- Stickers. This includes the ability to pepper your Stories with emojis and geotags. Fun x1000.
- Holiday things. This was short lived due to the timely nature of the update, but Instagram offered a special candy cane drawing brush and yuletide-centric stickers. Right on time to boost usage and engagement over the holiday period. Smart.
- Hands-free camera. This is definitely a first for any ephemeral video platform, cough, Snapchat, cough.
- More text options. Users are now able to write as much as they want, include as many text boxes as they want, and resize that text into any desired dimension.
- Save your entire story in one go. From the last 24 hours, of course.
- Business insights for Stories. Instagram has just announced that they are working on insights for Stories, in a similar capacity as what is already available to those with business profiles. These stats will include reach, impressions, replies and exits for each individual clip that gets published. This could be a game changer, especially in the Snapchat-Insta Story battle.
- Ads in Stories. This was bound to happen. Snapchat did it, and with Instagram continually enhancing their ads platform, the integration of ads between user Stories was imminent.
The Instagram machine is certainly not resting on its laurels in spite of now having surpassed 600 million users. They’re constantly updating and improving their functions to make for a better user experience, but also to support the companies that use the platform as a core part of their marketing strategies.
It’s going to be interesting to keep following the evolution, and to keep trying out all of these new features in creative, innovative ways.
For more Instagram knowledge, hit us up!
[Part 2 — published in August 2016]
The sequence of changes at Instagram can pretty much be pinpointed back to one specific moment in time. No, not being purchased by Facebook, silly. It took years for major fundamental things to happen after that acquisition. It was last summer’s unlocking of the API that opened the floodgates to phase 2.0.
Some users had been clamoring for this kind of change for a long time. And by that I mean all of those using their accounts for business, not mortal folks like you and I who enjoy cute puppies and memes. While brands were grateful for this free image vehicle and finally embracing Instagram as a legitimate marketing channel — heck, even made a priority by the most clever — one pretty major obstacle remained.
Instagram was not equipped to get the consumer (follower) from cruising through images to being able to actually interact with brand product outside the app. No active links, no direct way to purchase, no official entity collateral on profiles, not to mention nominal ad opportunities. But since last summer, the app’s been making huge strides in showing some love to brands that have embraced it as a part of their marketing arsenal. Whether or not that means Instagram is adopting their mothership Facebook’s pay-for-play model, it still translates to making user experience improvements on both the consumer and the company sides.
Quick Change Artist
The series of major updates that have been rolling out fairly steadily since last summer have all proved to be somewhat of a show of support to the companies that are investing in Instagram. While it took a minute for Insta to begin toying with the functionalities that benefit businesses — understandably so, people do NOT take to change very well — it appears as though they are hearing brands loud and clear and making huge efforts to bring them value — without compromising Joe and Jane’s user experience. In fact, it has actually enhanced it.
Now without further ado, let’s get to it! Here is the essential list of all the major Instagram changes that occurred in the past year.
- The app finally accounts for vertical and horizontal photos. Some people were really bummed out about the whole square only format, making this update a real crowd-pleaser.
- Following the August announcement, the Instagram API officially opens up for biz in September. From this point on, users were going to have to get used to seeing a lot more ads as they scrolled through their feeds, whether they liked it or not. Through the year, the platform has also made improvements on the advertising format, introducing ad overlay, video carousel ads and dynamic ads. For all your advertising needs, you can go directly to Instagram.
- The direct message funtionality gets a makeover. Things become way easier to share in private thanks to added functions and a more intuitive process.
In late October, Instagram launched a separate app called Boomerang, bringing diversity to everyone’s feeds and galleries. It grew quickly in popularity and has now become sort of ubiquitous. “It’s not a photo. It’s not a gif. It’s a Boomerang.” ‘Nuff said.
- On February 8th, Instagram finally gave people what they wanted: the ability to switch accounts from inside the app instead of having to log out and log in every time. Social media managers the world over rejoiced and breathed a collective sigh of relief. This one was a long time coming.
- Another big change came a few short days later on the 10th. With video on the rise and more brands incorporating the format into their content strategy, the sensible folks over at Instagram determined that counting views instead of likes was going to make for a more accurate performance barometer, so they released the video view count metric. Wise move, which was met with elation from users.
Nothing could have prepared humanity for this. Instagram revealed that the app was switching the chronological feed to an algorithmic feed so that users could see the content they cared about the most, cough Facebook cough. It wasn’t going to hit until a few months later, but giving fair warning was wise considering the apoplectic general response — the news was met with sheer horror, to put it mildly. Influencers panicked, while brands felt like they had been dealt a death sentence. (Breaking news: all accounts are still very much alive.)
Along with everyone else, we had lots to say about this.
- Here we go bringing up video again. Told you it was popular. So much so that Instagram decided to extend its video length to 60 seconds instead of 13. Big jump, we know. With Vine having fully bitten Insta’s dust and Snapchat being hailed as the second coming, the move was fully acceptable to make by any skeptic’s standards.
- April also marked the rumblings of the Explore page rehaul. Here’s what has happened there thus far:
- 4/14/16: Introduction of video channels
- 6/23/16: Introduction of topic and interest channels
- 8/27/16: Introduction of event channels
- 8/29/16: Introduction of Stories on Explore
Instagram changed its logo. A “new look” is what they called it (somewhere Christian Dior is rolling over in his grave). This update was met with, um, contention. Folks were not too keen on the new design, with some industry professionals taking it upon themselves to draw other suggestions. People seem to be over it now.
- The algorithm is fully live and users are finally experiencing it firsthand. It’s not exactly love, but people will have to adapt, as they do.
- Around the same time, Instagram announces that they will be releasing business tools and profiles for company accounts in the near future. This was a long time coming for many and alleviated the blow of the algorithm for some. Here’s what those tools mean for brands.
- Just one month ago, Instagram shocked the world in what was likely their biggest bombshell of a release yet, mostly because it was greatly unexpected: Stories came into this world and left literally no one indifferent, including us. Doubly shocking because Instagram Stories are so similar to Snapchat, an observation that even Mr. Systrom himself corroborated. Side note: who else is insanely curious to know what the secret project name was when they were working on it? But I digress.
- This occurrence piggybacks onto the end of July, but around this time, it was learned that Instagram was going to enable a comment moderation functionality for bigger accounts. That’s kind of a big deal, as it leaves companies and celebs with more power over the dialogue that’s created around their space.
- And finally, the latest news to hit the airwaves on the 31st is the release of the zoom function on posts, which made a lot of people say “finally!”. (Well, not everyone.)
I have a feeling this list is going to need updating really soon… We’re already hearing rumblings of a save draft feature and improvements for the Stories function have already been rolled out and should be perpetually ongoing.
As for me, I’d personally like the ability to edit a photo once it’s already been posted. Here’s hoping Kevin is reading this.
What do you guys think Instagram is missing and should be working on next?
Drop us a line if you’re in need of more Instagram knowledge, we have (almost) all of the answers.