It’s been a year of huge changes for Instagram. Let’s recap.
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, 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’s a brewing at the crown jewel’s HQ. Instagram’s been undergoing a serious transformation since last summer. Don’t feel bad if you’re having a hard time getting a grasp of all the new functionality, let alone keeping up with the updates being pumped out. 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, we thought we’d go back to the exact instant that triggered the domino effect of ongoing updates (improvements?) at everyone’s favorite social media company.
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 godirectly 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 andSnapchat 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
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 (somewhereChristian 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 releasingbusiness 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.
The Complete Guide to All of Instagram's Updates In the Last Year
We've come a long way from Kevin's foot, friends. The almighty app that's essentially changed the way we consume images…
- 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?