If all the Instagram updates and trends from the past few months have you feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry; you’re not alone. As always, we’re here to help round up and recap the latest.
Like it or not, “likes” could disappear
In a dramatic shift in core functionality, Instagram has started to experiment with hiding the number of “likes” a post has received with the hopes of eliminating the feelings of competition and inadequacy many users experience while using the app. The initial test took place in Canada a few months ago, and the change is currently being tested in Ireland.
Naturally, this proposed update worries influencers, who communicate their value to sponsors partially based on the level of engagement – including likes – on their posts. An Instagram spokesperson acknowledged these concerns to TechCrunch in the following statement: “We understand that this is important for many creators, and while this test is in exploratory stages, we are thinking through ways for them to communicate value to their brand partners.”
Brands can take advantage of a new opportunity to sponsor content
According to Jim Squires, Instagram’s head of business, “shopping and Stories are top priorities for the foreseeable future” on the platform. Anecdotally, we at The Motherhood have seen a significant uptick in influencers’ use of Instagram Stories to communicate brand messaging, and recognizing that increasing popularity, brands are also requesting greater representation in influencers’ Stories.
On the ad side of things, in June 2019, Instagram announced that brands can now sponsor organic branded content posts to serve them up as in-feed ads. The new capability has been widely requested by brands interested in incorporating influencer content into their broader advertising strategies – a wise move, knowing that “68% of people say they come to Instagram to interact with creators,” according to Instagram.
In another advertising shift, users will now see ads on the Explore page, a previously ad-free area where Instagrammers go to find new content that aligns with their interests.
Move over, Amazon – Instagram explores shopping capabilities
In late May 2019, Instagram Stories users spotted new stickers, possibly included in a test run, to use for identifying a “Product” and offering viewers the opportunity to “Order” – although an Instagram spokesperson has denied testing the stickers as an in-app shopping feature.
However, Instagram’s recent addition of a “Checkout” feature allows users to buy items featured in posts without ever leaving the app. Pair this with the capability to shop influencer’s posts, and you have quite the platform for discovery shopping. Based on previous hints from the team at Instagram, we anticipate that more shopping features will crop up on the app in the near future.
Instagram users have a new way to chat
The platform has rolled out a new “Chat” sticker available for use in Instagram Stories, allowing users a new way to create a group chat instead of starting from the direct messages page. Users who see your Story can request to join your chat. From there, you can accept some or all of the requests and start a conversation.
The idea is to promote communities and small groups for more personal interactions. It could be a useful feature for getting opinions, creating meet-ups, and encouraging new people to get involved.
Instagram updates to address the ongoing issues of mental health and bullying
The conversation around how social media can facilitate bullying and impact mental health continues to gain traction. In February 2019, Instagram shared a post promising to “protect the most vulnerable people” with actions like blurring images containing self-harm or graphic content. They have also started demoting and filtering any inappropriate content that isn’t subject to removal because it still adheres to their community guidelines.
Should the filter confuse a user’s perfectly safe images with inappropriate content, the option to appeal a blurred or removed post is always available.
Instagram most recently announced they would fight bullying with the following changes:
The platform will be using AI to analyze language and literally ask users “Are you sure you want to post this?” to encourage people to think twice before posting abusive comments.
Additionally, users can “Restrict” another user. In Instagram’s own words, this means that “once you Restrict someone, comments on your posts from that person will only be visible to that person. You can choose to make a restricted person’s comments visible to others by approving their comments. Restricted people won’t be able to see when you’re active on Instagram or when you’ve read their direct messages.”
For more info on the Instagram updates to fight against bullying, read this TIME article.