It’s been a busy year for the Instagram product team, having introduced a lot of significant changes throughout 2017 and as we’re moving farther into 2018, you ought to know what the service can do. If you haven’t changed how you’re using Instagram in a year, you’re missing out and falling behind.
Whether you’re using Instagram as a serious marketing channel for your photography business or simply as a way to browse and share interesting images, you should be aware of the changes in the platform so that you can get the most out of your experience. As we look to Instagram 2018, here’s a roundup of the changes to Instagram in 2017 along with some hot 🔥 tips on how to leverage the changes to your advantage.
Your Clients (and Friends) Are Spending Time There
Why be on Instagram? Because most other folks are, for one. Stats from late summer 2017 show that for folks under 25, they’re averaging more than 32 minutes per day on Instagram. If someone is elderly like me (aka, over 25), that number is still over 20 minutes. You might think that sounds like a ton of time, and it would be if you sat down and spent half an hour all at once, but if you spend a couple minutes on the service while you’re in line at the store, and five minutes while you wait for your lunch to heat up, and a few minutes here, and there, it adds up quickly.
Your Friends Can See When You’re Active
This is the newest bit of information, with a change that went into effect just last week. Folks can now see (via the messages section of the app) how long it’s been since you’ve been active on the service. Here’s what that looks like:
Some folks are reacting strongly to this; you can disable the activity status by going into Settings and toggling the “Show Activity Status” setting. Personally, I don’t see how it really is a problem if folks can see how recently I was on the service.
Instagram Slideshows: Multiple Images per Post
Last February we saw Instagram add the ability for multiple images per post, allowing users to create swipe-able slideshows. When viewing a post with multiple images, actions are taken with the whole group – you “like” or comment on the entire grouping, rather than on single images.
🔥 Be sure to post a compelling first image in your series so that visitors stop and look for a bit. As they check out your great first image, they’ll notice the little symbol that indicates there are more images to be seen by swiping in to the side. If you hide the best, there’s a chance someone might scroll by and not swipe.
🔥 Another great way to ensure folks check out your full set of images is to ensure your caption indicates that it’s a set and not a single image. “Several scenes from the park today” will help ensure they swipe whereas “At the park today” will not.
Collections: Private Saved Groups of Images
In late 2016, Instagram added the ability to save others’ photos to a private area on your profile, and in April of this year they added the ability to save those posts to Collections, which allows you to create named groups of images.
Collections that you create are entirely private – nobody else knows that you’ve collected their image, and they won’t be able to see what groups you’ve created.
If you think that saved collections of images sound a lot like private Pinterest boards… well, you might be right.
🔥 Create collections of others’ Instagram images that inspire you – either from an artistic standpoint for the types of photos you’d like to create, or from a business standpoint if you see someone doing something compelling from a marketing stance. Think of it like an Instagram swipe file.
Recommended Posts: Stuff You Don’t Follow
First, Instagram only showed us what our friends were posting. Then, with the introduction of advertising, we also began seeing sponsored posts in our feed. In the final month of 2017, Instagram began rolling out a new feature that means you’ll now see non-sponsored posts from other users, based on an algorithm that identifies what Instagram thinks you’ll like based on who you follow and what sort of posts that garner your attention.
Increasingly, we’re subject to social networks’ algorithms dictating what we see, and Instagram is no exception (if you’re curious, here’s how the Instagram algorithm works). While this has implications for what you see as someone browsing the service, the flip side is that as someone creating and sharing images on Instagram, you have no guarantee that most of your followers will see your images.
Once again, there’s benefit in driving folks to a marketing platform you can control such as your email list. Don’t have one of those? Here’s an article on getting started with email marketing for photographers.
Instagram Stories Aren’t Disposable
As various platforms add “Stories” features to allow for the sharing of short video clips (Snapchat introduced the feature, which was then copied by Instagram and Facebook), right now it seems like the Instagram variety is the one with the most traction, as Snapchat’s growth has stagnated and Facebook stories aren’t being adopted as quickly as Zuckerberg and company would like.
Last month, Instagram made two changes to Stories, both of which allow them to become permanent parts of your Instagram world rather than disappearing on the rolling 24-hour timeframe as done previously. First, they’re archiving all of your stories, for your own private access. Secondly, you can choose to feature a few of those archived stories on your profile, allowing your profile visitors to see the sorts of things you share.
🔥 Plan a story or two that you can use as “commercials” to get folks to follow you, then feature those stories on your profile. It’s a great way for someone new to learn what you’re all about.
Instagram 2018: What’s Ahead?
That’s the state of Instagram as I write this in mid-January 2018. We will undoubtedly see additional changes to the service throughout the coming year. While I don’t have a crystal ball to predict exactly what new features will be delivered, I can safely say that Instagram will remain an important part of any photographer’s online presence for all of this year and into the next.