What’s up with Instagram?

Instagram is my favourite app (although, sneaky Snapchat is a close second) and it’s undergone some significant changes in the last 6 months. While we still can’t hyperlink directly from the app just yet, many of the changes are a direct response to requests from users; others are thanks to the fact that Instagram is now owned by Facebook.

Here’s some of the changes you may or may not have noticed, and how to make them work for you.

  • Small businesses can now advertise on Instagram! This major change is due to Instagram’s new parent company, and their extremely powerful advertising engine. This has been on the cards for a while, but was previously only accessibly to large businesses. As at the beginning of last month, the tools to advertise your small business, brand and blog have been rolled out via Facebook’s Adverts Manager system. You can be as targeted as you would be with your Facebook ads, specifically showing your imagery to users of a certain age, location and with specific interests –and it’s only ads on Facebook that allow users to click through to a specific website. Instagram apparently has quite strict rules about how many ads you’ll see in your feed, and it’s yet to be determined how this will impact the platform, and whether brands will be impacted in the same way they have been on Facebook. Keep sharing interesting and engaging content, and experiment with ads to see what kind of results you get – the benefits of this kind of advertising tool is that all of the results are extremely measurable.

  • You’re no longer restricted to the standard square. No more cropping your photos at awkward angles! When you upload a photo to Instagram, click on the white square in the bottom left hand corner of the image, and the image will resize. This is particularly useful for videos, which used to be cropped super awkwardly – videos can now be shared at their standard, landscape proportions.
  • More editing options than you can poke a stick at. You don’t need to be a whiz at Photoshop to upload excellent images to Instagram. The tool now has a ton of in-built editing options, which also means there’s no excuse to post anything that’s poorly lit. It means consumers have less tolerance for bad photos on the platform, which means it’s time for you to up your game and learn how to use the tool properly.
  • Emoji hashtags. Can’t say it in words? Say it with a unicorn #.
  • Instagram has launched a dedicated tool for collages called Layout, and a video app called Boomerang. These are a little bit of fun, and perfect for showing your creative side – but try to use them sparingly. Layout allows you to create grids of photos and mirror images of photos, which can be great if you’ve got an image that’s a little bit awkward. Boomerang is fun for creating videos that play forwards and backwards, check it out and get creative.
  • Direct messaging has been overhauled to allow for sharing images from your feed, responding to a photo with a photo, and being able to start a conversation using text. You can probably thank Facebook’s engineers for all of these fun amendments, and it also makes it a lot easier for users to message brands and vice versa. Keep an eye on your direct messages, as messages from users will go to your ‘message requests’ instead of straight to your inbox.
  • A Search by Location function allows users to see photos based on a map, which makes it even more important for venues and brands with a physical location to have an Instagram presence. Hotels and restaurants without Instagram? Cray.
  • Find new people to follow via the revamped ‘Explore’ tab. The Explore tool used to be all about the people with the most likes, which basically meant your brand had no chance of popping up in a feed if you were just starting out, but this algorithm has been modified to include recommendations based on other people the user likes, other photos the user has liked recently, and a bunch of other factors. Your brand or photos are much more likely to show up if you post photos that get engagement, which means it’s much easier to grow your following.

Love or hate the new changes to Instagram? Head on over and follow me at @clairemdeane and tell me what you think!