2018 has been a year of improvements and changes to Instagram. New features seem to be appearing constantly and with the launch of IGTV you might need some help remembering all the advancements Instagram has implemented.
Some are simple updates to privacy but others are designed to help you get more followers and grow your Instagram business if used correctly.
The biggest announcement of 2018 – IGTV, a new app for watching long-form, vertical video from your favourite Instagram creators. Whilst there is a separate app (like Boomerang) you can still view IGTV within the Instagram app.
Now videos of up to one hour long can be posted and they’re all in vertical/portrait format – the same way you hold your phone. This is a big move for Instagram and hopefully, there’ll be more exciting features added in the second half of the year.
Automatically schedule Instagram posts
One of the most useful new features Instagram added this year was the ability to schedule your posts at a time convenient to you.
This makes it far easier to post at times when you will get maximum engagement from your followers without having to interrupt your day (or night if that’s when your audience is most active).
Experiment with your scheduling and use insights to figure out when your posts are getting the most engagement.
An improved Instagram algorithm
The Instagram Algorithm is designed to choose what posts are most likely to be of interest to you and slip them into your feed or Search & Explore tab. The main elements it uses to predict this is interest, timeliness and relationship.
Interest – posts similar to ones you’ve already liked will appear more frequently.
Timeliness – how long ago the content was posted. More recent posts will be prioritised.
Relationship – if you comment or like someone’s photos a lot or are tagged in their posts, they are classed as “friends and family” and will appear in your feed more often.
The three other factors are frequency (how often you open the app), who you’re following, and usage (how much you use the app affects how far back the algorithm will look for you).
Add links to your Instagram profile
If you include a “#” or “@” in your biography, Instagram will automatically turn it into a link that can direct your followers to a specific hashtag or another profile.
This doesn’t mean your profile turns up in search results now but it is a great way to showcase your branded hashtags and any affiliates or collaborations you have going on.
Mute accounts you follow
If you’re getting bored of some of the content you’re seeing from friends and family this is a great way to ignore posts you don’t care about without unfollowing them.
Other uses can be for the whole follow-for-follow deal though this isn’t the best way to gain new followers. Be aware that this means you may be muted yourself!
There have been a huge number of updates to Instagram Stories as the competitor to Snapchat has shown its popularity. There are over 250 million users active on Stories compared to 166 million on Snapchat. Here are some of the changes they’ve made:
- Repost Instagram Stories – This new button in your direct messages allows you to edit and repost Stories that other accounts have tagged you in.
- Share posts to stories – This is a great way to promote new posts if you want to drive attention to a new campaign or a particularly relevant bit of content you are uploading.
- Add multiple photos or videos to Stories – now when you are uploading new content to your Stories you can upload everything all at once instead of having to do it separately for each post.
- Tag accounts using mention stickers – Alongside location and hashtag stickers already rolled out, you can now mention accounts in the same way to tag users or businesses.
- Location suggestions – When you add location stickers to your stories, Instagram now suggests a location depending on where your photo or video was taken. This is taken from the geo-location data automatically stored when you take a photo or video.
- Emoji slider polls – Similar to polls, you can now use an emoji slider on your Stories to make your polls a little more unique to gauge your followers’ reactions.
- Add GIFs to Stories – Instagram and GIPHY teamed up to allow you to add GIFs from their library to personalise your Stories. Using this new feature in a consistent way without reducing quality can really help engage your audience.
- Type mode – if you need to make an announcement now you can just add some text without a video or photo to your Instagram Stories. It’s a great way to promote events, discounts, links and important information to your audience.
- Focus app for your camera – This feature allows you to edit your Stories by focusing the camera on your face and blurring the background. This generates the professional looking depth-of-field effects photographers use and help followers focus on what’s important.
- AR camera filters and effects – Third parties are now allowed to design and add new filters and stickers to Instagram. If you see a new or interesting effect on someone else’s story you can now “try it on” and the new tool will be added to your tray.
- Share songs from Spotify – In the past, users had to screenshot their song or playlist which wasn’t a great way to share content. Now, the cover art for the album or playlist you’re sharing appears in your Stories with a link for viewer’s to listen in Spotify.
- Share GoPro footage – this is particularly useful for people who aren’t going to be using their phones to create content. It’s much easier to simply share straight to
A new and improved Instagram Explore page
As well as showing popular posts based on the algorithm, you can now use a new “channels” feature. Channels are based on your personal interests and you have the option to choose which categories to interact with.
This means users will have a lot more control over what content they are viewing and should make it easier for potential users to find and engage with your account.
Instagram API Changes
Instagram made significant changes to their APIs to improve data and privacy controls. As a result, there were several changes you may have noticed:
Many third-party apps losing functionality – shopping apps that track your activity, apps used to help analyse an account’s followers, and apps that searched for content and re-posted it have all either stopped working or have severely reduced capabilities.
This will affect a number of third-party tools that monitor user-generated content for influencer and business campaigns.
Another Instagram bot cull – when Instagram updates its APIs, you will most likely see a number of bots stop working. Including ones that replied or liked public content or allowed you to follow or unfollow users.
Private likes – Your likes are now confidential, meaning businesses can’t tell what posts you’ve liked. This primarily affected programs and apps that tracked your interests based on your Instagram likes.
Instagram also announced at F8 that users will be able to filter accounts that promote hate speech or harass other users.
There is a specific toggle that “hides comments containing attacks on a person’s appearance or character, as well as threats to a person’s well-being or health.” Instagram will also be alerted when there are repeat complaints about a user on the platform.
App Usage Statistics
You can now see how long you have spent on Instagram. This is likely part of a movement towards encouraging healthy usage of the app for users to better manage their time spent on social media.
However, this is also useful as it cuts down on needless scrolling from people who aren’t likely to engage with your account. The data taken from this is already being used in the algorithm and into Insights but there isn’t an easy way to use this to grow your account at the moment.
Instagram Shoppable Posts
Instagram now allows users to buy items direct from posts. With Shoppable posts, businesses can tag their products and allow users to click through to buy in-app.
While this feature was limited to a small group of retailers, it’s now available to all Instagram business accounts and worth using as a seamless interface with your followers.
Turn your existing posts into ads
Instagram has rolled out a new feature which allows users to turn existing Instagram posts into ads within Power Editor and Ads Manager.
According to WeRSM in May, “The feature, currently rolling out to “all global advertisers” within “next few weeks” will be available for the Brand Awareness, Post Engagement, Reach, and Video Views objectives, and will be available in “auction buying” in both Ads Manager and Power Editor.”
The Insights provided in-app will help you keep tabs on your organic and paid metrics.