Instagram’s Newest Lineup: Helpful or Harmful?

Recently, Instagram has released a lot of new features. Seriously. A LOT of new features and they aren’t stopping anytime soon. News of even more releases has been hitting us left, right, and centre. This isn’t new for the platform as they have been on a streak of new features for quite some time. IGTV, which launched June of 2018, started a pivotal movement of release after release for the platform.

For some, the new releases are exciting and enticing, whilst for others, the abundance of releases all at once is overwhelming. Regardless, it all comes down to what these new functions do and how they can help (or hinder) creators, influencers, brands, and users alike.

Without further ado, here are some of IG’s biggest releases/announcements of 2019 thus far and the role they play in making or breaking your IG presence!

Where the @#$%! are the likes?

By now, I am sure most people have heard about the test Instagram is running for Canadian users in reference to hiding the like count. Some users now have the option to hide their like count from the public and instead of reading as “____ and 457 others”, the like section will simply read “______ and others.” So, why did Instagram do this? There is a lot of speculation, but most believe it will reduce the pressure of solely obtaining validation via likes on Instagram. Users will still be able to see their own number of likes, however, the public will not (unless you want to count them manually…good luck with that).

How can this help users? Instagram was once a platform where you could simply share your dope snapshots (with some questionable filters) with friends and family. Now, it has become a powerhouse for influencers, brands, and creators to make some serious coin. The “clout” generation thrives off of validation via likes, so it comes to no surprise that not receiving many could actually dampen someone’s outlook or perception of themselves on their content. Hiding likes allows users to focus more so on the content itself as opposed to the popularity of the content.

How can this hurt users? This could actually spell trouble for influencers and their partnerships with brands. Think about it this way: imagine you are a brand looking to work with an IG influencer. You stumble across an influencer that has a good following and consider them to potentially be a good fit. One problem – you can’t see their engagement. In this clout era, it’s all about looking good, ergo, a lot of people resort to purchasing followers. Because this is so common, brands typically rely on engagement metrics when it comes to determining if it’s worth pairing with an influencer. With engagement hidden, it becomes a lot harder for a brand to determine if their investment will be worth it or not in a sea of paid-for-followers who will do NOTHING for the brand.

You can do WHAT on IG Stories?

Instagram Stories have certainly peaked and the creators of the app have taken note. From filters to geotags to interactive features, Insta Stories have certainly gained a lot over their short life span thus far. Oh, but trust me, they aren’t done. Instagram has recently rolled out (or discussed rolling out);

  • A new camera feature bar – users will now have an easier time swiping from filter to filter or between various filming modes. The semicircular mode switcher will allow for easier movement between various filters, modes, GIFs, text, and more.
  • Donation sticker – who doesn’t love a good deed? IG is launching a donation sticker where users can post a charity/cause of their choice which if clicked on, will allow other users to donate to said charity/cause. Passionate about giving back and helping those in need? Instagram is going to make it a lot easier for you to do just that!
  • Quiz sticker – already released, the quiz sticker can put your followers knowledge to the test. The quiz sticker is similar to the poll sticker with the addition of more options. Now you get to find out who REALLY knows you, dun dun dunnnnnn!
  • Create your own filter – want a way to make your content even more personalized? Perhaps diving into personalized filters may be fit for you! This summer, you can create your very own filters to represent, well, whatever you want! There is also talk of AR customizable assets in the near future, exciting!

How can this help users? All these added features open up a world of possibilities for brands, creators, influencers, and users alike! Provided they are used in an appropriate manner, these features can help build up branding efforts, allow users to know more about you/your brand, and aid good causes at the click of a button.

How can this hurt users? Good things come in moderation. While you may want to test out every feature all at once, this could hurt your strategy and overwhelm your audience. If you DO utilize these, do so over time and keep them relevant to you/your brand. Overwhelming your audience or creating irrelevant content just for the sake of creating content could put a bad taste in your audiences’ mouths!

Buy some merch without leaving the ‘gram!

Attention businesses and influencers, this one’s for you! You can now sell products to your audience easily without them having to leave the app. How does this work? Simply tag your product. When an individual clicks it, they will be lead straight to the checkout for that item and BAM! This makes it easier for brands and influencers to market their products on the app and makes it easier for users to make purchases. Essentially, Instagram is a one-stop-shop!

How can this help users? This feature is a win-win for both influencers/brands and users. For influencers/brands, it gives them another platform to market their products/services in a fun, engaging way. It could also eliminate the need for having a full website (which many smaller influencers may not have). For users, it makes the buying purchase simple. No need to be redirected to a site or have to open the browser – you can get you shopping done right within the app!

How can this hurt users? With great power comes great responsibility. With influencers/brands having the power to so easily market their goods, it can be easy to go over the top. It’s important to ensure your Instagram doesn’t solely turn into a marketplace. Keep content engaging, enticing, and geared toward your audience. Don’t try to oversell every chance you get.

Over the next few months, Instagram will be seeing A LOT of updates. While they can provide great benefits to users, they can also be detrimental if used improperly. A few key notes to remember when utilizing new features; don’t over do it, make sure you always provide some type of value, remain relevant, plan, and listen to what your audience wants.

2019 has been and will continue to be a big year for Instagram. Only time will tell what the future holds for the platform and what features they have up their sleeves!

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