What a year it has been for Instagram. From hitting 1 billion monthly users to rolling out highly addictive features that have become the new everyday things, Instagram’s accomplishments in 2018 were truly astonishing. But what’s even more impressive is the fact that the app is still growing every day with no sign of slowing down.
In this article, we review big moves Instagram took that led to today’s success of the app, and forecast what is coming next in 2019!
2018 In Review:
1. Instagram Stories pretty much dominated 2018
Since the launch of Instagram Stories, the feature has come a long way from being teased as a Snapchat copycat. With the overwhelming success in the previous year, in 2018 Instagram was focusing a lot on Stories and rolled out sub-features that improved the user’s experience further and made Stories an even more capable medium for broadcasting messages.
Starting with GIF Stickers. Early in 2018, Instagram partnered with GIPHY to make it possible to add fun and expressive GIFs to any Story. With hundreds of thousands of GIF options, this feature (literally) stick around until today and is the perfect way to add a little personality to any type of content. Since you can also create your one GIF stickers, it has also been an effective and fun way for brands to increase awareness and drive more engagement.
Next came Emoji Slider. In May, Instagram introduced this feature to make Stories more interactive. Similar to the question stickers (below), the emoji sliders allow users to ask and answer “how” questions with an animated emoji on a sliding scale within a certain context. For example, you could have a slider to ask how friends like your food or outfit of the day. The emoji will animate as you drag it up or down the scale, and you can check on how each friend answered as well as the overall responses.
If the rating option wasn’t enough for you, Instagram got you covered by introducing Question Sticker in July. By adding a question sticker to your Instagram story, you can either ask questions and get your followers answers or let other users submit questions for you to answer after.
Another way to get more insights from the audience is through the use of Type Mode. This year Instagram allowed its users to post text-only Stories for the first time. By picking a single color background and straight away typing our message, we could now easily share our thoughts, random ideas or even make announcements.
Together with the interactive features mentioned earlier, Instagram also continued to roll out small tools to make storytelling captivating. These include Music stickers, allowing users to choose from thousands of song options and set the right mood for their stories, Focus Mode, giving depth and professionalism to still images, and various Face Filters, letting users unleash their creativity even further.
As the icing on top of the cake, Instagram finally bridged Feed Posts and Stories together. Since the launch of Stories, many people have been creatively using it to promote static posts and to gain more traffic to their profile page. Undoubtedly, Instagram spotted the trend, and in May, they decided to roll out the possibility to directly share profile posts on Stories, making the task much easier for everyone. At first glance this feature may not seem to be so special, but in the world where the algorithm decides the profile’s reach based on incoming traffic, being able your posts on Stories really helps you make the most out of your new and old posts and get more attention to your profile with very little effort.
In June, the launch of IGTV made the headlines. The new video feature dedicated exclusively to vertical video format was created to help marketers and content producers to better reach a mobile-only audience. While short-form contents are already available on Instagram (feed posts and Stories), the new IGTV allows users to create and share long-form content, which could help increase the engagement rate on the app significantly.
Instagram’s introduction of the vertical video format fits perfectly with how a large number of people watch videos these days–on their mobile phone. Especially for younger generations migrating away from SnapChat, the verticle video format is something they’re already very familiar with. IGTV’s launch was therefore seen as an attempt to accommodate the younger crowd.
For businesses and professionals, IGTV is a whole new channel to effectively grow a passionate audience, showcase products, or services, and build an identity. So far, we’ve seen the adoption of the feature has been slower than anticipated, nevertheless, IGTV is such a powerful tool that offers huge potential for those who wish to grow their online presence, and the good news is there are plenty of rooms for everyone who wants to get on board.
3. The chronological feed is officially dead but the algorithm refresh was a compromise
In 2018, Instagram refreshed its algorithm to help surface newer posts in the feed. In response to people complaining that they were seeing really old content on their feeds, Instagram rigged the algorithm to give more weight to when something is posted. In essence, a compromise of not bringing back the original chronological feed.
“Based on your feedback, we’re also making changes to ensure that newer posts are more likely to appear first in the feed. With these changes, your feed will feel fresher, and you won’t miss the moments you care about. So if your best friend shares a selfie from her vacation in Australia, it will be waiting for you when you wake up” shared Instagram.
In a nutshell, the new Instagram algorithm ranks the Feed posts based on:
- Likelihood you’ll be interested in a piece of content
- Date the post was shared
- History of previous interaction with the person posting
Additionally to these factors, other things to consider include the concept that the algorithm may reward posts based on your profile’s interaction with followers, including how quickly you interact and whether you’re using the right hashtags or not.
4. Connect and discover better with the new Instagram Bio
This year, Instagram decided to become more generous with the Instagram Bio. With a limit of 150 characters to describe your profile and the possibility of including only a single link, writing an effective Instagram Bio have been tricky for all of us. However, in March 2018, Instagram decided to make things a bit easier for everyone by introducing the ability to add clickable usernames and hashtags in your bio field. This update allows you to lead anyone who visits your profile to the places you want to be within the Instagram universe.
5. Introducing Instagram’s e-commerce
2018 was also marked by the e-commerce friendliness of Instagram with the rollout of many shopping features. Starting in March, Shoppable Posts was added to the platform followed by Shopping Stickers on Stories a few months later.
With these two e-commerce features, brands can now easily show prices, information about products, and redirect users to shopping pages through their usual content in a very smooth manner. Due to the success of previous e-commerce integrations, it is expected that a shopping channel on the Explore page may become a reality soon, as the rumor has it that Instagram is currently running tests on this new feature.
6. Tools to manage the time you spend on Instagram
Instagram knows well how addictive their app is. After all, it is how their entire business model relies on. Facing with criticism, the company joined the conversation and expressed their wish to help people manage their time spending on the app. In 2018, Instagram introduced several features to follow through their promises; these include an activity dashboard, a daily reminder, and a limit to notifications. With these tools, you’ll now be able to see the average time you spend on Instagram and set a daily reminder to receive an alert once you’ve surpassed the advisable amount. If Instagram really wants “the time people spend on Instagram and Facebook to be intentional, positive and inspiring.” as they put it, we think these features are good first steps toward the right direction.
7. Pushing one-to-one communication
Just before the year closure, Instagram made an interesting push toward a more private communication between users. The first feature within this direction is Close Friends. Close Friends helps users connect more intimately on the app. You can create a list of your closest friends and share your personal Instagram Stories just with that private curated group. Next is Voice Messaging. Direct messaging on Instagram has become more elaborate and useful over the years. Besides texting, sending pictures, videos, and GIFS, it is now also possible to send voice messages.
With the launching of these features, we’re sensing that Instagram is heading toward becoming the next all-in-one platform, further and further away from its initial concept of being a photo-sharing app.
8. Accidental horizontal scrolling rollout
Just before the end of 2018, users across the world were reporting they were able to go through their posts in the side-to-side movement rather than the traditional up-and-down scrolling. The feature appears to replicate the huge success of Instagram’s Stories feature which allows people to tap through the available content by going sideways.
However, just within a day of the launch, the feature immediately faced backlash on social media causing the hashtag “instagramfail” to trend on Twitter. Soon after, everybody’s feed started reverting back to normal, before Instagram made an announcement that the rollout had been meant as a small test, but a mistake caused it to be available to a larger number of users than intended. While many questioned whether or not the “bug” issue was really the cause of the mistake, due to the backlash, the feature is going to be off the table for a while.
What’s next? What are the trends we will see in 2019?
1. IGTV will be the big feature
According to multiple experts, IGTV will gain momentum and become big next year. Considering that approximately 60% of all video content online is watched on mobile devices, in 2019 Instagram it will invest even more in the mobile-first pioneer video platform.
“When thinking about the upcoming trends in Instagram marketing I believe IGTV and Instagram Stories are on the top of the list. IGTV will become the new YouTube in three to five years, and if you’re joining now, you will catch the big wave” says Vlad Callus, from Planable.
Despite the slow adoption in 2018 and a significant decrease in excitement, Instagram still believes this is a feature of high value, giving brands and individuals an entirely new channel to put their creativity out there. Therefore, making IGTV more usable and attractive is one of their big new year resolutions.
If we go back to 2016, when Instagram Stories was launched, it was not a straightforward success. However, as we know it, it has now grown to become the most attractive feature of the app, making Snapchat irrelevant for most people. With this in mind, we might need to wait a little bit more to see what IGTV’s real future unfolds.
It is also forecasted that IGTV content will start having its place on the Explore page and that it will have a strong impact on the discovery experience. It might also be possible that Instagram might push the users to use this feature further by including IGTV on the profile next to the regular and tagged post, making it easier to subscribe to IGTV channels. By taking such big moves, experts suggested it might put Instagram on par with YouTube in the near future.
2. More interactivity with Instagram Stories
Over the past year, we saw platforms such as Facebook and YouTube started tapping into Stories territory and creating their own versions. To stay on the top, it is forecasted that Instagram will continue to make Stories even more interactive. In 2019, features such as “multiple choice question”, “publicly commenting on Stories” and other forms of gamification will be introduced. Therefore, it is likely that Stories will continue to dominate social media over the next year.
3. E-commerce and more analytics
After the successful introduction of the in-app shopping features ( e.g. shoppable and product tagging in Stories), Instagram has managed to become an e-commerce friendly platform while being able to maintain their social media quality and not turning into a boring marketplace. In 2019, more developments in this direction are to be expected and they will be powered further with better analytics. It is forecasted that we will see Instagram invest more in this area to provide more comprehensive insights that are useful for business actions.
4. Microbrands will be dominant
We’ve already seen an increasing presence of microbrands and small companies on Instagram in the past year, and in 2019, the trend will remain. Since Instagram favors quick interactions that often come from personalized storytelling, the platform has become the perfect marketing channel for small brands with such narratives to grow and gain market shares.
An Instagram profile is also an effective landing page for small brands. It works as an online shop and marketing channel simultaneously. Regardless of how unique the niche might be, “Using hyper-targeted marketing, just-in-time manufacturing, and social media, these brands find and engage their audience wherever they may be” says Scott Belsky (@scottbelsky), founder of Behance.
5. School Communities aka bringing back the original Facebook?
School Communities is the new feature that will let students attending the same college find their peers and connect. “If you choose to join, you can add a line to your profile listing your university, class year, and any relevant groups such as major, sports team, and sorority” as it was explained by Instagram.
It is, however, still not clear how the users will verify that they are actually a member of a certain university and class. What is certain is that going towards school communities is not unfamiliar territory for Instagram’s mother company. Launching “school communities” could actually be a smart attempt to make Instagram become even more relevant to teens and young people, who despite has been reportedly moving away from Facebook, still find the community aspect of the platform useful in the college environment in many ways.
6. Improved one-to-one communication
In 2018, Instagram has already stepped up their Direct Messaging game (i.e. introducing voice messaging and quick replies feature). For 2019, we expect Instagram will continue to work on DM and introduce more features that help improve one-to-one communication further. Evidently, social sharing across platforms take place more and more via private channels and less in broadcasting manners. Therefore, it makes total sense for Instagram to catch up on the trend if they want the engagement to stay within the app. It is expected that Instagram will not be the only one paying attention to one-to-one interactions. Diverse tools and functionalities will reportedly be included in several other messaging apps to fight off Instagram.
7. More security
This year we’ve seen Instagram taking crucial action to stop toxic third-party apps and inauthentic activity. “Every day people come to Instagram to have real experiences, including genuine interactions. It is our responsibility to ensure these experiences aren’t disrupted by inauthentic activity. Starting today, we will begin removing inauthentic likes, follows and comments from accounts that use third-party apps to boost their popularity” posted Instagram on their Info Center. Therefore, it can be expected that security will be a big focus on Instagram in 2019 and it is most likely that Instagram will continue to crush bots, fake accounts, and third-party apps that encourage any inauthentic experience.
2018 was certainly an exciting year for Instagram and we are more than thrilled to see what’s coming in 2019. Follow us on Instagram @Cherrydeck to stay tuned for the latest Instagram update, but until the next big thing comes out we wish you a happy 2019 and happy Instagramming. 🍒