Meta — Instagram’s parent company — had its share price take a massive plummet this February. Zuckerberg attributes a large part of this to the astronomical rise of TikTok so, in a bid to rebound from it, Instagram’s been making almost constant changes to be able to challenge TikTok’s growing popularity. This is particularly true with a great amount of attention invested into Instagram Reels, which closely mimics TikTok’s content style.
Instagram’s putting itself under enormous pressure to “keep up” with TikTok and other social media platforms (which, in my personal opinion is a massive mistake and is backfiring on it). That’s a major reason why it feels like there’s an update every five minutes. To help you keep up, I’ve compiled as many announcements as I could find into one easy source – this blog post!
Let’s get started:
Instagram Improves its DM Inbox
On March 31, Instagram announced a massive upgrade to its DM inbox. These seven new features will transform the way you interact with friends on the app:
Music Sharing: You’ll be able to share 30-second song previews from Apple Music and Amazon Music — in addition to Spotify in the near future.
Reply While Browsing: You’ll now be able to reply to messages while browsing your feed, without having to lose your place to open the new message.
Quick Sending: You can now quickly share posts by holding down the share button to your four closest friends.
Status: You’ll now be able to see who is online at the top of your inbox, functioning in a similar way to Facebook Messenger.
Silent Messages: You can now send messages to friends without giving them a notification by typing “@silent” before your message. This can help when you need to send a message but do not want to disturb them.
Lo-fi Chat Theme: A new chat theme featuring a cityscape and a cat will be available to customize your DMs.
Polls: The Poll sticker will now be directly available in group chats, which is a great way to see where your friends stand on different topics.
New ‘Scheduled’ Sticker for Stories
Previously, you could only directly promote an event in your story after the initial creation process — without any way to directly re-promote it. Sure, you could use a ‘Countdown’ sticker to build hype, but this would also require an additional sticker to link the event. The ‘Scheduled’ sticker solves this dilemma.
New Ways to Tag and Improve Ranking
On April 20, Adam Mosseri posted three major updates on how Instagram will handle tagging and ranking in the future:
Product Tags: Previously, only business and creator accounts were able to post product tags — a tool directing you to where you can buy items from Instagram posts. This feature was rolled out in 2016 in Instagram’s attempt to integrate e-commerce into the platform. As of March 22, Instagram’s slowly making the shift so that everyone can use product tags, starting in the US. These tags can be accessed in the same menu that people can be tagged. Currently, users will not receive kickbacks for purchases through their product tags, but Meta is looking into affiliate programmes.
Enhanced People Tags: To better capture people’s individual identities, Instagram now allows you to designate roles for yourself. This way, when people tag you, they will be able to learn more about what defines you (ex. artist, athlete, etc). Updating your enhanced tags can be done through the Edit Profile menu.
Ranking for Originality: Acknowledging that creating original content is much more difficult than reposting, Instagram’s made updates to its ranking mechanisms to place a higher value on creators who post original content.
Instagram Experimenting with Font Choices
To add an extra flair to your messages, Instagram’s experimenting with bold, underline, italics, and strikethrough for text options. I’ll keep up posted if the platform’s going to roll out more text personalisation features.
Four Option Polls
Initially, polls were only capable of having two choices, and then in a January update, Instagram added the capacity to ‘write in’ a response to polls. Now, the platform’s updated polls once again to have four response choices, giving you even more options in how to engage with your followers.
Multiple Links in Your Bio
This minor update will allow you to begin adding more than one link to your Instagram bio in the near future, which will allow users to have more flexibility in how they present their interests and advertise for external events/products.
Assign a Moderator to Your Stream
Previously, users streaming on Instagram Live had to balance moderating their stream with engaging their audiences. To give these streamers support, this new feature allows streamers to appoint one moderator for their Lives. This moderator can assist you in maintaining the quality of your stream by reporting, removing, or restricting users who are causing issues.
Reply to Stories with Voice Messages
According to Alessandro Paluzzi, a developer famous for reverse engineering apps to gain information about future features, Instagram is working on a way to send voice messages in response to stories.
This potential update is following the recent addition of private likes to Stories, which was intended to reduce the clutter of story reactions. For this reason, some are skeptical about why Instagram would pursue voice message replies, considering that they also have the potential to clutter a person’s DMs. Others believe that because voice reactions more actively engage the story, it’s not cluttering in the same way as normal reactions.
While I’m unsure whether Instagram will follow through with the decision to have voice reactions to stories, Paluzzi attests that it currently is in development.
Reels are Here to Stay
For a large part, Instagram Reels were created by Meta to combat the growing popularity of TikTok, which Zuckerberg cites as a large reason for Meta’s stock plummet this February. Though, whatever the cause of their implementation, they have proven to be a massive success.
During Q1 2022, data indicates that twenty percent of time spent on Instagram is on Reels, and while Reels don’t monetize as well as Stories or regular posts, Zuckerberg’s optimistic about their future. He explains that when Stories were first introduced to Instagram, they did not monetize very well, but with time the feature became more monetizable. He claims that Reels will follow that example.
Zuckerberg continues to emphasize that a large part of TikTok’s success comes from its successful algorithm system, which accurately matches people with content they would like to consume. For this reason, Meta has also made strides in improving its AI system such that users will be exposed to a whole world of content rather than just content from their social circles.
The majority of the rest of this article will be concerned with updates concerning Instagram reels, which emphasizes the priority of Instagram to challenge TikTok’s previous monopoly on the format.
You Can Now Add Your Reels to Your Profile Grid
Normally, when you add a Reel to your profile, it goes directly to your Reels tab — which is located in between your profile grid and your tagged page on your profile. However, in an effort to make reels more accessible, Instagram added the option to add Reels directly to your profile grid.
To place a Reel on your profile grid, select ‘also share to feed’ in the Reels tab of your profile. Keep in mind though that the Reel will be placed in your grid according to the date that it was posted — not when it was added to your profile grid.
New Reel Editing Tools
More exciting improvements are coming to Instagram’s Reel editor, allowing you to reorder, delete, and trim clips!
These tools can be accessed by going to the Reel camera, recording/uploading a video, then in preview mode tap ‘edit clips’ in the bottom left corner. From this point, you tap on the thumbnail to expand the video and use the handles to edit the clip. Using reorder mode, you can move the order of clips around, and through the add clips button, you can inject new clips into the Reel video.
This type of continued support for creating Reel content goes hand-in-hand with Meta’s competition with TikTok for this vertical video format.
90 Second Reels
On June 4, Instagram announced that it’s increasing the maximum time of a Reel from 60 to 90 seconds. This gives creators additional time to work with in creating content and matches similar moves by TikTok in increasing the maximum time of clips.
Removing Recent Tab on Hashtags
Instagram is playing with the concept of removing the ‘Recent’ tab on their hashtag page. They claim that it may provide users with a more compact way of viewing hashtags with only the ‘Top’ and ‘Reels’ tabs.
Convert Highlights into Reels
You’re now able to convert Instagram Highlights into Reels by selecting the triple dots icon while viewing the Highlight. This Reel functions exactly the same as any other Reel and can be edited accordingly.
‘Take a Break’ Feature released in Select Countries
Instagram’s rolled out a ‘Take a Break’ campaign in several countries including India, which will alert users to periodically take breaks from the platform. It also will provide expert-back tips on how to relax and reflect once you put down your device.
The campaign was created with the intention of ensuring the wellbeing of younger users to reduce their time on Instagram and make their presence on the platform as as intentional as possible. While this feature will appear by default for all users in selected countries, it can be turned off at any time.
If you’ve made it here, then congrats! You’re now are up-to-date on everything Instagram’s done – at least until it releases a bunch of new announcements in a couple of days.
Reward yourself with your favourite snack or drink (or both) and try to keep your mind in once piece.