Over the past 12 months, Instagram has released a near-constant series of updates. From the Superzoom creative tool and ad stop-motion camera to enable the creation of GIFs, to the ability to comment with visual media and right-to-left language support, the platform has been opened up to a wide range of new languages and audiences.
For influencer marketers, this raises the question of how these updates are impacting influencers on the channel and brands looking to seek the attention of various groups of users on the platform.
Here are some key takeaways from the updates Instagram implemented this year.
Influencers need to step up their game
Instagram application updates have been happening at a cadence of about once per week—often in small increments and sometimes with significant changes such as the implementation of larger Stories previews mid-feed. Instagram parent Facebook said in its third-quarter earnings call that more than 300 million people are using Instagram Stories daily.
If influencers don’t master how to navigate and take advantage these new features, they could easily become irrelevant to users who expect to see them engage and excel. And what consumer doesn’t want to see user-created GIFs or hilarious super close up images on their favorite Instagram pages?
And while using these advancements in technology, influencers also need to keep transparency in mind with the new paid partnership hashtag implemented this year. Rather than using #ad in captions or stories—something that could be easily missed—they are now required to outright state their brand partnership.
While this is great for transparency, it also could leave consumers perceiving the influencer as less authentic. Users will have questions such as, “Do they really like the product or are they just being paid to use it on social media?” Or, “would they use it if they weren’t being paid?” Influencers will have to work to strengthen their relationships with audiences to maintain their previous level of trust and brand impact with these new rules.
New markets are open
With the creation of right-to-left language support, millions of potential customers are now able to easily communicate on Instagram. The platform already had 33 languages supported—including Chinese, Korean and Japanese—that can be read right-to-left and top to bottom. But exclusively right-to-left languages—such as Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew—are new to the visual platform.
What this means for marketers is that they need to be aware of and able to identify and reach relevant audiences in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, where those languages are heavily spoken. Additionally, a new crop of influencers will be starting up their accounts and capturing the attention of this audience on the platform. This opens a whole new pool of influencers for brands, but it will be difficult to manage and leverage in-house.
But not all of the changes are good …
Some changes don’t engage users positively, and brand marketers and influencers need to be aware of consumer sentiment.
The biggest one that comes to mind is an update from September that saw Instagram enabling videos to auto-play with sound. Previously, videos would play silently until the user engaged, preventing intrusive sound from unexpectedly blasting.