Photo Credit: picjumbo
If you haven’t used Instagram recently, you’re missing out on a lot. Ever since late summer, one of the world’s most popular social networks has been rolling out new innovations that emulate many of the best features of Snapchat and Twitter. You can call Instagram a copycat if you want – and many in the tech world have basically done that – but it’s remarkable how much more of a robust experience Instagram now offers users.
The first and most important new feature in Instagram is “Stories,” which function in much the same way as Snapchat’s Stories. If you don’t feel like spamming your friends and followers with a steady stream of Instagram photos, you now have a way of collecting them all into one place. These photos become part of a public collection of photos and videos that will disappear after 24 hours.
Say, for example, you spent the weekend at an NFL football game. Maybe you were at the Eagles game. You might have taken photos of the stadium, of the crowd, of the players on the field, and any interesting things you saw either before or after the game. With Instagram Stories, you’d be able to combine all those photos into a collection, thereby adding some narrative and context around your day. And you wouldn’t need to bombard your followers with 10 photos at the same time. People don’t have to worry about “overposting” anymore.
The way photos and videos disappear on Instagram is now similar to the way they disappear on Snapchat. That was perhaps the biggest allure of Snapchat — taking brief “snaps” that would simply disappear after viewing. Social media experts even came up with a brand new term for this attribute – they referred to it as “ephemeral media.” And now CNN has anointed Instagram as “the ephemeral app of choice.”
Instagram Live Video
The other key innovation from Instagram is not anything really new to social media – livestreaming. This was basically what Twitter’s Periscope offered. And it’s what Facebook now offers to brands and users – the ability to livestream from anywhere. Instagram already offered the ability to record brief videos, and now it’s extending that experience even further with live video streaming.
Obviously, one of the key trends in the social media world is the embrace of “social video” and it’s clear that Instagram has seen the writing on the wall. (Or, if you prefer, the painting on the wall) Photos and fun filters only get you so far. Just as photos marked an upgrade from purely text experiences online, video represents the next logical move from an innovation perspective. Social video is just so dominant, especially as more people access social media via mobile devices.
The future of Instagram
Instagram was already one of the “stickiest” social media sites. The number everyone loved to quote was “21 minutes” – as in the average time an Instagram user spent per session. That’s a huge number in the ADD world of social media, and one that’s almost certain to grow as the result of Instagram Stories and Instagram live video.
The big question, though, is whether people want Instagram to offer so many of the features of the other social networks. For awhile, it looked like social media users preferred much more of a splintered experience, in which they assigned specific roles and tasks to each social network, and used them in a unique way.
Those days may be coming to a close, as both Facebook and Instagram (owned by Facebook) are leading the way with comprehensive, “one-stop-shop” social media experiences that offer a bit of everything. That may be good news for users, but it remains to be seen what it means for Twitter and Snapchat.