With Instagram being one of the top five most used apps of all time, it’s no surprise that the creators are updating it often. The best part for you? Almost all of the Instagram changes are directed at businesses looking to get the most out of the platform.
With all these updates, however, it can be hard to keep up. Did you know that Instagram has implemented a few dozen major updates in the last year alone?
We were frustrated too. That’s why we’ve put together this list of all the Instagram changes since the beginning of 2016 and how they’ve impacted the eCommerce and marketing worlds.
We will be continually updating this list as Instagram changes more features. You can subscribe to this article and you’ll receive an email when we add a new Instagram update to this timeline.
If you’re looking to gain a better understanding of how Instagram has evolved over time, and how you can use it for marketing, you’ve come to the right place. You can read the full post below or navigate to the Instagram change of your interest by using the links.
Follow Hashtags on Instagram (December 2017)
Everyday, millions of people share photos and videos and tag them with relevant hashtags. To make these posts even more discoverable, Instagram is introducing hashtags you can follow.
How it works: “Following a hashtag is just like following a friend. To get started, search for a topic you’re interested in or tap on a hashtag from any post. You’ll see relevant hashtags displayed in your search results along with related accounts. When you find a hashtag you like, open the hashtag page and tap on the follow button. You’ll begin seeing top posts from that hashtag in your feed and some of the latest stories in your stories bar. You can always unfollow a hashtag at any time.”
Stories Highlights and Stories Archive (December 2017)
Stories Highlights is a new part of your profile where you can express more of who you are through stories you’ve shared. Here’s how Instagram explains it:
“Stories Highlights appear in a new section on your profile below your bio. To create a highlight, tap the “New” circle at the far left. From there, you can choose any stories from your archive, select a cover for your highlight and give it a name. Once you’re done, your highlight will appear as a circle on your profile that plays as a stand-alone story when someone taps it. Highlights stay on your profile until you remove them, and you can have as many highlights as you’d like. To edit or remove a highlight, just tap and hold that highlight on your profile.”
Moving forward, your stories will automatically save to your archive when they expire. This makes it easy for you to revisit your favorite moments later on or bring them back to life in a highlight.
Here’s how it works: “to access the stories in your archive, tap the Archive icon on your profile. From there, you can easily switch between your Posts Archive and your new Stories Archive. In your Stories Archive, your stories will appear in a grid with the most recent stories at the bottom. The first story from each day will show a date indicator to help you navigate your archive as you scroll.”
Instagram Adds An Interactive Poll Sticker To Stories (October 2017)
This is big! Ask your friends and followers a question, let them vote and see how many votes each option received.
Think about it… now, you can ask your followers what they think about the new package design or a new product that you consider offering. You can get insights into customers opinions, preferences, likes or dislikes by doing a small survey with the “poll” sticker. The new feature is super easy to use and the possibilities of customising the question and the poll choice are basically endless.
This is how it works:
“After you’ve taken a photo or video for your story, select the “poll” sticker and place it anywhere you’d like — you can write out your own question and even customise the poll choices. After you’ve shared your poll, your followers can immediately start voting and see real-time results. Once someone has voted on your poll, they’ll see which choice is in the lead at any given moment. And if they watch your story again later, they’ll see the latest results. To see your own poll results, swipe up to open the viewers list for that part of your story. There you’ll see everything you need to get the best answer for your question. Not only will you see how many votes each option received, but you’ll also see who voted and what option they chose.” Instagram-Blog
Your story, the pulls and its results will disappear after 24 hours, just like every other shared story on Instagram.
The polls feature is very engagement supportive and perfect for interaction with your followers. You can easily reach out to your audience, give them a voice and a chance of being considered at decision making. We are very excited and will start using the “poll” sticker immediately 😊.
Facebook brings the full-screen experiences “Canvas ad” format to Instagram Stories (September 2017)
As 250M people around the world watch and create stories every day, Instagram Stories is becoming an increasingly powerful way for brands to stand out and inspire action. More than 50% of businesses having created a story in the last month.
Facebooks full-screen experiences “Canvas ad” format is now available for Instagram Stories
“Canvas enables you to shorten the distance between your message and the customer. It loads instantly, is mobile-optimised and is designed to capture the complete attention of your audience. With Facebook Canvas, people can watch engaging videos and photos, swipe through carousels, tilt to pan and engage all in a single advert. They won’t just view your story, they’ll become a part of it.” (Facebook-Business: Canvas Adverts)
⇒ This updates is giving advertisers more flexibility with how they create and buy ads in stories.
Here is an example of the canvas ad integration in action:
Instagram said in their blog post from this week: “With the ability to utilize Facebook’s fast-loading full screen Canvas format in Instagram Stories, marketers are able to use the creative versatility of Canvas to tell compelling brand and product stories. This seamless extension of the full screen experience allows advertisers to capture the attention of customers with just a single ad.”
Inspiring Engagement with New Creative Tools (September 2017)
Now, advertisers can use camera features like face filters, boomerangs, and drawing tools to create an organic piece of media, and then repurpose as an ad.
A new uploading tool allows businesses to extend their reach by upload their existing organic creative stories as ads in Power Editor and Ads Manager and have it live permanently for future use.
Placement Optimization to run campaigns across Facebook, Instagram and Audience Network (September 2017)
Instagram is rolling out the ability for Instagram Stories to be automatically added to Facebook, Instagram, and Audience Network campaigns through placement optimization. This ability allows business to take advantage of the efficiencies of running a cohesive campaign.
This feature will be fully rolled out globally in the coming weeks.
For more information about the new Instagram Stories features read the full announcement here
And here’s some Instagram Stories news for users
Instagram Stories can now be shared via Instagram Direct (September 2017)
Instagram Stories can now be shared via Instagram Direct messaging feature by tapping the Direct icon in the bottom-right corner. Users can also turn off this feature and disable other users to share their stories.
Introducing Photo and Video Replies to Stories (July 2017)
Instagram users can now reply to Stories with a photo or video. Although this sounds more like a user-focused update, it gives brands a lot of possibilities. Users viewing your Stories now have new ways to interact with your brand. Think about it, your fans can now directly respond to your call for (user-generated) content. You can even run entire contests through Stories! Are you getting excited? You can read all about this update here
Post on Instagram without the app (June 2017)
Instagram introduced a feature that allows users to upload photos via their mobile browser. Although this feature is introduced first and foremost to enable the usage of Instagram on phones that do not support applications, it provides advantages for all of us. Through a relatively easy Google Chrome hack you can now post photos from your desktop, increasing image quality and ease-of-use even further. Are you keen on trying this out? You can read all about this clever hack here.
No more mean comments (June 2017)
Everybody has experienced the impact of trolls or spammers on their social accounts at some point in time. Instagram announced two new tools to block these negative experiences.
“Many of you have told us that toxic comments discourage you from enjoying Instagram and expressing yourself freely. To help, we’ve developed a filter that will block certain offensive comments on posts and in live video. All other comments will appear as they normally do and you can still report comments, delete comments or turn them off”, explains Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom. For now this tool will be only available in English with more languages being added over time.
In addition, Instagram added a spam filter to block obvious spam in comments on your posts and live videos. The spam filter is powered by machine learning and will remove spam written in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, French, German, Russian, Japanese and Chinese. Read all about these new tools here.
Add a link to Instagram Stories (June 2017)
As a reader of our blog you are obviously keen on driving more traffic from your social media accounts to your website. Instagram is rolling out the possibility to add a link in your Instagram Stories.
This gives you the opportunity to reveal new items or special offers in a teasing playful manner. This is a great addition to our visual commerce solutions. Read more about this new feature here so you can start enjoying the benefits soon!
Replay Live videos (June 2017)
Adding a link is not the only new feature in Stories. Instagram now made it possible to share your Live videos in Stories for 24 hours. This way your followers will no longer miss out on your Live announcements.
Manage Instagram via Facebook Inbox (June 2017)
With this new feature Facebook further integrates the two platforms. Now you are able to manage Instagram, Facebook, and Messenger comments and messages all via the Facebook Inbox.
To use the advantages of this integration in the updated Facebook Inbox, all you’ll have to do is connect your Instagram business profile to your Facebook page and open the Facebook Inbox. Now you can read and reply to comments on your Instagram posts from Facebook!
Does this mean you can manage Instagram completely from Facebook? No you can’t only rely on Facebook Inbox, since it doesn’t give you all the functionalities of Instagram. Direct Messages don’t show up (yet..?) in your Facebook Inbox.
You can read more about the recent Facebook Inbox integration and the possibilities here.
Multiple Image & Video Posts (March 2017)
With this new update, you’re able to post up to ten photos and videos in one post. You can choose different filters for each individual photo, but can only write one caption per post.
“Whether you’re creating a step-by-step tutorial, sharing the different elements of an outfit, or the best bits of a recent holiday, you can now share more than just one moment without worrying about over-posting to your feed,” Instagram explains.
While this isn’t one of the most profound Instagram changes, it’s still fun to play with and gives you more options to share with your followers. If you don’t know how to do it, here’s a step-by-step guide.
Instagram Lead Ads (February 2017)
Instagram lead ads are exactly what they sound like: Ads made to get leads. Here’s an example:
As you can see, in a lead ad you’re allowed a “sign up” button. This is a great way to build your email list. But that’s not all…
Not only does this help your ad stand out, but it also gives you the opportunity to display crucial information (the benefits to your subscribers) to increase conversions.
Read SME’s guide to Instagram lead ads to get started today.
Instagram Story Ads (February 2017)
With the release of Instagram Stories and Instagram ads in the same year, this update was a no-brainer. You now have the liberty to create a story with your product, including a link to buy it right from the Instagram screen. Here’s a quick explainer video:
Story ads are awesome for your business because they allow you to show up in front of your followers when they’re most engaged. Read more about Instagram Story Ads here, and check out Iconosquare’s guide to using Story ads if you want to learn how to do it.
Instagram Stories… with Stickers! (December 2016)
When Instagram realized that more and more users were using Instagram’s Story feature, they decided to make it even awesome-er… They added vibrant stickers that you can post alongside your story!
You’re also able to post the time, your location, and the temperature. You can use as many stickers as you’d like per post and can move them anywhere on the screen. Here’s a guide to using stickers on your Instagram stories.
Bookmarks (December 2016)
Have you ever seen a post on Instagram that you loved, taken a screenshot of it, and lost it in your camera roll? Maybe not, but your followers sure have.
Thanks to Instagram Bookmarks, users can revisit their favorite pictures. The pictures you bookmark will only be visible to you and you’ll be able to access them from your profile page.
This might not seem that great for your business at first glance. But, this is one of the best Instagram changes yet; It means your posts have a shot at staying in your follower’s minds for weeks, months, and even years after they’ve been posted! To make the most of this, tell people to bookmark your photos in your caption.
Instagram Live (December 2016)
Like Facebook, Instagram is using live videos to help users connect with their followers.
The cool thing about Instagram live is that you can now directly interact with your followers in real-time. They can comment with questions which you can answer. It also alerts your followers that you’re live, which increases your chances of being seen in their feed.
Word of Warning: These live recordings aren’t saved, so once you’re finished with the live video it disappears.
Instagram Ads (November 2016)
Ready to promote your business? With Instagram Ads, your images will be shown on your user’s home screens as a photo (or video) depending on which you choose. Both image and video ads are able in portrait or landscape mode, which allows your posts to have a little more flexibility.
If you’d like to broadcast Instagram ads in a more creative way, you’re able to create a sort of slideshow image called a Carousel Ad Post, which allows viewers to swipe from picture to picture (or videos). If you want to learn more, take a look at SME’s guide to Instagram advertising.
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Explore Tab (October 2016)
With the updated Explore Tab, Instagram will show you posts similar to those you’ve already “liked”. You’re also able to see video channels, as well as live videos currently happening.
Everyone has different interests. The Explore Tab is modified to show what you enjoy, and that’s different for everyone. Obviously, you want your brand to show up on the explore tab. Here’s a guide to help you do that.
Instagram Stories (August 2016)
Move over, Snapchat! Since August 2016, you’ve been able to post stories on your Instagram page.
Now you can post loads of videos for your followers to see without flooding your feed. You’re able to doodle, write text, and even save Instagram stories for later. Like Snapchat, these stories delete after 24 hours.
One cool part of Stories is that you’re able to see who watches your story by swiping up on each picture/video you post. This gives you better insight into who your biggest fans are.
Instagram Business Profiles (June 2016)
Of all the Instagram changes in 2016, this was one of the biggest. In June of 2016, new tools were added to the app, which allowed businesses to better understand their followers (based on likes) while growing their business.
Thanks to the Business tool, your followers can now see where your business is located and access your contact information. This means they can now email, text, or call your business from their Instagram’s profile.
More on Instagram Business Profiles here.
Instagram API Changes (June 2016)
Instagram’s API Platform allows users to share their own content with 3rd party apps, helps advertisers manage their audience, and helps publishers discover content while getting digital rights to media. In June of 2016, they restricted the use of their API, causing a few Instagram-related apps to shut down (some of which were spambots that auto followed/unfollowed users and “liked” and commented on photos).
Since this change, you can no longer view your Instagram feed through third-party apps like Iconosquare or Flipboard. Additionally, no one can access the Instagram API without getting access from Instagram themselves.
The big change this meant for your business is if you relied on bots to help you grow your accounts. Services like Instagram Follow/Unfollow became extinct overnight. Now you have to do it manually or hire someone.
Instagram’s Logo Redesign (May 2016)
In May of 2016, Instagram completely redesigned their logo.
The creators of Instagram received plenty of backlash for the design, but head of design Ian Spalter said that it was time for a change. The logo took nine months to create and Ian explains that the new logo better resembles cameras that are being used today.
Check your CTAs and marketing material, if you are using Instagram’s logo on your website to encourage people to follow your business account or to share images with you, be sure to be using the updated logo.
Instagram changes maximum video length (March 2016)
Before this update, videos were limited to 15 seconds. Now, you’re able to upload up to 60 seconds of video. Instagram finally updated this after realizing that more than 40% of users posted (as well as watched) videos. More about this update here. Here are a few Instagram video best practices to help you make the most of this change.
Smarter Algorithm Feed (March 2016)
Instagram noticed that, on average, people missed out on 70% of posts by people they followed (!!).
To combat this, they created an updated Algorithm feed, allowing users to see “what they cared about the most” first. For example, if one of your favorite Instagram users was in a different time zone than you, but you liked their pictures the most, Instagram made it so that you would never miss out on one of their posts again.
Account Switching (February 2016)
Account switching is an Instagram update which now allows users to add multiple accounts to their app. Seemingly trivial at first glance, this impacted businesses in a fairly big way; Users can now have both their business account and their personal account on the same device.
Before account switching, you’d have to log out of your old account and login with a new account in order to switch. Now, if you (or your employees) use Instagram for personal and business use, you no longer have that problem. Just swap back and forth at will.
Instagram is an ever-expanding platform, and ever since they were acquired by Facebook, they’ve grown exponentially. It seems all the Instagram changes are a perfect blend of helping businesses get the most out of the platform while protecting users from spam.
After all, without users, Instagram wouldn’t exist.
While these changes are only scraping the surface of all the updates Instagram has made since their beginning, it’s enough to give you a leg up on the competition and start seeing results from your marketing efforts.
Note: We will be continually updating this list as Instagram releases more updates. You can subscribe to this article and you’ll receive an email when we add a new Instagram update to this timeline.