Instagram Is No Longer Just A Platform For Sharing Photos

By @TheMarkDalton

Over the last year, Instagram has very quickly matured into more than just a photo sharing platform. Over the past number of months Instagram has seen growth booming on the platform in both businesses and users.

Instagram launched six years ago with lots of constraints, photos were always square, always small and low-res. There were just a few filters to play with and for the first two years it was iOS only, Android eventually followed. Despite all this it was magical, it made your photos look instantly better and easier to share.

Growth has accelerated, especially with all the tools Instagram now offers users. The platform has gone from constraints to being full of choice, brands and online publications have found phenomenal success. In face most publications are swearing by the platform now, the ones that don’t use it yet because they don’t see the value are the same people that try sell you their ‘brand building services.’

Instagram now has more than 600 million monthly active users and 150 million daily story users. It is a lifestyle platform, a place to do almost everything you could want to do and now with the launch of galleries there is another reason not to leave.

Lets take a look at how Instagram has matured over the past number of years.

1) Direct messaging

Launched in December 2013, direct messaging has started booming over the past number of months on Instagram. For the longest time I never used messaging on the platform but let me tell you this, business is now going down big time on Insta DM’s. That has been aided by the launch of the stories platform on Instagram which allows you to message right from the stories feature. It is starting to become my new email with the traction stories is getting on the platform, but be cautious that if you don’t follow someone and they message you Instagram has a tendency to hide them under requested messages. Something to keep an eye on.

2) Instagram for business

Business pages launched last year and are a big positive for brands seeking to grow on the platform. The tools allow you to place call to action buttons in your profile such as “contact” and they give access to analytics tools such as impressions, top posts, what times your followers are active and data for any promoted content you run. All the kind of tools a business needs from a social platform are now there and they are linked through your Facebook Page.

3) Instagram Stories

Launched last year, stories was completely unexpected and a shot from the dark when they arrived on the platform. Initially people were confused, Snapchat was doing so well with influencers so why would Instagram try to rip the feature off and copy them? Surely it would never be a success? Well a few months on and it is a roaring success, and personally I prefer creating stories on Instagram than I do on Snapchat. There is more engagement, better organic reach and stories complements the main feed well. In just a few months Instagram stories has almost caught up to what Snapchat achieved in a few years. Instagram has 150 million + daily story users while Snapchat has 160 million + daily users.

4) Go Live

After the launch of stories it was Instagram’s turn to launch a live platform and they did so baked into the stories feature. It comes with a twist, the broadcasts are not saved and once you finish then they are gone. However it has proven to be very popular so far and Instagram features top live broadcasts in the explore section of the app as broadcasts start and end.

5) Galleries

The latest addition to the app is the ability to upload galleries of 10 photos on your main feed. This can serve as two purposes, you can group shots together instead of posting multiples on the main feed and cluttering what people are seeing. Now they can be in the one place and you can just flick through. It can also be used by brands as a storytelling feature in 10 shots on the main feed. It has been a much requested feature over the past number of years and it is great to finally see Instagram deliver it to users.

If you look at Instagram as just a photo sharing app then you are missing the point, it is so much more than that and despite what people may think they have certainly taken a bite out of Snapchat.

Many of the influencers on Snapchat over the past number of months have created a hell of a lot less on the platform, or created nothing at all for periods of time but I sure do see them on Instagram stories now. Instagram covers all of the core pillars now from interacting in comments, new great content, stories, messaging and live. It has matured in a fully rounded platform particularly in the last year and has become by favourite platform to use but a long shot.

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