#SocialThrowback: The coming off age of Instagram

Mohammad Kanchwala
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On the second last day of the year, we decide to take a look at Instagram's journey - as Facebook's million dollar possession opened up for business, introduced algorithm, and locked horns with Snapchat.

Eventful year we say, look for yourself.

Instagram introduces multiple accounts

Granting one of the most requested features to bloggers and social media managers worldwide, Instagram finally allowed linking multiple accounts and the ability to switch through them, without having to logout of one.

A maximum of five accounts can be linked within the Instagram app, which made life easier for a lot of users who will not have to depend upon third party apps, or be forced to login and out of accounts.

Two factor authentication added

Instagram provides an upgrade to security by adding a two-factor authentication process to accounts preventing hacks and misuse. Protecting users from cyber-attacks that could potentially result in mental and social agony; Instagram was late, but they made sure it was not too late.

Video view counter

One of the few things that was missing on Instagram was the view counter, which for regular users was only a matter of vanity and popularity, but for bloggers, businesses, and celebrities who need a measure for reach and exposure, it was a nightmare.

Working similarly as Facebook’s view counter, it considers views that are 3 seconds and above, to provide users with a better statistic of how many times their content is being watched.

Instagram introduces algorithm

The company changed the sorting criteria on their platform, from chronologically to algorithm based to prevent posts from friends getting lost in the feed. The algorithm assigns preference to posts and accounts that a user frequently interacts with and a number of other factors to provide the best possible Instagram experience.

60 second videos allowed

Earlier, Instagram only allowed uploading videos up to 15 seconds, which the company doubled up to 30 seconds and further to 60 seconds, as a way to blend in more advertisements with the help of videos on their platform.

Personalized video suggestions in Explore

Keeping up with their tremendous success in terms of user numbers, Facebook had been looking at monetizing themselves by making Instagram an attractive prospect not only for their users but also for advertisers.

Working towards the goal step by step, the platform rolled out an update that displayed a personalized and curated video section under the Explore tab.

As it offers personalized video content, the information could be reapplied to effectively target potential consumers through video advertisements, which needless to say would have to be creative enough to sustain the attention of the fickle Instagram audience.

Instagram loses the loyalty of teens to Snapchat for the first time

As per a study undertaken by Piper Jaffray, Snapchat has overtaken Instagram for the loyalties of teen users, bettering their percentage from 13% in Spring 2015 to 28% in Spring 2016, leaving Instagram behind at 27%.

Overall, the two photo sharing platforms dominated the teen demographic in the survey, sharing more than 50% of user preference. From here onwards, the plot began to thicken, the intense rivalry between the two only got worse from here onwards.

Instagram redesigns logo, reflects change that has happened and is about to come

To portray the diversification Instagram has gone through over the course of five years, the platform re-envisioned their logo using a vibrant colour scheme. The user interface of the app was also given a facelift by removing the blue coloured background, being replaced with a white background keeping the location of the buttons intact for familiarity.

This change was among the many more to come, as Instagram prepared for an eventful second half of 2016.

New business tools on Instagram

With more than 200,000 business profiles active on Instagram, the need for dedicated business tools became loud and clear and Instagram did well to hear and act on these needs.

Instagram announced Business Profiles, Insights and the ability to Promote on their platform. These tools let businesses run ads, monitor their progress through analytics and the ability to turn existing posts into ads with ease, by creating a free business profile. Only Instagram accounts that are recognized as business page on Facebook can access the profiles.

Buffer integrated into Instagram

Instagram had been working towards making things easier for businesses, thus, they collaborated with Buffer, to allow scheduling. Although not offering complete lax on their restrictions, rather allowing users to pre-write a caption through Buffer.

When the time for the scheduled post arrives, Instagram prompts a user through a push notification and it copies the caption to Instagram, so all the user has to do is post which takes out some inconvenience, retaining some.

Anti Abuse tools tested with celebrities and influencers

To curb the rampant abuse and bullying treatment meted out by trolls and bullies often lead to harassment, Instagram took a big leap by testing a feature that protects users from being subjected to such behaviour.

The new feature allowed users to pre-specify words or emojis that they do not wish to see, and it wipes out comments that contain the said words. It also allows users to turn off comments on posts altogether. It was tested and eventually rolled out to all of Instagram’s 500 million users on August 1, 2016.

Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories was launched on August 3, creating a huge uproar in the industry, with users and experts aback as to how Instagram could simply clone their rival’s exclusive features into their own platform.

Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom, admitted Snapchat’s role as an inspiration when it comes to Stories, and  was aimed at giving users something right on Instagram, that could in future see them leave in favour of Snapchat.

Live Videos now on Events channel under Explore

To grant a much broader spotlight to current events, Instagram introduced the Events channel under the Explore tab which works similarly as Explore but provides a glimpse of what’s trending around the world.

After Instagram Stories, real time sharing on the platform was witnessing an astronomical rise, it repurposes popular user generated content and highlights it under the Events channel, resolving the issue of discoverability.

Consumers and Advertisers prefer Instagram

Instagram became home to more than 500,000 advertisers in a year’s time since the company opened up their platform to businesses, multinational corporations to local, were making the most of Instagram’s visually driven storytelling capabilities.

Instagram Stories, a successful clone

Once the shock, disgust, and stigma expressed by the industry and the world began to fade in few days’ time, two months later Instagram Stories recorded more than 100 million Daily Active Users, more than half of Snapchat’s hard earned 150 million DAU over a period of five years.

As Snapchat began to experiment with other potential segments, Instagram proved itself a worthy opponent, from a business and popularity standpoint; morally not so much.

Popular Stories on Explore, Suicide Prevention Tools introduced

The Explore tab would now highlight popular Instagram Stories from public accounts, out manoeuvring Snapchat which has faced persistent troubles balancing privacy and making new content discoverable.

With the new Suicide Prevention Tools, users can anonymously report someone they feel may commit self-harm, following which Instagram will extend a helping hand through a helpline that the platform has developed by working together with U.S. National Eating Disorders Association and the The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for the right approach and language.

After advertising, ecommerce is the next step for Instagram

Instagram wanted to step out of the middleman role where it advertises products, by testing Shoppable Photo Tags on their platform with a Shop Now button, for a seamless shopping experience within Instagram.

This move pits Instagram against Pinterest which is already thriving through the presence of businesses on their platform, and are also perfecting their Buyable Pins feature, similar to Instagram.

Instagram Live, Stories in DM

Taking after Facebook’s wildly successful Live video, Instagram too unveiled Live Video on their platform which unlike Facebook, disappears once the user concludes the Live broadcast. It works similarly as Stories, as the video ceases to exist, but is a more immediate way of sharing.

Once a user goes Live, their friends are notified through a Push notification, and when viewing a Live video on Instagram, users can also express themselves through the ‘heart’ feature and comment. Users can turn off comments altogether if they wish to do so.

Stories were also extended to Direct Messages on Instagram, which needless to say was exactly like Snapchat, which offers sending ephemeral photos and videos to specific people.


Introducing the Bookmark button, Instagram did a Pinterest once again. Offering the ability to save a post for future reference goes a long way in the platform’s efforts to bring shopping on Instagram.

Another milestone

Instagram added more than 100 million users on their platform in 2016, bringing their total to an enviable 600 million, more than the combined user base of its two rivals, Pinterest and Snapchat.

Hands Free Video, Holiday themed stickers and geo filters

More cloning from Instagram, but this time with a hint of originality, introducing geo-filters, holiday themed stickers AND something that Snapchat users have been asking for a long time, hands free video.

This concludes the highs and the lows for Instagram, a truly eventful journey that saw them end this year in the lead. Competition is what forces innovation, and that is precisely what seems to have worked for Instagram.

The article is a part of our #SocialThrowback series, that mapped what dominated the Indian social media industry.

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