It's not necessary to always follow trends, how to give a trend your own touch is the key: Niharika Pande, Meta

Social Samosa
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Niharika Pande

In Conversation with Niharika Pande from Meta who gives a run down on Instagram's new Following and Favorites feature and how users and creators can most the most out of the app.

Social Samosa sat down with Niharika Pande, Head of Creatives, Partnership and Community at Facebook (Meta) and had a chat on the what's and how's of Instagram's newly launched Following and Favorites feature, a rundown on some hidden features and how can you elevate your experience on the platform.

What's New On Instagram?

Niharika explained that the current Instagram feed, which everyone is so familiar with is a ranked feed. Which in theory means that the posts one sees on their feed are related to whatever one likes, comments and saves. But with the new updates, give all the power back to the user.

First, the 'Following' feature; where just like its name, the feed will be chronologically set and will only focus on accounts that you follow. Next comes 'Favorites', where if the user doesn't want to miss out on the content shared by a particular account, this feature will make sure to always include their posts in the users' feed.

Niharika further added, "With this update, it's really coming back to the core of what the experience on Instagram should be which is that the user should have control over what they want to see. While the default is the 'rank feed', with this update, users get the option to swap in and out."

One request that Instagram's back office always heard from the users was to revive the way Instagram used to look back in the day - meaning this feature. Although Instagram delivered what the audience demanded, they still think that the default rank feed is what works the best and drives the most engagement for the creators as well.

Hidden Gems On The App

Instagram constantly brings new features and updates to improve the user experience. But with the constant upgrading and renovating, some updates get lost in the bigger picture. To avoid being in the dark about these hidden gems, Niharika suggests,

Spending time on your settings. There's a lot to explore in this tiny corner of the app. For eg. 'Your Activity' will give the user a good look at how much time and where their time is being spent on Instagram.

Next would be the 'Live' Experience. Where today, the user can add up to 4 people on their Live. Additionally, the Live section now has something called a moderator, who can moderate the whole Live experience. Along with it, the users can now post a 'coming up' post rather than a story. Plus there's something called a Practice Room, where the user can have a trial Live before actually going Live, to get used to the A-Z of the live features.

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What's New In Reels?

The short video feature, just like the app itself witnesses changes on a regular basis.

Now users can reply to a comment and make a Reel from that. This is great for creators who do regular series on their feed.

There's now a new feature called 'Collab'. Where users can create Reels by collaborating with other users. This will help the creators to create a better engagement.

Niharika advises creators, "Ask questions, use your audience to upgrade your feed. Beyond just the data, use your community as well. Because audiences are also changing all the time. What might've worked a year ago, may not work today."

Additionally, she shares that adding every possible tag to your post won't help. Because the job of a hashtag is to make finding things easier for the user. Thus, the more specific one can make it, the chances of their post's engagement increases. Having 2 rows of hashtags won't amp up your feed.

Video Trends

Niharika shares a few trends that are seen on the platform.

Reels are the new 'everything' on social media. People come on the app to get and consume entertainment. So, in those 15-30 seconds grabbing the audience's attention is the key. Next up are the longer formats - Live and IGTV, where creators and their audiences can make use of the time and interact with each other.

Niharika also adds that trends depend on the type of format the creator or user is using. Meaning, that in reels, it's not really necessary for the creator to always follow the trend. Rather, how can the creator give the trend its own touch and stand out is the key.

Blueprint For Instagram Growth

Instagram is an ever-changing platform. You could be viral today and vanish tomorrow, so staying consistent and patient with yourself is the way to go. But if you are consistently seeing either growth which is not up to what you would like or perhaps a constant dip in your way, then you might need to have a conversation on your content strategy.

You have to be open to experimenting. Be less afraid of trying new things. Because as Niharika puts it, "There is no 'book' to gaining success on Instagram. You must try 5 things, and maybe in the end 2 of them will work out."

She also highlights that Instagram's #BornOnInstagram can also be a learning tool for someone who is trying to make it on the App. Here one can find a very structured program that will take them through the app's analytics to the tools that they will need.

Dealing With Hate & Trolls

Social Media comes with its highs and lows; one such low is the constant hate and trolls. As Niharika said, "Feeling safe is critical to expression. If I am not feeling safe, I am not going to express myself." To create a comfortable and healthy environment Instagram has rolled out a few features.

Firstly, 'Hidden words', wherein the creator can hide certain trigger words from being used by the audience in their feed.

'Multiblock' is a feature where, when a user is blocking an account they can actually block any future account that person might create.

'Restrict' is a tool where, when a user can't overtly block an account but doesn't want them to engage in their content, this tool might come in handy. Where their comments will only be visible to you and the other person, and not the whole App.

With that, to avoid getting hacked or phished, have your 2-factor authentication on. Further, in terms of mental health and overuse of social media, Instagram enables users to track the time spent on the app.

To conclude, Niharika adds, "We do want to make sure that people enjoy the App. But not at the cost of their time. So, if you catch yourself stuck in a rut, and have spent a lot more time than initially intended, then you can actually set limits on the App. Where, along with enjoying your time the App itself will give you a 'back to reality check'."