The Instagram Game Has Changed

Never before in human history have we experienced the same remarkably fast pace of change as we do today. We see this with technology in general, but perhaps on an even more profound level with the Internet and social media. What may have been hot and relevant one week quickly becomes last week’s news. To this end, platforms need to adapt and evolve with the times to maintain the interest (and engagement) of the public at large. Instagram is shining example of that.

On a social media platform that once prided itself in its simplicity, it almost feels like Instagram rolls out new features all the time. It’s the modus operandi with parent company Facebook, so it only makes sense that the same philosophy trickles down to Instagram too. And if you want to continue leveraging Instagram for profit, you need to keep up with these changes and take advantage of what they can offer.

Think Outside the Square

Remember when Instagram was only offered on the iPhone (and other iOS devices)? It took quite some time before they expanded onto Android, and even longer before any semblance of a desktop experience was offered. Similarly, Instagram was once restricted only to square photos. That has changed dramatically as well, and this represents an entirely different kind of opportunity for online content creators.

If you are only using Instagram to share square photos with the default filters, you’re missing out. From different aspect ratios to collages to carousels, from Instagram stories to IGTV, it’s more important than ever to reach your audience in as many ways and as creatively as possible. How are you leveraging these different formats?

Rise of the “Captionfluencer”

The original premise of Instagram was to share spontaneous moments in your life instantly. That’s the “insta.” But the “latergram” has become the de facto standard for the overwhelming majority of professionals. And while it is still very much a visual platform where photos (and videos) are featured front and center, how captions are used is completely changing the game. It’s not just about the image anymore.

Indeed, a New York Times article discusses the prevailing trend of “captionfluencers.” In effect, what once may have been an afterthought to accompany the photo has turned into the primary point of focus. The photo itself is stylized and intentional, but the “real story” is found in the caption… and it might not have all that much to do with the photo directly either.

For all the people who say that blogging is dead, the truth is that blogging is just taking on more forms. There’s traditional blogging (if you can call it that) in posts like this, but influencers are also treating Instagram and other social networks as microblogging platforms too. The caption says a lot more than what’s in the photo.

In this way, the photo might be worth a thousand words, but the caption is worth a thousand pictures. Take the same care and attention to your caption as you do with the image.

Tag! You’re It!

Along the same line of thought, it’s not just about the picture (or video) and the caption either. Discoverability plays a hugely critical role and one of the ways to help nudge the algorithm in your favor is with location tags and hashtags, as well as tagging relevant accounts that are mentioned in your Instagram posts. This is true of the main feed, just as much as it is true with stories.

While there are competing schools of thought as how to best approach hashtags on Instagram, and those recommendations are in a constant state of flux, it’s obvious enough that if you’re not using hashtags strategically, you’re missing out on huge opportunities to extend and expand your audience too. Can you even say you’re #LivingMyBestLife if no one else sees, likes, and comments on it?

What are some of the biggest Instagram trends or changes that you’ve noticed? Is Instagram a big part of your overall business plan?