To keep pace with TikTok and retain users, Instagram has introduced new features and updates at rapid-fire speed. Three common threads link these new rollouts together: agility, accountability, and inclusivity. Continue below to learn how these new features and updates aim to improve user experience, mental health considerations, and expanded DEI efforts.
3 Types of Feeds
Instagram, owned by parent company Meta, introduced three new feeds in late March 2022: Home Feed, Favorites Feed, and Following Feed. They function as follows:
- The Home Feed consists of posts suggested by the algorithm based on user interest.
- The Favorites Feed shows content from accounts the user designates as a favorite. Content from favorited accounts will also show up on the Home Feed, where they will rank higher and appear with a star icon.
- Hosting all content from accounts a user follows in chronological order is the Following Feed.
The change in the feed options is a response to user demand and concerns about Instagram manipulating feeds – as raised by the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security. Currently, Big Tech is under a microscope due to speculation their respective algorithms trap users in filter bubbles and negatively impact mental health, particularly among young people. As such, updates like Instagram’s multiple feeds seek to offer users more autonomy in content exposure.
Updated User Interface
Although still in testing, the new Instagram interface features a more integrated and intuitive home feed similar to TikTok. The current beta test trades the parceled sections for a swipeable, full-screen display that groups feed posts, Stories, and Reels in the same space to allow for seamless viewing while swiping up or down.
The new Instagram interface could potentially impact its algorithm and content performance, similar to TikTok, which first introduced this kind of interface. It allows the platform to measure the user response to each piece of content (i.e., liking, commenting, replaying, scrolling past, etc.) and then align users’ interactions with content recommendations. Recognizing the advantages of this presentation, Instagram mirrored the interface in its current prototype.
Another way Meta is addressing the negative impacts of social media on young people’s well-being is through new parental control and supervision tools. With the consent of young users, parents will be able to monitor accounts their child follows and set limits on app usage. These Instagram supervision features are available in the U.S. and are on track to be globally accessible shortly.
Videos Add Auto-Generated Captions
To improve agility and accessibility, Instagram is incorporating auto-generated captions for videos that users can turn off or on. This simplifies the process of adding captions, previously a manual task. Additionally, auto-generated captions propel inclusivity efforts by expanding content to hard-of-hearing and deaf users. While captions are limited to select languages, this new Instagram feature will soon expand to include more languages.
It’s a long time coming, but we’re excited to share a new tool that empowers those in the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities.
Videos on Instagram will now have auto-generated captions, where you have the option to turn them off or on. pic.twitter.com/DNyzcdiPSU
— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) March 1, 2022
Like Stories without DMing
Another Instagram new feature streamlining user experience is the ability to like Stories without sending a DM. Instagram added a heart icon next to the text toolbar that turns red when clicked to achieve this. In addition, when a Story is liked, the user will get a notification in the Activity tab rather than the DM inbox. As a result, DMs will be less cluttered, and users can more efficiently respond to messages.
Disable Post Embeds
Adding to user autonomy, Instagram includes the option to disable the ability for others to embed their content into third-party websites. In doing so, users have more authority over where and how and where their content is distributed.
IG Live Gets Moderators
To foster more professional and organized virtual spaces, hosts of Instagram Live events can enlist the help of a moderator. The role of moderators is to sustain a productive environment and mitigate disruptions. For example, moderators are responsible for reporting comments, removing viewers, and turning off commenting for particular users that distract, derail or obstruct Live broadcasts.
Other platforms like YouTube and Twitch already use moderators for live streaming and report positive experiences.
Recognition is of utmost importance to ensure creators receive proper credit for their work. Too often, there is misattribution of work, and underrepresented creators are overlooked or unrecognized altogether.
To help users better give and receive credit, Instagram has introduced enhanced tags. The intention behind these tags is not only to make creators more visible but also to help them advance their careers.
With personalization being a key driving force in online experiences, Instagram now offers 3-D avatars for Stories and DMs. Additionally, various new features to customize avatars (i.e., facial shape, expressions, skin complexion, assisted devices) speak to improved representation for all users. Looking ahead, Meta intends to incorporate avatars into Facebook and Messenger too.
Convert Stories to Reels
In the interest of repurposing content, Instagram updated Stories so they can now be converted into Reels. This feature is being slowly rolled out but will soon be available to all users.
Messaging has received several new features to help users connect in more fun and seamless ways. A description of each new messaging feature is listed below:
- Reply while you browse: Reply to a new message without opening the inbox tab.
- Quickly send to friends: Reshare content to close friends.
- See who’s online: Check who’s active at the top of the inbox.
- Play, pause, and replay: Share a 30-second preview of a song with friends and listen from the chat window.
- Send messages quietly: Add “@silent” in your message so that recipients do not receive notifications during inconvenient times.
- Keep it on the lo-fi: Make conversations feel more personal with the lo-fi chat theme.
- Create a poll with your squad: Create a poll directly in a group chat.
Flexible Grid Formats
Profile grids have been fixed entities since Instagram’s inception. However, rearranging grid layouts is currently in testing as it offers potential benefits to users, particularly businesses. For instance, changing the layout of profile grids would allow companies to move and highlight certain content for promotions instead of being limited to a chronological display of posts.
Progress and innovation are fundamental to social media. With TikTok dominating much of the social media space today, Instagram is racing to catch up with many new features and updates. Time will tell how the new Instagram features and updates measure up to the latest social media giant.