One of the biggest changes that has started to be rolled out to different countries around the world is that ‘likes’ are being hidden from viewers. So if you post a photo to the grid, you yourself can see how many likes your post received – but these will not be shown to anyone else. Instead, the post will display the name of one of your followers along with the words ‘and others’ to show publicly the amount of likes on a post.
From a business perspective, this can affect the first impression of a page in that visitors will not be able to tell which are the most popular posts (in terms of likes by followers). It will also mean that viral success cannot be visualised in terms of the amount of likes showing how much traction a post may have made. As such, this arguably gives each and every post an even playing field with less of an emphasis on X amount of likes being deemed as a measure of success.
While not officially confirmed by Instagram, earlier in the year it was reported by many users that their posts are reaching a smaller and smaller cohort of their usual audience. Articles, blogs and think-pieces came to a mutual conclusion that posts now seem to be reaching only between 7 – 10% of their full audience. Coupled with this, posts are now not appearing chronologically in the feed; thus adding a more random and inconsistent edge to what posts reach your audience.
With this, business profiles can no longer rely on the perceived safety net that their full audience can give them in terms of reach, likes and comments etc. The reduced visibility of posts also means that the reduced visibility of likes as discussed above makes posts in themselves a more competitive entity. Due to this, we can expect to see more emphasis placed on stories instead.
Perhaps a more niche tweak that has not garnered too much attention (as of yet) is that to do with the use of the animated filters that can be applied to story posts. These are a very popular element that can add colourful and humorous effects to story posts – such as adding bunny rabbit and dog ears to people, making the photo seem like it is set on a tropical island, adding a neon layer to the photo and more.
In the past, these many filters could be applied to story posts that were either uploaded to the story from your smartphone camera roll / gallery or taken directly through Instagram instead. Now however, only a limited amount of filters are available for photos uploaded from your smartphone. As such, this can be seen to place more of a focus on content captured in the moment using the Instagram camera (as all of the filters are available in this way) instead of pre-shot photos and images.
Did you know that some apps and software can be data mined which means that those proficient with the backend of their design (i.e. how they are coded and made), can read into them and discover features that may exist within them but are not made publicly visible. In early 2019, a method like this was used to discover that Instagram were planning to test hiding the visibility of likes – just as discussed in the first section of this blog.
It also discovered a possible future option for how the Instagram feed can / will be displayed. Instead of scrolling vertically to see new posts one after the other in a downwards version; it instead offered an option to scroll horizontally to view them side to side. Should this (optional?) feature ever see the light of day remains to be seen, but it does go to show how Instagram are working behind the scenes to tweak the user experience in many different ways and forms.