Instagram Has A New Look, But How You Use It Hasn’t Changed… Yet

Instagram Has A New Look, But How You Use It Hasn’t Changed… Yet

The Internet's Visual Darling Gets A Complete Makeover

Any time Facebook releases a major change to the app... or even a tweak to the news feed... it's cause for major concern and hair-pulling-out for many. We all hate change, and changes to the things we use or do daily are felt most dear.

So it's no wonder that, when Instagram announced a complete makeover and "an updated icon and app design" that applies to main app as well as Layout, Boomerang and Hyperlapse, many started to panic.

Do Not Panic.

You will be able to continue posting great images and videos, and swiping through the streams of your friends and connections just like always. It just looks a little different.

First, the icons themselves are new. With apologies to those of you who color-coordinate your apps.

Instagram's New Icons

More importantly, the look and feel of Instagram once you're inside the app has been simplified. According to Instagram, "The simpler design puts more focus on your photos and videos without changing how you navigate the app."

And it's true. By toning down some of the colors and navigational icons, images are even more in focus.

Instagram's New Look & Feel

That's the extent of the changes. How you post images and select filters hasn't changed. How you find and follow other people is exactly the same. For the other apps as well.

Ah, well... ok, maybe something else has changed. It just wasn't part of this announcement and app update.

And that's how businesses use Instagram. You see, earlier this year, Instagram revealed that they're working on Instagram For Business accounts. So instead of everyone having a personal account, whether it's their name or their company name, businesses will be able to create business-specific accounts, just like Facebook has profiles and pages.

Now, it's not yet clear what those accounts will or will not be able to do. On the plus side, we know that business accounts will include analytics, called Insights, just like Facebook. Businesses will be able to see not just how their account is growing, but get much deeper insight into follower demographics.

Here's a screenshot from later.com:

New Instagram Analytics

But remember that Instagram is owned by Facebook, and is clearly taking cues from how Facebook helps businesses. We already have the option of setting up sponsored Instagram posts via Facebook Ads, and now we're going to have Insights as well.

Sounds great, right?

The potential problem with this is two-fold.

First, with additional benefits and incentives, more businesses will flock to Instagram. Which, of course, is the entire point. Facebook and Instagram want more businesses using the platform because that means more and more businesses will see the benefits of the network and want to scale those benefits through the use of paid advertising. Instagram has been growing, but not as quickly as some of the other major social networks, so Facebook wants to stimulate that growth. As all of these new businesses begin using the platform more and posting more content, the result will be more promotional content in the streams which users don't like.

Historians like me see where this is going. It leads to the second problem with these developments, and that is the overpopulation of promotional content in the stream. If users of a platform are following friends, family and brands, but those brands begin to post too much and dominate the stream, the users have less interest in using the platform and spend less time there. Facebook's solution was to create an algorithm that throttles back reach - how many people see - posts from brands.

Over the past 5 years, brands who use Facebook Pages have watched their organic reach plummet to single digit percentages. The average Facebook Page post reaches just 2-4% of their fanbase.

Facebook's Declining Reach

Image Credit: Social@Ogilvy

Facebook isn't the only network to have pivoted businesses in this way. LinkedIn added Company Pages and Google+ added Google+ Pages. Pinterest added Business accounts and even allowed personal accounts to be converted into Business accounts.

Isn't this just a ploy to get businesses to self-identify as potential paid users for these networks? As an individual, the network is forced to assume I have no interest in spending any money to promote my content. But the moment I choose to sign up for a 'business' account, that's a clear signal to the network that I'm attempting to create an audience for my business, and I may be willing to put some cash behind it.

Right now, anyone with an Instagram account can build an audience and speak directly to that audience any time they wish, for free. And the promise of analytics and other features may seem tempting. But make sure that when Instagram releases business accounts later this year, if you decide to switch or create a new account, you've done so with your eyes open.

Meanwhile, enjoy the latest update, and then make sure that you're doing everything you need to really leverage Instagram to support your blog by reading Instagram for Bloggers.

Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner

Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner, award-winning Blogger and Author in St. Louis, and the Chief Marketing Officer at SiteSell. He has been working with websites and the Internet since the early '90's, and is active on all of the major social networks. Mike teaches a holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blog content, social media and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales.

Mike is the author of, "The Unofficial Book On HootSuite: The #1 Tool for Social Media Management", "The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile.", and "Blog Promotionology, The Art & Science of Blog Promotion."

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