Instagram has come a long way since launching in October 2010. A tool that used to be for amateur photographers turned into a stepping stone for countless creators to become “insta-famous” and make a living as an influencer.
Every once in a while, the beloved social platform announces major changes. Some of those changes catch like wildfire (Instagram Story, for instance) while others are shot down by the users who make the platform what it is.
2019 has seen many changes already that will impact not only the “average Joe” of Instagram but also brands and influencers. There are three major changes creating a buzz in the industry:
- A new “creator” profile option
- Shopping tags that allow influencers to directly sell products through posts
- The testing of hiding like counts
What will these changes mean for influencers? Some updates are exciting and could lead to potential income increases while others are seen as red flags that could hurt the engagement rates of influencers.
Let’s dive into the changes further.
Previously, a content creator had two options: making a business profile or a personal profile. Now in 2019, there is an additional profile type available called “creator”.
The creator profile allows a user to get more insight into their audience and the performance of their content. For example, a business profile already provides audience demographic information such as gender, age, and location. With a creator profile, influencers can also see net follower changes. Creator profiles will also get access to the Instagram Creator Studio which provides a further range of audience insights.
Creator profiles are able to filter their DMs to prioritize by contact, date, or relevance. This allows influencers to more easily sort through the numerous messages they receive and know that they are never missing an important note.
For influencers who are wondering whether they should make the switch to a creator profile, Instagram explains the simple process below.
There are some aspects to the creator profiles that cause concern, however. For now, anyone who has elected to set up a creator account will not be able to schedule posts through third-party tools. And, there is the likelihood that anyone with less than 10k followers will not have the option to self-identify as a creator. Creator profiles are still in beta testing and only time will tell if this option is a better fit for all influencers.
Shopping Tags and In-App Checkout
Until recently, there was no direct method for an influencer to sell a product through their Instagram profile. Swipe-up links, profile links, and outside affiliate programs such as LIKEtoKNOW.it allowed creators to more easily track the sales they made for a brand, but all sales took place outside of the Instagram platform.
Now, influencers are able to use the dedicated shopping tag in both stories and feed posts as a way to make their posts more shoppable. With a simple tap of the screen, a user can see the product name and price as well as easily clicking through to the brand’s website.
These tags aren’t the only improvement. Instagram is also introducing in-app checkout. The tool, which was announced in March 2019, was originally only available to a handful of brands. Approximately one month later, though, checkout was available for a small selection of top-tier influencers such as Kim Kardashian West and Gigi Hadid.
In-app checkout allows a user to buy directly from their favorite brands without ever leaving Instagram. This is clearly beneficial for influencers as they’re able to directly track sales and further monetize their accounts.
There have been concerns raised across the globe regarding what type of data is tracked and collected through the checkout system. As this feature was rolled out to a limited quantity of users, it’s up in the air whether in-app checkout will stick.
Hiding Like Counts
The most recent update that influencers and marketers alike are tracking is the new hidden like count feature. This change was implemented in Canada initially and there are no set dates to roll out the change to the rest of the world.
“Hidden likes” means that while a user will be able to see the number of likes received on their own photo, the count of followers who double-tapped their posts will be hidden from view.
Instagram claims that this change was a response to recent social pressures of users receiving high engagement rates on their content. The likes are hidden to allow more creative freedom and reduced emphasis on views and likes.
Currently, an influencer’s engagement rate is one of the top metrics taken into account when setting up a brand collaboration. While it’s likely that third-party tools will still be able to track these metrics, manually identifying influencers with high engagement will be a thing of the past.
Influencers and brands are also worried that users may take the “out of sight, out of mind” approach. If the likes are not displayed, will double-tapping photos become less common? Engagement has already gone down on Instagram and this could lead to even lower rates.
Of course, these concerns could be a moot point if the rollout never makes it beyond Canada. Some are thrilled at the idea of less pressure to be perfect and feel that this change will help in the mental health of our society, but others are hoping that this change will only be a temporary glitch.
Each of these changes will impact the way that marketers and influencers conduct business. Will they help or hurt? There’s no way to fully predict the results. For now, the industry will continue to buzz and keep a close eye on this popular platform.
How are you feeling about Instagram’s recent changes? Share your opinion in the comments below!