On July 20th, Instagram made this announcement on their twitter feed:
Starting today, you can search people, places and hashtags on web.
Now, if you open your browser from a laptop or desktop machine, you can use search bar to find people or brands, places, and hashtags.
Since the beginning on the social network, Instagram has been focused on a mobile-mainly experience. This unlocks quite a few new opportunities for marketers to use Instagram as a content type.
This update also has several of us wondering if they will start adding more features we need to have the platform be an effective channel for distribution of our other content types.
When you look at the RTs and replies to the announcement by Instagram, you will see several folks thanking Instagram for this enhancement to their application. I agree with their sentiments and think this is a very good thing.
The first way it helps is discoverability. When tagging became popular in the mid-2000s, they were great for segmenting your content into relatable topics. They were powerful for sorting and categorizing your own content but it took blog networks like Geekswithblogs.net and sites like Technorati to really start to impact beyond your own content.
Shortly after, microblogging networks like Twitter started popping up and the tag evolved into the hashtag. The same basic principles applied and the ability to identify content with a category or subject made your content become part of something bigger. Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram followed the movement shortly after Twitter and it is now the norm.
For B2B or B2C marketers, your images and video can now be part of the bigger message around a hashtag on the web. Search for or click on a hashtag in someone’s feed and a list of top posts and the most recent will appear. As a user of Instagram, I will start bookmarking my favorite tags and go to them during my breaks to look for inspiration, education, and entertainment. Since Instagram is not known for discoverability, this is a huge move.
The second way I see this being helpful is the ability to link to hashtags, locations, and people in your content without the fear of alienating your audience because of the need for a device and an application. If you are reviewing a session at an event (like Content Marketing World), describing a location (like my current location at Black Dog Coffee), or mentioning a person or brand, you can share the rich media with your audience through your content.
Over the past few years, so many people have made this their primary network to publish images and videos. This makes me as a marketer want to go to the authority of the content rather than an auxiliary network like Flickr or Facebook.
However, this can been dangerous as well because you cannot control the content you are linking too. If you are concerned with the tag having inappropriate content for your audience, you might steer clear of this.
More Rich Media
As a photographer, I love to post my work on Instagram. In the field, I take into consideration when I am framing a photo to get it to look good in the 1×1 square format. New rules are applied and I have started taking a photo for 4×3 and another for 1×1.
But my workflow is a little messed up because I have to publish my photo to another network like Facebook or Flickr and then download it to my phone and publish it to my Instagram feed. This workflow will remain the same as they have not added the ability to upload from the desktop, but just knowing my work will be able to be viewed on a larger display makes me want to embrace it even more. Video is the same, I think short videos produced on a desktop and migrated to a device for publishing will be the standard workflow for marketers to get more out of their content.
What is still missing?
I am very excited about this announcement. It shows that they are embracing a world that is not centered on devices and bringing more rich media options to the desktop. That being said, I believe they are missing some killer features.
These features seem to be pretty basic and something so many people want (just look at the other RTs and replies to the announcement). Here are the top features I continue to see over and over.
- Links attached to media – Seriously, you cannot use the network to announce other forms of content without requiring your audience to search for it with another tool? I have heard people say they love this about Instagram but I absolutely hate it and not just from the marketer stand point. I want to consume the other forms of the content without needing to use search or the other networks. Guys like Gary Vanderchuck have recently used the hack of changing the one link they are given on the profile to point to the latest piece of content and I am grateful he has but this is a patch to something that should be there. It doesn’t scale when hashtags are used and treats the content as disposable when it doesn’t have to be.
- Uploading via desktop – Most rich content is still created on a larger device. I know we will probably move towards the mobile-first content creation, but we are not there yet. My Nikon D4, lights, and lens help me take amazing pictures and videos, give me the tools to process the media and publish without the transfer to mobile steps I mentioned earlier. For me, it makes Instagram the second hop social network in publishing this kind of media when it could definitely be the first.
- iPad Optimized Application – Seriously? I have to use a scaled iPhone application on my iPad? It also has a good camera and can take video. Why not take advantage of the space and not rely on third-parties to create and release apps? I thought we all learned this lesson when Twitter relied too heavily on others to control the experience.
- Search for Mobile Browsers – This should be coming if the feature is there but currently the phone and tablet responsive layouts when using a browser do not show the search bar. The hashtag, location, and people links in the results still load, so embedding them into your content will work great.
All other mobile specific features – DMs and reposts are still mobile-only and I really think it is time Instagram became a full device competitor. Until then, I will keep calling them mobile-mainly and hope they keep taking steps forward.