April 6, 2015

Instagram has been busy lately... quietly introducing new updates to the platform and more publicly introducing new tools. In an attempt to keep you up to date, I'll round up the latest updates in this post for you. Although I'm sure they'll have something else on the horizon shortly 😉

Instagram Hashtags

I'll talk about the changes to Instagram hashtags first because this is likely the update you're most familiar with and most concerned with.

As of March 27th, hashtags no longer affect where a post will appear in a search. As Instagram states it: "the photos and videos you see on a hashtag page are sorted by the order they were posted."

The only factor that determines where a post appears in a hashtag search is the date and time the post was originally uploaded.

Yes, this is a significant change to hashtags. Previously, you could add hashtags (or refresh hashtags by deleting and reposting them) on a post and that post would reappear at the top of that hashtag search. Instagram limited this a little while ago to only allow you to refresh hashtags up to two times. But now, this practice has no effect on your posts. All posts will appear chronologically based on the order in which they were uploaded.

In all reality, we should have seen this coming.

Yes, they restricted this practice a while ago. And they've been cracking down on spammers a lot recently. So, yeah, this was pretty much inevitable.

And to be completely honest - I think this is a good thing. I really do.

First of all, I've never really practiced the refreshing of hashtags, although I have recommend some of my clients do it. So, this doesn't really affect my strategy on Instagram. But beyond that, I think this forces marketers to be smarter and more strategic with their posts, knowing that they can't refresh the content. And it means that the annoying spammers who constantly try to refresh their content in popular searches... can't. Which means more space for you!

So, I won't lie to you. I think this is a good move by Instagram.

But what does this mean for you?

Firstly, you will have to think more strategically about when you upload your posts to Instagram. You're going to want to make sure that you're posting your content at your best and ideal posting times. This may take more effort on your behalf, but make sure that you're using the right metrics to determine when you should be posting. Then, take advantage of this information to maximize your post engagement and effect.

Secondly, yes, you will want to include your hashtags IMMEDIATELY. When you post. When you write your caption. When you upload the post. However you want to think of it - you need to add your hashtags right away. There is NO value in procrastinating! So make sure you know which hashtags you're going to use and include them when you upload your content.

Thirdly, you'll need to create more content. One of the advantages of refreshing hashtags was the ability to bring older content back to the forefront. But now that you can't do that, you'll need to share more content to keep your posts showing up in hashtag searches. Yes, you can post the same content again, although I don't recommend this as a regular practice. So, instead, you're going to have to get smart, creative, and resourceful to create MORE content for Instagram.

Finally, you'll have to think about other ways to grow your audience. Obviously you can still use hashtags and grow your audience. Do not give up on this! But, yes, you should be thinking about other ways to reach new people, target your audience, and entertain your followers. This may mean contests, asking questions, asking people to mention others in the post comments, and other means to invite conversation and engagement. But this is a good thing! The more you can embrace your audience and grow it organically, the more effective your Instagram audience will be to your business.

So, I hope you'll stop fretting over the changes and embrace them. If you can do this successfully, it's just one more way to catapult yourself ahead of your competitors!

Hashtags on Desktop

I wrote about this recently (before all these other changes appeared!) so I won't dive into this information here. But you can read all about the news of hashtags being available on the website/desktop version of Instagram in my previous post.

But essentially, Instagram now allows you to search hashtags on the website/desktop version of their site. This further enhances the value and impact of hashtags!

Camera Layout and Features

Instagram also recently tweaked their in-app camera features. The update (surprisingly) seems to be moreso for Android users than iOS users.

For iOS users, the camera features are still displayed as icons: the gallery option is the square image on the left of the camera button and the video function is the video camera icon to the right of the camera button.

For Android users, though, the icons have been replaced with actual text below the camera button, listing: Gallery, Photo, and Video.

All of the functions are the same, they've just been slightly rearranged.

Carousel Ads

Last month, Instagram announced the introduction of Carousel Ads to the platform. These ads will actually have multiple images associated with the single post which you will be able to scroll through. Swiping left or right on these ads (you'll see multiple dots beneath the image indicating there are more than one image) will display the additional images.

The idea is that this will give brands a more advanced means of sharing their story with their audience.

To be clear, this will not impact you as a marketer. Ads are still very restricted on Instagram and only big brands with big budgets have access to the ad platform. And they are the only ones who will have the additional capability to use these carousel ads. So don't get too excited about this as part of your marketing strategy anytime soon.

However, as a user, it might be exciting to look through and interact with these ads. Although, I have yet to see one of these in my feed...

Layout - A New App

Instagram also recently introduced a new app called Layout. This is a tool that allows you to combine multiple images into collages. While this isn't exactly groundbreaking since we've all been using 3rd party apps to do this for a while now, it is intriguing that Instagram has created their "own" version.

And, yes, there are some cool design features and tools in the app that allow you to create some very unique and creative images which I haven't seen accomplished with any other app.

But, it's only available on iOS, not on Android (for now). And it doesn't allow you to put borders or separations between the multiple images. This can be fun for some artistic effects but it can also be cluttering and confusing when combining multiple images into one. Also, it's still a 3rd party app. It's not native to the Instagram app so you still have to use this additional tool... which I think will deter its use and popularity in the long run.


So there you have it - the latest updates and information from Instagram for the first part of 2015. I'm sure they will have plenty more updates throughout the year so stay tuned to the blog and my social media accounts for all the latest news as it comes out!

Did you find this helpful? Please share:
  1. I was able to download and run the app for free on my Samsung galaxy 3! the layout app. thanks for posting!

  2. Jenn,

    Thanks so much for clearing this up. I thought I was going crazy, because I couldn’t add additional hashtags or post our images to be featured.. I knew you’d have the explanation here. Thanks for all you do.@moonflorists on instagram

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