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Instagram is coming up in the world. This week the social network revealed it has reached more than 1 billion monthly active users, jumping from 800 million in September of last year.

The extra 200 million users also make the site the fastest growing social network around right now by a fair amount.

For context, while Facebook remains the biggest social network overall, its growth in monthly users has fallen to just 3.14%. Snapchat, trapped by its own niche market of younger users, is growing even slower at 2.13%.

Instagram, however, continues to grow by almost 5% from quarter-to-quarter.

There is certainly some irony in the latest numbers. While Snapchat continues to stall, Instagram is largely making its gains on the back of similar features like Stories and image stickers.

Stories, in particular, have taken off to surprising popularity. According to the latest numbers, there are more people posting Stories on Instagram than Snapchat’s entire userbase.

The continued growth of Instagram also hints at Facebook’s gradual disconnect with younger users. Teens and other young social media users are adopting Instagram, rather than signing into Facebook.

The social network still has plenty of hurdles in its path, but their user growth shows it may be worthwhile to establish a business presence on the platform sooner rather than later.

The popular “Stories” feature that has expanded from its SnapChat origins into Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter has always been known for its short-term lifespan. Stories have always been something that disappears sometime after sharing.

Now, Instagram is changing this with new ways to save and reshare your Stories long-after they’ve vanished from people’s feeds.

Instagram recently launched two updates to its Stories feature that gives users the ability to add Stories to its Archive feature and include Stories in the “Highlights” section of users’ profiles.

In a blog post, Instagram said that Stories will be automatically saved to users’ private Archives once they expire. From there, you can view or reshare your old Stories as a normal video post or add them to highlights.

The feature is turned on by default, but you can opt to turn off the Archive feature if you like.

Instagram explained, “To access the Stories in your Archive, tap the Archive icon on your profile. From there, you can easily switch between your Posts Archive and your new Stories Archive. In your Stories Archive, your stories will appear in a grid with the most recent Stories at the bottom. The first story from each day will show a date indicator to help you navigate your archive as you scroll. Only you can see your archived stories, and you can choose to turn off auto-archiving at any time in your profile settings.”

At the same time, Instagram has launched the new Stories Highlights section, where users can add Stories to their profiles.

Stories Highlights can be created by simply tapping on the New circle on the far-left side of the app. After that, just choose which Stories you want from your archives, select a cover for the Highlight, and give it a name.

Once that’s all done, the Highlights will appear as circles on your profile where they can be viewed.

You can add as many Highlights as you want, and they will remain on your profile until you delete them by tapping and holding on the circle.

In the blog post, Instagram said: “Over the past year, Instagram Stories has become a key part of how you express yourself—but there hasn’t been an easy way to keep your Stories around for more than 24 hours. Now you can more fully express your identity by grouping Stories you’ve shared into Highlights and featuring them on your profile. Story Highlights lets you show all of the sides of your personality, and you can make highlights out of anything you’ve shared to your story in the past. From the best moments of your ongoing soccer season to all the stories you capture of your loved ones, the interests and activities that matter most to you have a home right on your profile.”

Brands and marketers will likely find these new features provide a number of ways to make Stories a more powerful marketing tool. In an email to Social Pro Daily, Instagram suggested brands can take advantage of the tools by:

  • Extending campaigns and promotions beyond 24 hours.
  • Showcasing immersive video and behind-the-scenes content on the increasingly significant profile page.
  • Re-engaging people around best-performing Stories content.
  • Sharing customer reviews

Instagram hasn’t become as synonymous with advertising or online marketing as it’s older sibling, Facebook, has. However, new stats announced by the company show business is booming on the popular social media platform.

Since July, more than 10 million businesses have launched business profiles – Instagram’s version of Facebook’s Pages – totaling over 25 million business profiles.

Instagram’s business profiles rolled out in May of last year and saw an initially slow response. The profiles give brands a more professional appearance on the app, including a “contact us” button and access to analytics features.

The inclusion of these business-oriented features has helped woo more advertisers to the platform, as well. Since the launch of business profiles, Instagram has increased its advertiser base from around 200,000 in February 2016 to more than 2 million in September of this year.

According to Instagram’s statistics, approximately 80 percent of Instagram’s 800 million monthly active users follow a business. Additionally, around 40 percent of the 500 million active daily users view at least one business’s profile each day.

Interestingly, two-thirds of the more than 200 million people that view a business profile each day did not previously follow the brand. That suggests the pages are effectively helping connect businesses with new potential customers and fans.

Instagram is quickly growing from just a platform for users to share pictures and videos towards a fully-fledged combination of social media and shopping. With the help of Shopify, Instagram is rolling out a new feature allowing “thousands” of merchants to seamlessly sell their products through Instagram just in time for the holiday shopping season.

The feature allows selected merchants to tag items in their Instagram posts to mark that they are available for purchase. When viewers see the post, they can easily click the tags to directly purchase the items without ever having to leave Instagram.

The feature has been in limited testing for almost a year, but it has been restricted to just a small number of high-profile brands like Warby Parker and Kate Spade. Since then, they’ve been gradually opening the feature to a few other merchants through Shopify.

The early response to this testing has been enthusiastic, so Shopify has now decided to expand the feature to a larger testing group including “many thousands” of merchants. They say they expect to roll it out even more widely in the near future, but they want to test and refine the system before a complete launch.

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Instagram’s carousel feature for ads has been popular with brands as a great way to highlight their products and tell a story in their ads, and now it is coming to everyone.

Instagram announced this week it will be sharing the slideshow-like carousel ads to organic posts with all users, as well as expanding the number of photos or videos that can be shared at a time.

The feature is expected to roll out to all users on iOS and Android devices in the coming weeks. When it does, both advertisers and everyday users will be able to choose up to 10 photos and videos to include in a single post. Users can then swipe through the content to see more.

instagram-carousels

Regular users will be able to sort the photos or videos in their carousel manually, choosing the best way to tell their story. Advertisers will have this option, as well as the choice to let Instagram sort the content based on performance.

While the carousel format allows users to include several pieces of content in a single post, it does have some limitations. Most specifically, carousel posts do not allow for landscape photos or vertical videos. Instead, all photos or videos included can only be in Instagram’s traditional square frame.

Instagram is also labeling carousel posts to help make them easier to recognize in your feed. Similar to video posts, all carousel posts will include an icon next to the posts’ thumbnails.

Instagram Stories

In just five months Instagram Stories has grown into a force to be reckoned with, as the company has launched numerous new features like links, live video, and hands-free video recording. Now, the platform is working to make Stories more attractive to businesses with ads and insights for Stories.

According to Instagram’s own numbers, over 150 million users interact with Stories every day, with one in five Stories also receiving direct messages from viewers. The company also says 70% of users follow a business on Instagram and a third of the most viewed Stories are created and shared by businesses.

Now, the company has announced that ads and insights for Instagram Stories are coming soon.

Ads for Instagram Stories

For now, ads are limited to just 30 brands like Maybelline, New York, Nike, and Netflix, who have been given the ability to test a new 15-second, full-screen ads during Instagram Stories.  If you want to see what the ads might look like, check out how Airbnb is using ads in Instagram Stories:

 

Insights for Instagram Stories

In addition to the testing of ads for Instagram Stories, Insights will also be available as part of Instagram  Business Tools. Anyone with a business account can now view impressions, reach, replies, and exits for all their stories within Business Tools. You can see a preview of Insights for Stories below:

 


These new features are expected to roll out globally in the new couple of weeks, so keep your eyes out.

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Instagram’s live video feature is officially available to all 70 million US users. After announcing the feature in late November, the social imaging platform has announced the feature is available across America and will be rolling out globally over the next few weeks.

While it may be tempting to compare Instagram’s live video streaming to Facebook’s growing live feature, it is actually more similar to the live options available through Snapchat.

With Instagram’s live video, users can broadcast to followers in real time through Instagram Stories. However, once the stream is over it is completely gone. There is no saving or replaying old broadcasts. They disappear as soon as you end the broadcast.

How To Get Started Broadcasting

To get started streaming, you just have to follow a couple easy steps.

  • Tap the camera icon in the top left of the screen or swipe right from the Feed to open your camera.
  • Tap the new Live icon at the bottom of the screen.
  • Tap Start Live Video.
  • Once you are ready to end your stream, just tap End in the top right.

Broadcasts can last up to one hour and you can choose to notify your followers when you go live. The number in the top right corner of the screen shows just how many followers are watching, and you can pin or share comments to others by tapping and holding it. You can also turn off comments entirely if you desire.

Marketing with Instagram Live Video

The idea of marketing your business through live video that immediately disappears may seem unattractive at first. Why bother with vanishing video when you can spend time crafting marketing campaigns that last, right?

However, live video can actually be a great way to make followers feel like they are in on exclusive events and information. The function is especially great for letting your customers and fans see special engagements like product launches or milestones for your business.

You can also use live video to engage your audience in new ways with impromptu interviews or Q&A sessions that help your followers learn more about who you are and why they should be invested in your brand.

For more info on Instagram’s live video feature, check out the video below:

instagramlive

Considering the success of live video on Facebook and other social media platforms, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Instagram is trying its hand with live video. But, they have put their own twist on it.

Today, the social photo and video sharing platform announced it is rolling out live video within their Instagram Stories section. However, these videos don’t remain once you stop streaming. Instead, they immediately disappear.

The feature is already rolling out and is expected to be available to everyone around the world within the next few weeks. Users are able to share live video for up to an hour and control their streams by notifying friends when they go live and deciding whether to allow comments.

“Live video on Instagram Stories helps you connect with your friends and followers right now,” according to a blog post announcing the update. “When you’re done, your live story disappears from the app so you can feel more comfortable sharing anything, anytime.”

All you have to do to start streaming is swipe right from the home feed and tap the “Start Live Video” button. You can also see who else is live streaming in the Explore area of the app, under the “Top Live” category.

Live video isn’t the only thing disappearing on Instagram, either. The platform is also rolling out the option to have automatically self-destructing photo or video messages when sending direct messages to friends and groups.

The feature operates almost exactly like Snapchat’s well known disappearing photos, which allow users to share content in a “spontaneous, pressure-free way.”

“You can choose a group or create one in just a few taps—and you can also send to individual friends at the same time,” Instagram wrote in a blog post. “Send anything you want, from inside jokes to your worst selfies. Unlike other messages in Direct, these photos and videos disappear from your friends’ inboxes after they have seen them. And you’ll see if they replayed it or took a screenshot.”

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Want to get the most out of your social media efforts? There is no one-size-fits-all method that is guaranteed to give you success across every platform like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Each platform has its own demographics and user behavior that means you must adapt to make sure you are striking when the iron is at its hottest.

Matt Booth from AddPeople made that easy to do with a simple infographic breaking down the demographics, user behavior, and best times to post for the biggest platforms you might be marketing on:

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How many times have you spent several minutes, maybe even hours, planning and scheduling the perfect post to social media, only to receive a torrent of hate in response? I don’t mean disgruntled customers voicing a complaint. I mean the abusive, hateful, and often vulgar comments that flood social media posts from brands, celebrities, and anyone else who chooses to post on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

These awful comments have become so commonplace many just view them as an unfortunate fact of life, but some social platforms are starting to take steps to erase the hate from their sites.

This week, Instagram unveiled a new filter that users can enable to hide inappropriate or abusive comments and messages aimed at making the image-sharing platform a safer place for brands and users alike.

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According to the announcement from Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom, Instagram hopes the new feature will help foster a community where “everyone feels safe to be themselves without criticism or harassment.”

The new feature allows users to hide comments containing words or phrases that are frequently reported as inappropriate, but posters can also list custom keywords or phrases they wish to have hidden in comments under their posts.

While the feature gives posters more control over the comments they receive, it isn’t without its limits. The filter only blocks negative or inappropriate comments and can’t be used to block other abusive types of media uploaded to the site like image memes or videos.

Brands who receive rampant hate from trolls or abusive users also still have the ability to delete comments, report users, or block specific accounts.

Enabling the filter is easy. Just click the gear icon in your Instagram profile and click on the new “comments” feature. From there, you can toggle the filter on and off or add your own list of words or phrases you wish to have blocked from your page.

While the tool may be an effective way to filter out the random abuse many receive on social media, I would caution brands from using it as a way of hiding messages from users with legitimate complaints or issues, as that only tends to make matters worse.