Have you seen the new about the new features rolling out on Instagram?
There is a bunch of them - and these have the potential to create some significant changes in the way we use the platform.
You may not have seen them on your account yet - as usual, they trial these features in rollouts only in certain countries at first, before expanding to everyone. Notes has rolled out worldwide - update your app if you don't see it yet - but the other four features are still in limited testing.
But eventually you'll see them - so let's take a look at how you might use them, as an author!
1. Feature Launch: Notes
Something Meta had considered as a rival app to Twitter, it seems they are launching it as an Instagram feature - text only updates!
Billed as a more lightweight way to start conversations in the app - a status update, for your followers (who you follow back) or close friends. This appears at the top of their inbox.
Interesting to see how this works in practice, as not everyone uses their messages that often in Instagram. I know I don't, as DMs are so often spammy. And as of now, followers won't be notified when you share.
Notes are visible for 24 hours, and people can reply with messages.
So how can authors use the notes feature?
In the announcement video, Adam Mosseri mentions he finds it particularly useful for recommendations. Or sharing small updates - they have a tiny 60 character limit, so they're not for big conversations.
This sounds like it could be a feature that helps you create more personal engagement with your followers and community on Instagram, as the focus is on direct interaction. It is visible to only your followers who you follow back, and it's in the inbox, so it's more personal.
The best use for this for authors would be starting conversations with questions or short engaging thoughts that you might share with friends, like:
- Ask for book recommendations
- Ask for votes on a new character name
- Who has read [book]? What did you think?
- Are you team [character] or [character].
- Ambitious word count goal - think I'll make 5000 words?
Other possible uses - though because these are only shown to mutual followers and are less personal, not really inviting interaction, time will tell how effective these kinds of uses will be. But you could also share:
- Daily updates during a new release countdown
- Sale announcement
- Updates on your way to a book signing
- Short pithy or witty thoughts, like an early Twitter used to be filled with
What do you think you'll use it for?
2. Test Feature: Nominations
The "Add Yours" feature has been around for a while. There's a sticker in Stories where you can start or join a collaborative trend where others add their own pictures based on the topic. E.g. You could share a picture of your writing space, add the Add Yours sticker, and anyone who sees it can "add theirs" too, so you can browse other people's writing spaces too.
An additional feature Instagram is now testing for this is the ability to "nominate" other people to participate. This is a handy addition, as previously you just had to hope people saw the "Add Yours" and decided to jump into it. Now you can "pass it on" and actually invite people to join in.
So how can authors use the nominations feature?
Use it to help get trends started on anything you might use Add Yours for - another way to engage with your followers and community. Start a trend - E.g.
- What I'm reading
- My TBR pile
- My favourite spot to read
- What's in my cup
- My writing space
- What celebrity [well-known character] looks like in my head
- My highest daily word count
- My favourite [genre] book
Then Pass it on to your most engaged friends on Instagram to get the trend circulating!
3. Test Feature: Candid Stories
This is obviously to rival the app BeReal - in BeReal, all you can do is share a photo a day that records the front and back camera at the same time.
Instagram is testing out a very similar concept within their app. Interestingly, Instagram was originally all about this more immediate sharing idea - INSTAgram! They wanted to encourage real time sharing of life.
Obviously it's expanded quite a lot beyond that original concept now. But this feature is a new focus on real time, filter-free sharing.
It records the front and back camera at the same time - so a photo of you with the front cam (we are about to see a lot more than we ever wanted to see of our double chin selfies!) and the back cam at the same time, to show where you are and what you're up to.
You can place your selfie/front camera circle wherever you like on the image - but presumably not get rid of it - and a timestamp.
You have to share your own before you can see what other "Candid Stories" people have shared.
So how can authors use the candid stories feature?
Give an immediate, candid look into your day. What you share will depend on what your readers are interested in, but some ways you could use it:
- Opening your box of proof copy books + your excited face!
- Your cat on your computer (we are going to see a lot of cats on computers) + and your exasperated but adoring face.
- A view of your favourite hobbies - more personal, real life glimpses or what makes you interesting.
- Your view from the stage if you're giving a talk
- Promos - e.g. Book cover in the front camera, photo of your favourite lines on a page inside the book - will require manual dexterity and two copies of your book!
What will you share with Candid Stories?
4. Test Feature: Group Profiles
This is a profile that is collaborative between a group of people - anyone in the group can post, and it will be only shared to other group members.
The use for this is what you might have used a group chat for before, sharing memes with friends, or updates and photos within a study group, mothers group, book club etc.
But it could also be used in a similar way to anything you might use a Facebook Group for.
You can make it private if you want, have up to 5000 members and 20 admins, and you can turn on post approval, so that you can approve group members posts before they go out.
So how can authors use the Group Profiles feature?
Ways you might use it:
- as a private group for sharing among your writer's group, or author friends
- as a public group for author collaborations, cross promotions & giveaways so you can share each other's audiences
- an ARC group for your advance copy reviewers/street team to share content
- a Top Fans group - exclusive content for your top fans, and exclusive access to you for questions, voting on character names, giveaways, etc.
How do you think you would use Group Profiles?
5: Test Feature: Collaborative Collections
Saving posts to collections has been a handy feature for saving and organising things you find on Instagram and want to come back to.
If this feature rolls out everywhere, soon you will be able to create collaborative collections and save to these to a shared collection with friends.
So how can authors use collaborative collections?
You could use it in personal ways, to connect over shared interests - like with writer friends and create the ultimate meme collection! (Add me!)
Does it have the potential to be used for more reader engagement and audience building? Possibly!
- Invite top readers to save their "books in the wild" posts to a shared collection, maybe even offer incentives, and then you have a whole library of user posts to share
- Have reader created mood-boards of your books
- Use it for organised cross promotions or giveaways with other authors, everyone saving their book posts in the collections for others to share from
What do you think you would use collaborative collections for?
So what do you think of these new features?
Mind blown? Amazing? Looking forward to trying them out.
Or are they an overload to an already crowded app, and you're dreading having to figure out how to use them?
But remember - you don't need to try to tackle all of these at once. You don't ever need to even do anything with all of them if you don't want! The key to social media is authentic engagement. Use it in a way that is real and fun for you. There are so many potential ways to use these features - but you will be just fine if you don't use them either!
Let me know what you think in the comments!