I’ve been spending a lot more time on Instagram lately than I usually do as I build my other business Moonshine BBQ. The product is very visually led and lends itself well to the platform.
What I’ve noticed through building my community there is that despite it being a social platform, Instagram’s success seems at odds with its limited function set.
While the simple double tap to like an image is how it should be on mobile first social applications (the number of times I have done this on Facebook is ridiculous), and the ability to leave a comment is as straight forward as you would want it to be, other functions that are inherent to a social experience are not.
There are three key areas where I think they need to improve.
The ability to interact with not only a creator, but also commenters, is a core principle of online community building, with people coming together around a piece of content to make it something bigger.
With Instagram however, conversation is difficult. Leaving a simple comment is fine, but the chronological nature and non-nesting of the comments makes following a conversation difficult, and the ability to respond directly to another user’s comment is a multi-step process.
This is particularly true for highly engaged accounts with large followings, as a limited number of comments load at any given time, making it challenging to find conversational elements.
Perhaps the greatest shortcoming of Instagram is the ability to share content from others intra-platform. While it obviously pushes the point of original content, the number of third party apps that repost, or “regram” the content of others, demonstrates that the desire to share interesting content of others, in spite of how clunky the process is (more further down about that).
While Facebook has created conventions around how content from others is displayed when you share from another person or publisher, Instagram (despite being owned by Facebook) has left it up to the multitude of developers to determine this, creating a lack of consistency, and at times a total lack of credit to the creator.
Through developing this feature, Instagram can standardise the way content is shared on the platform, generating greater engagement and reach for creators.
In all of the aforementioned re-gram apps, the process generally involves a mirrored feed, a selection of the image, a standardised overlay, a copy caption function and then opening the photo in Instagram, pasting the caption and posting. It’s anything but smooth, and a limitation of the API.
I’m beta testing Buffer‘s new Instagram integration, which is a much better experience in that I can schedule the post with the image and caption, and I get a reminder at the time to post and it copies across the image and caption for me to use. However, it exhibits the all to familiar trait of not being able to post directly to the platform.
While none of these things are obviously inhibiting growth, the limitation of true community building features and a rough road to using third party tools to interact with it make it seem to be that Facebook and the Instagram team are missing a huge opportunity to increase growth.