The Next Big Thing?

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 10.42.34 AMInstagram‘s mystery event has concluded and the final result was CEO Kevin Systrom unveiling ‘Instagram Direct.’ This new feature essentially is based around the idea of connection since it allows users to send directed pictures and videos to up to fifteen followers. These sent messages can then become a means of creating a conversation centered around, in essence, the picture or video itself. In a nutshell, Instagram has launched its own messaging service.

Early reaction on Twitter indicates that ‘Instagram Direct’ is a direct response to the highly popular app Snapchat, which allows personal messaging in a cleverly temporary manner. Unlike Snapchat messages, Instagram’s version is a more permanent, conversation-building means of connecting that is meant to be re-visited later though there is always the possibility that Instagram adds more Snapchat-like tweaks in the future as well. In fact, it is to be expected given that Instagram was acquired by Facebook in 2012 and it has been headline news that Snapchat rejected Facebook’s acquisition bid earlier this year.

This move does beg the question, is this move by Instagram a true game-changer? Well, according to a current poll on Mashable, the answer is no.

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 10.45.13 AMThe last time Instagram introduced a new feature, again it was directly targeting a specific competitor. When Instagram added the 15-second video feature, it was clearly targeting the then and still currently popular app Vine. The key difference with this feature is privacy. The ability users have to send private, potentially intimate information to select friends and family is a true shake-up to Instagram’s core posting function.

The big question I have concerns advertisers. Companies like General Electric and Ben & Jerry’s have been highly successfully with beautiful, topical photos but how do they, or can they, respond to private messaging. Perhaps the hope is that the new feature will draw current users to use the social platform more as a whole, and bring in new ones, which would make the normal Instagram stream more effective, but who knows. Given that the video feature was to keep users on the app longer, my initial guess is yes.

Regardless of the impact, this is a bold move that is based on beating the competition. As Systom said during the event, “Instagram is not about photography, it’s about communication” and direct is simply the next level. What makes it great is the simplicity of it all. Often, the cleverest moves are the ones that make you say, of course this is what Instagram would do! Hindsight makes the latest addition to the platform seem like an obvious no-brainer. Because it is, or at least already seems that way.

Consumers will determine the impact that ‘Instagram Direct’ will have. Searching Twitter under the hashtags #instagram or #instagramdirect shows shows a snapshot, or gauge of Twitterverse’s initial reactions. In today’s instant news society, breaking news is always exciting to read, but it is often the Twitter-reactions that determine the true reaction.

Ultimately, since Instagram users use the platform nearly every day, users will be the judge soon enough and they can start today by updating their existing Instagram app to include the direct messaging feature. To watch the ‘Introducing Instagram Direct’ spot that was shown during the mystery event, click on the image below.

Instagram, Instagram Direct, Introducing Instagram direct

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