What Instagram's Latest Tests Mean for Creators and Brand

Breaking down Meta Verified Feed, Custom Stickers, and Collaborative Carousel Posts

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Instagram

Today’s Edition

  • Instagram's new tests deliver new opportunities for creators and brands

  • Threads adds familiar features in Polls and GIFs and explores an API

  • Twitch gives streamers more freedom with its updated simulcasting policy

  • Pinterest launches an educational hub to help creators learn and grow

What Instagram's Latest Tests Mean for Creators and Brand

Instagram has been quite active recently, conducting numerous tests on new features and tools. Alongside the previously announced tests for polls in the comments of Posts and Reels, Instagram has introduced several other tests, including a Meta Verified feed, Custom Stickers, and Collaborative Carousel Posts.

Let's explore these and their potential impact on Meta, creators, brands, and everyday users, touching on discoverability, Gen Z trends, and collaborative opportunities.

Meta Verified Feed

Instagram

First is the Meta Verified feed, a new feed option that joins the existing Following and Favorites feeds. This enables users to exclusively view posts and Reels from verified creators and brands who have subscribed to Meta's premium subscription service or have a legacy blue check. Instagram is positioning this as a way for creators and brands to be discovered.

Why It Matters: Paid subscription services have become a focal point of social media platforms, offering an alternative revenue stream alongside advertising. By adding an enhanced discovery feature to its subscription service, Meta aims to attract a larger subscriber base.

The quest for increased discoverability and reach is one way to attract users. Currently, both are limited. Given creators' and brands' eagerness to discover new methods for gaining visibility and expanding their reach, there is a likelihood that creators and brands will sign up for Meta Verified or maintain their existing subscriptions for this new perk.

However, the success of the Meta Verified feed depends heavily on users actively sorting their feed by Meta Verified. The Following feed, a highly requested feature, sees limited usage due to the cumbersome user experience. This includes the lack of a prominent button that keeps it top of mind for users that they can change feeds or the ability to save preferences so that users see their preferred feed when they open the app each time.

Custom Stickers

Instagram

Custom Stickers empower creators to design their own stickers using photos for Reels and Stories. Creators can upload images from their camera roll or select eligible ones on Instagram, then specify the subject for removal from the background to create a sticker for their Reel or Story.

Why It Matters: This addition is valuable for creators as it introduces a fresh creative tool to elevate engagement in their Reels and Stories. While Instagram has recently introduced AI-generated stickers, Custom Stickers aligns with the current trend of collage and cutout content, particularly popular among younger audiences, including Gen Z.

Apps like Lemon8, which briefly dominated app download charts in the US, and Pinterest have found success by offering similar features. For instance, Pinterest's fastest-growing demographic is Gen Z, with part of this growth credited to its standalone collage maker app, Shuffles, which also inspired the launch of a new native Pinterest feature called Cutout.

Instagram's investment in supporting a feature that provides a comparable experience illustrates its focus on retaining and engaging the Gen Z audience.

Custom Stickers can potentially encourage more users in this demographic to move beyond their Direct Messages and actively share their creativity with a broader audience in Reels and Stories.

Collaborative Carousel Posts

Instagram

With Collaborative Carousel Posts, users can invite others to contribute to their feed posts when creating carousels. This allows followers to submit photos and/or videos, which can be approved and added to the post. These additions are exclusively visible on the original post and are not shared to the feed or profile of the submitters (unlike Collabs). Usernames and timestamps are also visible for the submitted photos or videos.

Why It Matters: Collaborative Carousel Posts introduce new opportunities for collaboration on Instagram. This feature joins a growing list of tools facilitating collaboration and co-creation, including Collabs, Add To Yours, Collaborative Collections, and Group Stories.

Creators and brands can use this feature to co-create with their communities. For example, creators can invite their top fans to submit content for a chance to be featured, while brands can encourage consumers to submit content featuring their products or services, resulting in user-generated carousel posts. An example is a restaurant crowdsourcing photos or videos from recently visited customers.

There is also the potential for Instagram to eventually expand the feature's functionality, similar to TikTok’s Branded Missions, allowing brands to officially crowdsource content and incentivize users in exchange for the usage of the content they select.

Additionally, this feature provides creators and brands with an opportunity to expand their partnerships. Brands can invite their creator partners to submit their sponsored content, especially content from live experiences or trips together, making repurposing easier and introducing a fresh way to package creator content.

What feature are you most excited to try?

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News, Insights & Trends

Threads Adds Polls and GIFs Features

Threads added two new features: Polls and GIFs. The Polls feature enables users to create polls by asking questions and providing up to four answer options. These polls automatically expire after 24 hours, and only participants can view the results. The GIFs feature allows users to explore and share GIFs from GIPHY directly within the post composer.

Why It Matters: Threads continues to incorporate familiar features from Instagram, such as the previous rollout of an edit button and Voice Posts. As seen on Instagram, polls, and GIFs are often used and help drive engagement by delivering new ways for interaction and content sharing, respectively.

Threads Tests View Counts on Posts and Pinned Posts

In addition to officially launching new features, Threads is also conducting tests. Firstly, it is testing View Counts on posts. Secondly, it is testing the ability for creators to pin a post or a reply to their profile using the 'Pin to profile' or 'Pin reply' options.

Why it Matters: Threads' current set of post analytics is somewhat limited, mainly focusing on engagement metrics like likes, reposts, and replies.

Adding View Counts on posts will provide users with more insights into the reach and performance of their content. This is vital as view counts have become a common feature across platforms, primarily fueled by the popularity of short-form videos.

Pinned Posts are equally valuable, allowing users to prominently showcase specific posts, especially those that have performed well or those that give profile visitors an idea of what to expect from them.

In the context of creator-brand partnerships, these can collectively deliver value. View counts help brands assess the impact of sponsored Threads posts, while Pinned Posts empower creators to increase the reach of sponsored content by pinning sponsored posts for a specified duration.

Threads is Developing An API

Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, has revealed that an API for Threads is currently in development. However, he has also expressed concerns that this API could lead to the emergence of apps similar to TweetDeck (now known as X Pro), potentially resulting in an influx of publisher content that overshadows creators.

According to a Threads engineer, the API will initially focus on supporting content publishing. Then, the team will assess whether to invest in other types of APIs in the future.

Why It Matters: Mosseri's concerns about TweetDeck-like apps for Threads align with his position to avoid amplifying news content, as news publishers often heavily use such apps for scheduling and posting daily content.

While his concerns about creator content being overshadowed are valid, introducing an API should be considered a positive development. By simplifying content scheduling and publishing through third-party apps, such as social media management tools like Later, users of all types can effortlessly share a wealth of content on Threads, saving time and effort. This, in turn, will help generate more content and engagement on the platform.

The Threads API will come when platforms like X and Reddit have accessing their APIs much more difficult through high price tags.

Pinterest Introduces An Educational Hub for Creators

Pinterest has introduced an educational website for creators. This comprehensive hub gathers a wide range of resources to help creators learn and grow on Pinterest. These resources cover best practices for content creation, methods for creators to monetize their work, and sources of inspiration, such as a content calendar, which was previously only available to advertisers, and trends to try out.

Additionally, creators can find application forms for the Creator Inclusion Fund and submit their work for potential inclusion on Pinterest's editorial surfaces and the Shopping Spotlight, a shoppable feature that leverages creators' on-trend and seasonal content

Why It Matters: Pinterest's initiative serves as a one-stop resource for creators, catering to both beginners embarking on their creative journey and established creators.

While Pinterest is less frequently discussed in the broader creator economy, its potential could significantly increase if it continues to introduce creator-specific tools and initiatives and makes it easier for creators across various industries to understand its value and how to best utilize the platform for their needs. The new hub is a step in that direction.

Twitch Makes Updates to its Simulcasting Policy

Twitch recently hosted TwitchCon, its annual conference for streamers. During the event, it announced several updates, including significant changes to its simulcasting policy.

Streamers can now simulcast on any live streaming platform as long as they don't have an exclusivity agreement with Twitch. Previously, Twitch allowed streamers to simulcast on Instagram and TikTok but prohibited simulcasting on web-based experiences like YouTube and Facebook. With the latest change, streamers can now simulcast across these platforms, as well as others like upstart platform Kick.

Twitch does have guidelines in place to 'ensure the Twitch user experience is not compromised.' These guidelines include streamers not directing their communities to leave Twitch to view their simulcast on other platforms and not using third-party services to merge activities, such as chats, from other platforms.

Why It Matters: The ability for creators to simulcast is pivotal, as it has been a point of tension between Twitch and its creators. This policy change not only strengthens Twitch's relationship with its creators but also aligns with the broader landscape, where creators must adopt multi-channel strategies for long-term success.

With this newfound flexibility, streamers can harness the advantages of various platforms for their live content. They can tap into TikTok's aggressive expansion into gaming, benefit from YouTube's ongoing enhancements to its live streaming capabilities, and explore Kick's potential for new monetization avenues.

By granting creators the freedom to build, grow, and monetize across multiple platforms, it benefits both the creators and the platforms themselves. This approach fosters healthy competition between platforms, motivating them to improve and become more appealing to creators, all without the need for restrictive guidelines that force creators to make difficult choices about where to invest their time.

What I’m Reading

  • Are influencer partnerships the inevitable future of business? (BBC)

  • LinkedIn influencers are a thing now — and brands like Intel and Hootsuite are courting them (Fast Company)

  • One year in: Inside X (formerly Twitter) and its complicated relationship with advertisers (Digiday)

  • Twitch’s CMO says competition from rival platforms is good for creators (TechCrunch)

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