Instagram has made significant strides in 2013 as they launched their web feed, a new tagging feature, Instagram video, web embeds, and their recent announcement of sponsored photos and videos. At an event in New York yesterday, Instagram announced and released their newest feature, Instagram Direct, which seems to be an avenue for them to compete in part with the explosive popularity of the photo-sharing app Snapchat.
Instagram described the new feature on their blog saying, "There are moments in our lives that we want to share, but that will be the most relevant only to a smaller group of people—an inside joke between friends captured on the go, a special family moment, or even just one more photo of your new puppy. Instagram Direct helps you share these moments."
Instagram Direct allows you to share private messages with photos to select people and groups of people. After sending the photo, you can see who's seen your photo or video, see who’s liked it, and watch your recipients commenting in real time. You can read this TechCrunch article for more details on how the new feature works.
The fact that Facebook reportedly offered $3 billion to acquire the photo-sharing and direct-messaging app Snapchat earlier this year is extremely interesting in light of Instagram's news. Although a significant aspect to Snapchat's success has been the sense of "scarcity" with the images and videos. Instagram Direct seems to be focused around the preservation of those moments and the communication.
According to Mashable, Instagram cofounder and CEO Kevin Systrom said during the event, "Communication is really core. It's not about photography necessarily. We aren't built into cameras. We are built into phones, and phones are communication devices."
Social media marketing is constantly evolving. I believe Instagram Direct could become a unique way for brands to connect with customers on a more personal basis. With Instagram's recent introduction of sponsored posts, it will also not be long before ads and a revenue model are built into the Direct feature as well.
Systrom noted that it's too early to think about using Instagram Direct to deliver any advertisements, but that could certainly become another social advertising channel in the near future. For now, though, brands can easily use Instagram Direct for contests with user-submitted photos.
As the feature grows in popularity, I will continue to reveal new ways brands are using Instagram marketing and the new feature as a part of their social media strategy.
Below, you can watch the Instagram Direct unveiling video they released yesterday morning.