Instagram today launched private messaging which allows a user to send a photo or video to a specific group of people rather than displaying it to the whole world in your feed. In order to access the new feature you need to be running Instagram 5.0 for either Android or iOS.
Once you have the new feature installed then you can access your private messages by clicking the new icon in the top right of the home screen.
It is easy to send a private message to one or more people. You follow the same instructions as you would to post a picture to your Instagram feed but when you get to the stage where you can write a caption there is now a new option that allows you to choose whether your image goes to your followers or to a subset of them.
You can only send private messages to those that you follow, whether they follow you or not. I can see this becoming a problem for some users. To start with you are likely to get those that are desperately trying to increase their number of followers messaging you directly to see if you will follow them. It could also be abused by brands effectively spamming people by sending them details of offers that the user is not interested in.
These concerns could all be dealt with if Instagram brought in some new privacy settings such as “Who can private message me” with options such as anybody, only those that I follow, those that follow me, nobody.
So what about the plus sides? Well sometimes you take a snap that you know certain of your Instagram friends will like but that may not be the sort of material that will be pleasing to all. The new Instagram Direct will allow you to choose who you send that image to. I have during this autumn decided that I will basically only post images of nature on my Instagram stream. A couple of weeks ago I was in Dunsop Bridge on my way to the Trough of Bowland to shoot some photos and I saw a very special telephone box. It is at the exact geographic centre of the UK and I thought I would take a pic of it. It does not really fit in with the other images that I am trying to display in my Instagram gallery so I have not posted it. I have a couple of friends who I think would appreciate the picture and so now I can share it with just those people.
Brands may be able to get cute with their marketing by setting up special offers that are sent out by Instagram Direct to those that have signed up to receive the offers. The scenario that I envisage would be for a clothing store who could have a sign up section on their website in the same way that they would for an email newsletter. In this case when the store has got special offers on they could send them via Instagram Direct.
Instagram is especially popular among the 16-24yo demographic who tend to see Facebook as a place where their parents are. Instagram is still ad free and according to Sum All it is the best social network for generating sales with UK businesses surveyed by Sum All saying they say a 3.6% increase in sales after introducing Instagram into their social media portfolio.
Will Instagram Direct succeed? Time will tell, but I think that it has the potential to be very popular allowing social ties to become more firmly established than they can be in a public arena.