Instagram’s feature library is expanding again, this time with Instagram Galleries, which allow users upload up to ten photos at a time in a carousel. This feature’s been available to advertisers for some time, but it rolled out to all users last week. Galleries joins Instagram Live and Instagram Stories in pushing Instagram forward and far beyond simple one-photo sharing.
On the surface, Galleries seems so simple and obvious that it’s hard to believe that Instagram is only just rolling it out now, in 2017. We’ve seen gallery capabilities on ads for awhile now, allowing us to swipe through series of photos depicting different angles, contexts, use cases, and how-tos for products, services, and brands.
Now that it’s available to everyone, though, it stands to change the way that we use and understand Instagram. At first glance, the change is small, but in terms of what it could mean, it has the power to be seismic. No longer will users need to worry about “spamming” their followers feeds with picture after picture uploaded at the same time — it’s just one post, ten photos, a single story. It means that Instagram is becoming a little more like Facebook for pure photo-sharing, albeit on a more manageable scale. It also means that users are going to have a host of new opportunities to create and share more complete experiences through their photos.
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To see Galleries as nothing more than the ability to add more photos to a post is to oversimplify. That’s part of it, certainly, but what Galleries really does is enables users build and share narratives with photos. And while there was the ability to include more than one picture on Instagram before with Layout, Galleries is different. Not only do users have the ability to add more than one photo at full size and resolution, they also have the ability to create a linear experience around them — to show a process or a story unfolding.
via Instagram’s blog post on Instagram Galleries
Take, for example, documenting a hike with friends. Maybe you take a picture at the trailhead before you start, then snap a few pictures of lookouts and landmarks along the way. You take a group picture at the summit. Then you take a picture when your friend poses next to a funny sign or oddly shaped rock. Then you take another group picture back at the car, digging into some hard-earned post-hike food. Finally, you upload your pictures to Instagram to tell the story of your hike. No longer do you have post four or six pictures in a row or choose one single photo that’s supposed to represent your entire experience.
via Instagram’s blog post on Instagram Galleries
It’s a simple example, but it illustrates what Galleries could come to mean. Really, they’re just another, less ephemeral form of Stories. They show movement and development. For influencers, that means giving content more power, and powerful content often leads to better engagement.
Where before sponsored photo content would’ve been limited to a single photos, Layout posts, or disappearing Stories, Galleries opens the door to more detailed and narrative-driven sponsored content. Whether it’s pictures of a product from unboxing to use to placement in an influencer’s home or a series of photos demonstrating a particular service’s place in an influencer’s life, Galleries mean the ability to tell a story and delve deeper into the message one’s trying to send.
On some level, Galleries represents one more step toward Instagram becoming an “everything” platform — the platform for photo sharing, video sharing, disappearing messages, text messages, and livestreaming. Instagram is more of an ecosystem than ever before, and that’s exactly why so many people, influencers included, seem to be leaving Snapchat for Instagram. Everything’s on Instagram: The audience is bigger, your chances for discovery are better, and chances are that you can find a way to upload the kind of content you’re looking to share through Instagram.
More and more, it seems like, “What is Instagram?” is the wrong question. Perhaps the right one is, “What isn’t Instagram?”
When you have one platform that does so much, is it fair to call it a photo-sharing app anymore? Is it something new now? And if the answers is yes (and we suspect that it is), what does that mean going forward? What’s next? Is there more for Instagram to do? Some new form of content for it to explore within the context of its current platform? It’s impossible to know. A year ago, the idea of Instagram upending Snapchat would’ve seemed absurd, but now, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility under present conditions.
There’s plenty of uncertainty about what kind of rabbit Instagram might manage to pull out of its hat next, but one thing is very, very clear: Instagram is a platform that’s more powerful than its ever been, and one that’s poised to keep growing in strength and numbers.