Instagram is building out its feature set, inching closer to becoming the be-all and end-all social media app for visual content. Stories, Live, post saving and direct messaging features are expanding Instagram’s capabilities, and in April, Instagram added a collections feature, which allows users to organize their saved posts into private collections.
The collections feature lets Instagram users create something akin to boards on Pinterest, though they’re not public or shareable. As users save posts, they can create collections to categorize posts like one might on Pinterest — Vacation Ideas, Nature Photography, Puppies, etc. With more content, more ways to create, and more ways to share, it’s becoming easier than ever to spend more time in the app and to find more of what users are looking for all in one place. With this new Pinterest-like feature, will Instagram step into the curatorial space to threaten Pinterest like it’s threatening Snapchat?
Since December of 2016, Instagram users have been able to save posts, and between December 2016 and April 2017, nearly half of Instagram users saved a post. In April 2017, Instagram added the ability to organize those saved posts into collections for easy reference.
Instagram is, by nature, a fleeting experience. The feed has been reordered using an algorithm that surfaces the most popular and relevant content first, so it’s not strictly reverse chronological, but posts are still only discoverable in the feed for a day or two at best. Once users scrolled past a post, even if they liked it, it was easy to forget.
The ability to save posts gave content on Instagram a new kind of staying power, and collections opened up a new way to use Instagram. With collections came the ability to curate. Posts that users liked or saved were no longer just an unordered amalgamation of Things Seen And Not Remembered, but sources of inspiration, aspiration, and information that were suddenly easy to revisit, reference, and reorder.
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On the surface, it’s easy to write off Instagram collections as a simple organization feature — a way to categorize and navigate dozens or hundreds of saved posts. It’s more than organization, though. It’s a curation tool.
Pinterest users fall into two main categories: Those who pin content for personal purposes and those who pin with the intention of sharing. For those who pin to share, Instagram collections aren’t terribly useful because they’re private. For those who pin for personal purposes, though, using Instagram collections has an obvious appeal. It’s fast, it’s simple, and it’s one less social media account to manage.
That said, Instagram has a significant shortcoming in that collections on Instagram are limited to content that already exists on Instagram. Part of the appeal of Pinterest is that it allows users to pin photos, articles, recipes, and blog posts from all over the internet. It’s a vast web of content that comes from a wide array of sources, and Instagram doesn’t have the same flexibility. What’s more, Instagram is an inherently visual platform. As such, there are topics for which it lacks some necessary depth. Instagram is perfect for sharing travel photography, but providing detailed instructions for a recipe or DIY project proves more difficult.
Instagram collections may be private for now, but that may not always be the case. If, in the future, Instagram gives users the option to make collections public or to share them with others, it could fundamentally alter the way people use Instagram (and threaten Pinterest in the process).
Creators may find new ways to include more meaningful detail in their posts to make them worthy of saving, collecting, and revisiting. Whether it’s more detailed storytelling in the captions or using galleries to include photos of food with visually dynamic recipes, the way that users and creators approach content may evolve with the ability to save and access it on demand.
Public collections could also give way to a new kind of influencer on Instagram. Pinterest users who curate and share quality collections garner massive followings. Theoretically, public collections could facilitate a similar phenomenon on Instagram. It might even have some creators moving from Pinterest to Instagram. After all, with the booming influencer marketing industry on Instagram, a following on Instagram could be much more valuable than the same following on Pinterest.
For the time being, Instagram just has some of the core functionality of Pinterest. It may have some users changing the way that they interact with content on the platform. But if collections become a widely used and powerful tool, perhaps with more options for tagging and sharing, users may begin gravitating toward Instagram and away from Pinterest, just as they did with Snapchat. And where the users go, the best creators will inevitably follow.
In a world where everyone spends more time than they’d like on their phones and staring at screens — even if it’s doing something that is, ostensibly, “fun” — it’s difficult to deny the appeal of a platform that eliminates the need for one or even several others. Instagram has always been simple and intuitive, and with more features, it feels more and more like the platform where most of what matters inevitably ends up.