Earlier this month, Instagram introduced a new feature – called “Stories” – in an effort to beat a rapidly growing threat: SnapChat. Of course, the similarity between Instagram Stories and SnapChat didn’t go unnoticed by the active users. Now, to distinguish itself from its rival, the Facebook-owned photo-sharing network, is now suggesting who to follow according to one’s interests.
Instagram utilizes an advanced algorithm that presents personalized suggestions to get people to use the Stories feature. It works by lining up all the accounts you could follow on top of the Explore tab. The suggestions are based on your likes, accounts you follow, and topics you care about. The feature, which is only available to selected users, will make adding new people to follow on your Home feed’s Stories section so much easier.
Instagram is banking on the surprising popularity of its Explore section to make the suggestions feature a hit among users. Instagram reps say the Explore tab receives about 100 million visitors every day. This means, about a fifth of the social network’s 500 million monthly users are tuning in to Explore, accounting for one-third of the app’s daily actives.
According to Instagram’s Director of Product Management Blake Barnes, people visit the explore tab because “[s]ome seek it out as the primary way they use Instagram…Some people view it as a dessert.”
Back when the Explore tab was introduced, it was called “Popular.” As the name suggests, the Popular feature presents all the popular users on Instagram, accounts that get the most likes and comments across the network. To reinvent the Popular tab, Instagram started customizing the feeds to suit the interest of the users in 2014. Eventually, Explore started presenting trending content and themed videos.
Apart from being entertaining, the Explore tab helps users find new accounts to follow, which is critical after years of photo sharing. The Explore tab is in line with Facebook’s plans of using artificial intelligence to curate content instead of depending on human editors. In addition, the suggestions feature allows users to personalize the Explore Stories at scale.
The revamped Explore tab is designed to give the Stories a boost in an effort to beat Snapchat Stories. Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom admitted that SnapChat deserves “all the credit” for pioneering the ephemeral slideshow format. But unlike its rival, Instagram has a wider reach. The social network kept mum though on the growth of its Stories feature.
Barnes said, “We’re really excited to see how quickly they’ve caught on, whether with everyday users or celebrities and brands. Stories removed the fear of over-posting or worrying about Likes and comments.”
Still, despite its legions of loyal users, it seems that Stories is still lagging behind SnapChat stories. SnapChat does not appear to be losing users but Barnes believes Instagram’s latest update holds a lot of promise because it’s addicting.
“It has the early signs of being a product people love,” Barnes concluded.