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Instagram Direct Brings the Social Photo Experience Closer to Home



Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom braved the snow and ice in New York this morning to present a new chapter in the company’s history book – Instagram Direct.

The concept is simple. Instead of sending your photos out to the entire world, you can now send them to 1 person or  a small group of people.

It doesn’t sound very revolutionary, but it really is.

instagram direct

When you take a photo, you can choose to send it to all of your followers or go direct. On the Direct screen, you get a list of people you follow or you can scroll through your contact list alphabetically. Choose one person or a group of up to 15 people. Then hit send.

On the other end, the receiver gets a notification in the inbox. Instagram is more like an email than a broadcast, so they have to open the message you’ve sent. When they do, something cool happens on your end.

instagram direct 2

See the avatar circles under the photo? The sender is on the left and the recipients are on the right. At first, these bubbles will be faded but when someone views the photo the fade recedes and a the icon gets a check-mark. If they like the picture, a heart replaces the check.

Think about this in a business situation. You’re at a location and you want everyone to meet you there. You take a picture so they can easily recognize the spot, then you send it to 5 co-workers. You can tell at a glance who opened the photo and who needs a nudge so they don’t miss the meeting.

There’s plenty of room for comments and the structure lends itself to back and forth conversation. In the demo, Systrom sends a photo of his dog to his girlfriend with a request that she pick up treats. She responds asking what flavor. He answers with an icon for a chicken. That’s a sweet, personal conversation that they could have had over Instagram but does the rest of the world need to see this? No.

And speaking of the rest of the world, Instagram Direct has a safe guard to keep you from getting bombarded with direct messages. You can only get direct photos or videos from people you follow. If someone else tries to send you a message you get a pending request which you can either accept or ignore. Beware, this is an open invitation. Once you say yes, they’re open to send and send until you stop them with another action.

Instagram is a great marketing channel, especially if you’re looking to reach a young, male audience. But I’m not going to suggest you get into the habit of using Instagram Direct to advertise your goods.

I do think it’s a useful tool for collaborating with a remote team. It’s much easier than sending an email by mobile and the fact that you can easily keep photos and refer back to them makes it better than text messaging.

Oh, you can also use Instagram Direct for fun with friends and family. All work and no play. . . right?

To quote Kevin Systrom, “now you have a reason to take a photo.”