Instagram users can now create channels to share exclusive information with their followers. Mark Zuckerberg announced this in his post published on the platform. The CEO also started his own IG community and successfully promoted it. As we write this, there are already over 300,000 members. While not a record number, it's nonetheless an indication that people want to try out the new feature. We refused to be left out too.
The new feature is similar to groups where people are added via an invitation link, and the channel owner creates and publishes content for them. The Meta executive called it a "broadcast chat" with an extensive set of tools. According to the head of Instagram, the owner of the channel can add all kinds of content, such as text, photos, videos, gifs, voice messages, and even polls. The developers have come up with two features to help you invite new users to your channel. First, a sticker with your channel's name will appear in your Stories. Clicking on it will open a window with a Watch feed button. Secondly, a clickable link to your channel will be added to your profile bio. Here's what it looks like:
On the inside, channels look like regular instant messengers. All updates look like text messages and people can react to them. Just like a regular DM conversation. Apparently, channels will have moderators chosen by the channel owners. Only profile followers can view content published in channels, and only those who were invited to a channel can react to messages.
The users who have been invited to a channel have a few features available:
Link copying (links are shareable on the platform and outside it);
Chat keyword search (we checked it out - works great);
Turning notifications on or off;
Gallery for posts and Reels that have been uploaded or shared on the channel;
Gallery for photos and videos shared by the channel owner.
Each new channel you create will be highlighted in your DMs. When you post an update on the channel, your followers will receive notifications. If they don’t like them, they can turn them off in the settings.
At the moment, this feature is only available to a limited number of users. Zuckerberg posted links to their accounts on his channel. We looked at each of them and noticed a few interesting trends.
First, if you already have a clickable link in your bio, it will have to move. The channel link is now the first to be displayed. We find this solution unfortunate because users won't always understand where to click first. If it’s more important for you to send people to your online store rather than to the channel, you might have to cut your bio content shorter.
Second, users can create multiple channels. In this case, the channel link in your profile bio will indicate the number of channels. After clicking on it, you’ll be able to choose the channel you prefer.
Zuckerberg himself came up with the idea of IG channels. He said that from now on his channels will include updated information on Meta and its news, so if you want to be informed, follow them by all means. The CEO didn’t say, however, why users can’t simply find it out from his posts, Stories, or Reels.
But those who saw Mark’s announcement and were among the first users to try the new feature turned out to be more realistic. A large meme-related profile owner created two channels at once and named them VIP Content and Merch Chat. He plans to post exclusive memes on the first channel and use the second for discount offers on his merchandise. Marketing in action!
So for those who have an Instagram blog, channels are another way to attract, engage and retain an audience. What we see as a key challenge is coming up with original content for channels that hasn’t previously been posted on Stories or the feed. After all, it will only make sense for people to follow your channels if they offer something they haven’t seen anywhere else. Telegram is now taking on this role and bloggers are actively directing their audiences there. This allows you to protect yourself in case your account suspension and avoid losing your followers. And the main rule of managing a Telegram channel is precisely posting content that’s not duplicated on other social media platforms.
Speaking of Telegram. Many mass media outlets have been mulling over the notion that Zuckerberg stole the channel idea from Telegram’s founder Durov and then added the feature to his platform. We think it’s unlikely. While the Meta team is probably aware of the feature and is exploring the messenger's potential, that doesn’t mean they are competing with it. Yes, it also has channels, but the ability to create groups is also available on Viber and WhatsApp. Not to mention the fact that the same feature has been built into Facebook for a long time, albeit in a different form. Then why is the idea of channels on Instagram has to be a ripoff?
The Western mass media did not mention the ripoff in any shape or form. They explain the appearance of channels by the fact that the company is concerned about changing user behavior. People are increasingly consuming content rather than producing it themselves. But DM communication still remains popular. Therefore, the decision to introduce a new tool in the DM tab is an attempt to get bloggers to interact with the new features as well. This is also evidenced by the appearance of Notes.
It’s expected that thanks to this innovation, people will communicate with Influencers more often, and they won’t be too much of a nuisance to their audiences. Want to learn something new? Open a channel. Don't want to see the channel updates? Just don't go to this section at all. In other words, we now have another feed, but a more personal one.
Although the channel feature isn’t available for our region yet, we can already make some predictions. Obviously, creators will make full use of this function and will actively encourage their followers to subscribe. This is another opportunity to interact with your audience and therefore increase its loyalty. The chat format creates a sense of personal communication: your favorite influencer sent you a photo and then a voice recording. And even if thousands more people see this, the feeling of exclusivity is still there.
Since there’s another spike in the popularity of all kinds of experts and pros on Instagram, it’s likely we’ll soon see topical channels. For example, if someone has a fitness-related profile, they could post exclusive workouts and studies they rely on when designing their workout routines. Channels are also great as a feature that introduces blogs to new users, creates community discussions, and offers access to professional portfolios or case studies.
Looking at how Western influencers utilize this feature, one can assume that channels will become another source of monetization. By attracting users with profitable discounts (Subscribe and get a promo code!), creators will be able to build a considerable audience in a short time. And where there are people, there’s advertising. If the developers add more insights, we can't avoid native advertising.
Let’s say that at some point, some channels will become private, and people will be able to access them only via a personal invitation link. This will make some creators like Lena Blinovskaya happy, as they will start selling subscriptions to channels, calling them exclusive communities for the select few.
The appearance of channels was mentioned back in 2022 by the developer Alessandro Paluzzi. On his Twitter page, he posted information about the upcoming update. Based on it, Instagram was planning to create two types of channels: with and without the chat feature. Judging by the latest information, the developers haven’t abandoned this idea and are still working on it. In January 2023, we learned that channels can hold up to 1 million subscribers and there can be up to 250 people in a chat.
Although the current official release only includes one feature, that doesn’t mean that the company will not upgrade it. Most likely, they just didn’t have time to finalize the idea or decided that good things should come in small portions. In any case, it’s obvious that we are in for more than one channel update.