On Thursday Instagram Introduced Instagram Direct At a mystery press event in New York City, Instagram unveiled Instagram Direct, as a new way for users to send photos to private groups or individuals.
No, Instagram isn’t becoming Snapchat (at least, not yet), but the service and social network is more deeply embracing user-to-user communication. “Photos, when they are transmitted, become communication,” Instagram cofounder and CEO Kevin Systrom said at the event. That communication gets more sophisticated with Instagram Direct.
Instagram Direct is now available for iOS and Android, and we’ve spent some time using the new features and figuring out some of its nuances, especially when it comes to sending messages to users you don’t follow or don’t follow you. Below, we break down what the service is useful for and how it works.
The Ideal Use Case
Instagram Direct is designed around the idea that sometimes, you don’t want to share a photo with the world; instead, you want to share it with a specific person or a small group.
In addition to photos that users may not want to be public (many parents are uncomfortable sharing photos of their children on social media), Instagram Direct can serve as a great way to share a photo or moment with a group of people who are all either in the photo or might find it valuable.
If I’m at a concert and take a really great shot, I can share it to my main Instagram feed, but I really want the people who are with me to see the photo, too. Sending it via Instagram Direct, which would be a second, separate share from the pic on my main feed, means those friends won’t need to search to find the photo in their feeds.
Instagram Direct is also interesting because users can exchange photos without following each other.You can send them a photo. If they choose to accept it, they can view and comment on it.
Receiving Photos and Videos Directly
If a user you follow sends a photo or video using Instagram Direct, it goes into your Instagram Direct inbox. Open the photo or video to comment, Like or reply with a new photo or video.
However, if a user you don’t follow sends a photo, it pops up as a “pending” request. You can choose to either approve or deny the request. If you approve it, the Instagram Direct photo shows up in your inbox. If you deny, it disappears into the ether.
You can send an Instagram Direct to up to 15 users at once. The idea is not to “spam your friends,” said Kevin Systrom , but instead to share to more private, specific groups.
The Rules of Following
If you accept a pending request, you don’t necessarily have to follow that user. It only means you are agreeing to view that specific photo or video. You won’t see that person’s photos in your stream, nor will he or she show up as someone you follow on Instagram.
If that same user wants to send you another photo or video, the request will still go to the pending inbox. Instagram says the idea is to primarily exchange photos and videos with your friends and acquaintances. If you want to see every image a user sends your way without visiting the pending inbox, then you’ll need to begin following that user.
My Account Is Private. Can I Still Use Instagram Direct?
Yes. One of the nice things about Instagram Directs privacy settings is that you can share an image with someone specific, even if all your photos are private. This includes sharing with people who are not permitted to access your entire stream.
By default, you will only get a notification on your phone if someone you follow sends you an Instagram Direct photo. You can enable the option to be specifically notified of any Direct requests. Within Instagram, you can view a counter on the inbox icon when new messages are delivered.
Working With Facebook Messages
Instagram Direct is a completely separate product from Facebook’s messages. This makes sense if you think about your Instagram social graph. I’m don’t Facebook friends with everyone I follow on Instagram, I also don’t follow all of my Facebook friends on Instagram. You can use the Facebook Connect search to find your Facebook friends on Instagram, but the two groups and services are still separate.