Squaring off with the new Instagram

Squaring off with the new Instagram

Have you recently been two hundred images deep into an old flame’s Instagram account sweating that you’re going to accidentally “like” one of their photos from three years ago? Well if you’re paying that much attention, you may have noticed some pretty big changes to the platform in the past week and a half (great segway, I know). If you’re not as addicted to Instagram as I am, look closer, because those perfect square images you’ve come to know and love are changing, and now users can post portrait and landscape formats natively without using third party apps like SquarePic to do so. Forbes called it the “biggest upheaval since the inception of the platform five years ago”, and to be honest, they’re pretty close to the mark.

Instagram held on as long as they could, but it seems they’ve finally come to the realisation that consistency and versatility don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Announcing from the company blog, Instagram cited several reasons for the change, one of the major points being that “20 percent of uploaded photos had been modified to fit into the square frame, often using a third-party app that adds a ‘letterbox’ effect to enable the sharing of landscape pictures.”


With all of that considered, as with most ‘improvements’ to social media platforms, the immediate question for us stems around the impact for the brands, most of whom are only just discovering the platform as an effective channel for visual content marketing. It will have a huge impact on how brands produce and integrate advertisements into the Instagram platform, and perhaps even simplifies the self-service engine they rolled out a few weeks ago. But I can see a few immediate reasons why people are fist-pumping about the announcement.

  1. Greater opportunities for storytelling

Perhaps the most immediately positive impact will be on Instagram’s video format, which the change also applies to. Instagram video doesn’t have the rich history and advocacy in square that images did, and with two thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic expected to come from video within the next two years, it opens up an opportunity for brands to tell more compelling stories without the restrictions of the previous format. Would you go see a movie in square? I wouldn’t. Not even on cheap Tuesday.

  1. Blank Space, baby

While most people would assume Taylor Swift has been singing about relationships, she’s actually going on about research performed on the effectiveness of certain images on Instagram, and it turns out she’s right. Images with a high amount of background space generate 29% more engagements than those with minimal space. It’s pretty simple really. Landscape and portrait images means more space. More space means more sweet, sweet engagement.

  1. Instagram frontrunners continue to benefit

Travel and fashion brands are among those who already had the edge on the platform, so why not give them another boost? There’s no doubt that landscape-ability will open huge doors for tourism boards and Instagram influencers looking to cram that whole city skyline into their latest piece of content (see point number two). Meanwhile, fashion brands who haven’t quite mastered the art of the flat lay will no longer suffer through the decision of whether to crop out the shoes or the hat. For brands overall, it opens up more compelling avenues for showcasing products and services in a way that is natural to the brain. Perhaps most importantly, the feed doesn’t suffer. Although posting in landscape mode, a user’s personal page will still appear natively as a square, keeping the experience of scrolling through the history of that account as smooth as possible.

  1. Fit more people into your selfie

Kendall Jenner is currently recognised as hosting the most liked image of all time, with over three million double taps to boast. Imagine how foolish she’d feel if she knew that if she had of invited some friends to the shoot, she could have attracted 38% more likes to table – that’s 4.1m. That’s right, the more faces in your selfie, the more engagement you’ll get and the more FOMO fans of your brand will get. That said, there is such a thing as ‘too many’, so I wouldn’t go overboard with that one.

For the moment, it’s clear that square photos will remain the default mode, and there’s a lot of dedicated Insta-fans out there that will ignore the changes in protest. But native landscape and portrait are here to stay, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how brands adapt and thrive as they continue to navigate Instagram’s burgeoning advertising platform. I’m just stoked I won’t be cropped out of images anymore…


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