Instagram is testing a new feature that helps to connect students who are studying at the same college.
The feature is reminiscent of how Facebook — Instagram’s parent company — started life as an online service for doing the very same thing. The creation of such virtual communities could help to draw in more users, while at the same time helping to build loyalty among those already using the photo- and video-sharing platform.
Instagram confirmed to CNBC that it’s in the early stages of testing the service with a select group of users, though there’s no mention of a target date for a possible launch.
The trial involves sending out messages to a number of college-based ‘grammers, inviting them to join a community that would make it easier for them to connect with other students in their year.
According to CNBC, Instagram works out what college a student is attending by analyzing information in their app activity, such as public posts and followed accounts.
If a student chooses to join the group, they first need to confirm their university and graduation year, which will be added to their profile. After that, they’ll be given access to their particular community, allowing them to send direct messages to community members and view Stories straight from the group list.
If Instagram deems the trial a success, it will likely be rolled out on a wider scale to appear alongside other features that have proven popular with many of the app’s billion-plus users. These include its video-focused Stories feature, which it lifted from rival social media app Snapchat and launched in 2016.
Instagram Stories enables users to share photos and short videos of up to 15 seconds uploaded to the service within a 24-hour period. It already has more than 400 million daily users, twice as many as the Snapchat feature that inspired its creation.
Instagram owner Facebook will certainly be keen for the proposed college community feature to be a hit after research published in June suggested teens are abandoning the social network in increasing numbers. The study, carried out by the Pew Research Center, found that only 51 percent of U.S. teens aged 13 to 17 use Facebook, marking a significant drop from the 71 percent who told Pew they used the platform three years ago.
Many youngsters have become more interested in the likes of Snapchat and Instagram, with the latter now keen to see if a college-focused feature could persuade current users to stick with the platform and boost further growth.
Instagram said last week that it’s also testing a recommended posts feature that surfaces posts based on who you follow and which photos and videos you favorite.
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