Content RadarLess than three weeks remain in 2017, but as you’re preparing for presents, poinsettias, and parties, we’re committed to continuing to follow the content marketing news you ought to know. Here’s what you should have on your radar this week.

Content Radar

New standalone messaging app and “Story Highlights” will affect your 2018 Instagram plans.

It’s been a big year for Instagram: Instagram Stories surpassed Snapchat; the platform now boasts more than 25 million business accounts; and the channel continues to be a favorite among millennials. But after a busy year, Instagram isn’t taking December easy. Two recent announcements have set the company up for an eventful 2018.

First, brands can now highlight stories on their Instagram pages.

Since their inception, Instagram Stories have been available for 24 hours only to disappear into the digital abyss after the 24-hour limit was reached. To be frank, nobody really expected anything different. This is how Snapchat has always behaved. It’s what people have come to expect.

Instagram continued its trend of improving on Snapchat’s core functionalities last week by announcing that it would now allow users — including brands — to highlight stories on their account pages. This new functionality, known as Stories Highlights, is possible thanks to the fact that Instagram is now auto-saving stories after their initial 24-hours availability. Brands or individuals who want to highlight these stories may choose them from a private archive in the app.

Additions Change How You Use Instagram

Why might a brand want to take advantage of this new functionality?

  • Highlighting stories allows brands to tease the kinds of stories that individuals would see if they followed the brand account. This means that in addition to seeing your regular Instagram posts, those who visit your account page will see the stories you choose to highlight, as they will be prominently placed at the top of your account page.
  • If those in your organization have balked at creating high-quality stories due to their ephemeral nature, you now will have an opportunity to use the story format, yet also allow the stories to be visible for a longer period of time.

To share one personal perspective, marketing consultant Tim Stoddard, owner of Stodzy Internet Marketing, spoke about why he thinks Story Highlights will be a good addition to the app.

“You can basically create and manipulate your stories and your highlights however you want to tell whatever kind of brand message,” Stoddard said. “So whether it’s a business brand, a personal brand, or just something you like to do for fun, you now have a lot more control over your stories. And I think it’s going to add a lot of value to the platform over the next couple of years.”

Second, Instagram is testing a standalone messaging app.

The app is called “Direct” and currently it is being tested in six non-English-speaking countries. Users will quickly see similarities to Snapchat and Messenger, though Direct isn’t nearly as packed with features as either of those messaging apps. Perhaps the most significant aspect of the app that is currently being tested is that brands are not part of the app.

This, perhaps, could mean that brands’ ability to reach users in the Instagram app could decrease if users spend more time in Direct. However, it also is entirely possible that brands could have some kind of a presence in the future or could be able to take advantage of advertising opportunities in Direct.

Additions Change How You Use Instagram

Direct is light on functionality, but a few of the current features include:

  • The app opens up directly to the camera — similar to how Snapchat operates.
  • Users who swipe right can gain access to their inbox, which in theory should include messages from individuals — not brands — unless changes are made before the app is made available to all users.
  • Like Messenger and Snapchat, Direct will allow users to use filters and augmented reality to enhance their direct-messaging experience.
  • Users may swipe down to open a new field to send text-based messages instead of photos or videos.

Though it remains to be seen exactly how this new app would affect marketers, on Mashable Tech’s Spoken Edition podcast, Raymond Wong, Mashable’s Senior Tech Correspondent, thinks the app might be a mistake for Instagram to pursue the release of it.

“Based on conversation’s I’ve had with several friends and colleagues who are prolific Instagram users, they share the same view that their use of messaging on Instagram is very closely tied to Stories,” Wong said.

“What’s the point of a Direct app if it’s not connected seamlessly with Stories or the posts on your personal feed? What’s the incentive to message through a standalone app when iMessage, WhatsApp, Messenger or a dozen other apps already fulfill that purpose?”

Instagram has not commented on when the app might be released to a wider audience.

Content Radar

Google’s new custom intent audiences can be a boon for marketers who understand how to use them. The tool, which was released just before the holiday shopping season, allows marketers to reach custom audiences who are likely to be interested in your product or services. Google uses data from your YouTube account, website and campaigns to identify and target your desired audience.

Content Radar

Reddit is opening its doors wider to brands, but hesitancy persists. Reddit now allows brands to use third-party app Sprinklr to publish to subreddits, but this still doesn’t make Reddit a slam-dunk for brands. Despite recent efforts to make the site more appealing to brands, Reddit is still riddled with offensive and sometimes abusive content. Given some of the recent drama social channels, especially Twitter, have faced with hate speech, brands may be hesitant to hop aboard publishing to Reddit, even with the Sprinklr integration.

Content Radar

Facebook is prepared to give you an accurate representation of how many people your posts reach. This means that “reach” will actually measure a post’s viewable impressions, not simply how many people could have potentially seen the post based on news feeds to which it was delivered. In essence, for the first time, brands will have a more accurate representation of how many people are seeing their organic posts.

Content Radar

Marketers will spend more than $20 billion on outside data in 2018. Roughly $10 billion will be spent on obtaining more audience insights. The other $10 billion will be spent on data activation efforts to help marketers use the insights in meaningful ways.