Instagram introduced the Close Friends feature almost a year ago as a way to allow users to post less managed content, similar to what became increasingly popular with secondary "Finstagram" accounts. In this week's episode of Why do you press that button?, Kaitlyn Tiffany and I want to know how Close Friends is going. Who uses it? Why do they use it? Is the Finsta in trouble?
We chat with a few previous guests and our own close friends to find out how Close Friends changed their Instagram experience. We chat with Kaitlyn's sister, who also told us about her Finstagram Verge senior reporter Andy Hawkins, who told us about his story habits. Finally our producer Andrew Marino comes on the show to bring heartbreaking news about his list of close friends and who is and is not on it.
Finally, we interview Instagram director of product management Robby Stein, who gives us details behind the scenes about how Close Friends came about and how things are going so far. He tells us that it took time to find the name Close Friends, because the team had to think about how it would translate internationally. Read the transcript and listen to the show below.
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Robby Stein: My name is Robby Stein. I work on consumer products on Instagram, focused on helping share and connect with your friends and family and people you care about.
How did you come up with the idea for good friends?
[Close Friends] was created by simply talking to people and learning from users what they wanted to add to their story, and at times when they felt they would not be posting on their story, why.
Why did Close Friends arise as a solution to the problem of posting stories?
The number one that came up was, there are just a few things that aren't meant for everyone, and there's really no great place for me to put that on Instagram. So we started developing an idea that became close friends to help you select a list of people with whom you felt more comfortable sharing, and it became the product that it is today.
Has Finstas influenced your decision to build close friends?
I think Finstas certainly suggested that there should be a smaller group of people with whom you could share. But I think one of the challenges with Finstas is that it also inherits the core features of the standard Instagram account. So ask people to follow. The graph is also growing. It can also become quite large.
How does Close Friends build on the Finsta experience?
For us, the biggest change between what Finstas does and what Close Friends offers is that you make a list that only the producer can see and know. You can add people, remove people, share and nobody can really ask to become a member or be a part of it. There is no social pressure to add or remove people and there is no public mention of who is on that list. Those were all things that we thought were very important in creating a space that really felt most comfortable for people.
Was it always close friends and was it only for the content of Stories?
The first version of Close Friends was called & # 39; Favorites & # 39; and you could then post both Stories and Feed messages on it. The feed posts go to a special tab on your profile with an asterisk called Favorites, and if you are in a list of close friends, you can see that content in your friend's profile on the separate tab. We learned very quickly that the product did not perform so well when we tested it.
How did people react to segmenting part of their feed posts?
I think the most important lesson was that, especially between Feed and Stories, people really believed that Feed was meant to help share some of the highlights in their lives. And that was so ingrained in people's minds that it might feel a little unusual to post a very rough, kind of goofy, fuzzy photo as an example. It feels like it might not be in place there, even if it's in a limited part of Feed.
When we noticed in the profile, we also noticed that nobody really went to the profile to view the content of the feed, and they just didn't really know it was there.
What were some of the translation challenges you faced?
Translation is very important when you give a product a name, and we messed up. We thought that Favorites was very simple because it is a very clear word in English, but not in other languages.
So in one of the languages, on the basis of the translation that it actually meant, "my beloved," we realized that when you translate it and look at it strictly, people would only place one person. They added one person to the list. In some countries where the translation did not work, we saw that the lists were one, just like one, which would make the function clearly difficult to use.
We actually researched the name very deeply with people. I think when we asked people, "Hey, who are your favorites," it really introduced them to the people of one, two, three types of people in their social graph. When we talk to people about close friends, it was really closer to maybe one or two dozen. It felt like: “Okay, this is really the inner group of people that I would love to post really goofy things that can be embarrassing. If I post it to anyone who follows me, I can be a bit ashamed of it.
How many people are usually included in the Close friends of people list?
It is closer to a 20 number for a good proportion of people, but there is a lot of variety. Some people really limit it to three or four. Other people who have very large followers have hundreds of people on their list of close friends, because for them it really represents friends.
I think the flexibility of the model has made it possible to use it in the way that is best for you, and I think this is one of the benefits, and I think an important product lesson for me in terms of not being too prescriptive with the product and allowing the community to adopt the way they need it.
How did you end up with the green ring and the Close Friends emblem?
The color green with which we have experimented with a number of other colors. It was really a selection that our chief designer insisted on. One of the reasons why we had a lot of colors on Instagram. There is a gradient color as the logo. We have a pink light wheel, kind of, for the Story Ring. Direct has some of these blues. So just choose a color in a range that didn't really look like anything else, it was really important that it stood out and felt different, and it felt like it was something that was unique in the product. So, green, when we saw that the experience was so clearly defined from everything else, it was just something natural.
Close Friends never feels really bad – it just feels good to be included in someone's Close Friends list. Was this intentional?
One of the things that we thought of when we were designing it was, "How do you make it feel like a very positive moment when someone sees one of these things popping up?" You really have the feeling that you are getting something special. That was really nice when we started using it internally and came closer to the end product we launched. It was such a positive moment to come to Instagram and see and feel it: "Wow, someone opens a little more. They feel that I am someone who wants to see more of their lives. That's great. "
Have you noticed changes in user behavior with Close Friends?
One thing we have noticed is that people tend to respond much more to messages from close friends because you clearly select a group of people who somehow probably care more about what you post. I also think that people feel special, they feel: "Oh, this is something that is unique to me. Fewer people saw it." They are more willing to write back.
One of the positives of this is, I think, people having more conversations about this content that triggers direct conversations, catching up with friends, family. Certainly when I post, people in my family write back who may not necessarily have written back to my story.
How has close friends influenced your personal relationships?
I have also had several experiences where some people are really people who are in my immediate inner circle and others are less. For those people I feel that we have come much closer because of this position, which has been a very positive part of my experience with it.