Mark Lennihan/AP

To help its future, Instagram will start relying on an old tool

The service will start sending out email digests to its users, showing them what they missed during their time away.

INSTAGRAM IS EMBRACING email by launching a roundup service which shows its users what it missed during their time away.

‘Highlights’ will work similarly to the ‘While You Were Away’ feature on Twitter where the most popular or relevant posts from those you follow are displayed.

The idea tries to solve the same problem many social sites experience. Displaying content in reverse chronological order ensures that users see the latest content first, but it means that older posts are unlikely to be seen.

The app already serves a number of notifications when someone likes or comments on your photos, and will send you reminders to check it by mentioning which friends posted photos recently.

The company confirmed to TechCrunch that it was the first time it had sent any type of promotional or re-engagement email.

So why would it resort to email? The answer ties back to interaction and getting people to spend more time using the app.

During Facebook’s earnings call in April, the latest figures said that Instagram has 300 million monthly active users and 200 million daily active users. That’s good in its own right, but it still needs to figure out ways to bring that number up, and increase the amount of time spent on it.

To increase that, it must come up with ways to entice people to check more often. The obvious answer is to make people feel they’re missing out on something.

That’s easier said than done but if you’re regularly receiving emails that tell you what you missed, it could encourage you to go into the app and interact with them. When a group of people like or comment on something, it does make you more willing to do the same.

At the same time, email is still one of the most popular methods of communication, despite it being around for decades now. Many media sites now offer email newsletter and digests now so it’s likely Instagram is hoping it will help increase interaction.

And that interaction is vital for Instagram as it tries to monetise the platform. The app has been very careful in introducing ads (they only appear in specific regions like the US) and figuring out a format that users will respond to has been a challenge. Alongside photo and video ads, it’s trying out carousel ads to see if they fare better.

The service is only four and a half years old, but the older it gets, the more it needs to rely on its own revenue. Email won’t solve this problem, but it doesn’t hurt to try it out.

Read: Those security questions you use for your accounts aren’t exactly safe >

Read: A website that helps people find affairs has been hacked – along with personal information >

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