Instagram is finally testing the ability for those of us without millions of followers to link people to outside content from Stories. The linking feature will be slightly different from the swipe-up methodology you currently see on your favourite influencer’s stories. Instead, it’s a sticker, so your pals can tap to visit the link in their mobile browser.
Vishal Shah, Instagram’s head of product, told The Verge that it’s in the testing phases to learn how people use links in the app. They’ll be looking for the types of links that people post the most, including whether they’re being used to spread misinformation. The feature is likely to stay limited to Stories.
“That is the sort of future system we would like to get to,” Shah said. “And that’s what we hope to roll out, if we’re able to make this work.”
Instagram has long practiced the carrot/stick method with its users. If you don’t post as often as the algorithm expects — do a search for “Instagram algorithm” to see dozens of bloggers attempting to figure it out — you run the risk of irrelevance. But if you do play the game, you’re rewarded with the chance to attract a mass of followers. And once you hit the magic number of 10,000 followers, Instagram unlocks the ability to post a link to an external site. (Verified users also have access to links regardless of follower count.)
I’m not a fan of this particular limitation. External linking is a simple feature that would benefit all users, no matter the size of their following. The limitation specifically hurts activists and educators, who helped pave the way for call-to-action posts over the last few years.
It would help out small fries like myself, too. There have been many instances where I wish I could have shared my work with friends, colleagues, and followers without telling them to navigate to the link in my bio or copy and paste a complicated URL into their mobile browser. There are people in my life who love me dearly, but even they don’t have the time or wherewithal to go through all that trouble to read my articles.
Allowing all of its users to link externally would help give Instagram some leverage over TikTok, with which it’s been playing catch-up. After all, TikTok is where one of the latest hashtags was designed to dunk on Instagram Reels. TikTok introduced Jumps last week, integrating apps into videos to enable things like recipe sheets inside Whisk or a link to an external Wikipedia page. However, it doesn’t offer direct linking abilities outside of the links posted on profile pages.
Linking would also help Instagram reach its goals of becoming a home shopping network. Small sellers would be more inclined to choose it as a platform since they could post to their Etsy shops and personal websites without employing Instagram’s shopping stickers.
Unfortunately, links as stickers are not yet available publicly. The feature is currently being tested within a small pool of users, so we’ll see how much longer the rest of us have to do the “link in bio” dance.