7 Things Content Marketers Need to Know About Layout, Instagram’s New App

Brands love Instagram, and now, Instagram is showing a little love back.

The popular photo-sharing app is making it easier for brands to experiment with visual storytelling with Layout, its first complimentary app for photo editing. Instagrammers have already been using third-party apps like Pic Stitch, InstaFrame, and PhotoGrid to edit and collage their photos for years. In fact, Instagram found that 20 percent of its monthly users were using other companies’ apps to compose shareable images. Now, Instagram hopes to blow the competition out of the water by providing users with the tools to be even more creative with their ‘grams. (As the kids call it.)

As with other social tools like Snapchat’s Discover and Twitter’s collage photo feature, Instagram’s Layout could provide opportunities for brands to engage new audiences on the platform with dynamic visuals that catch the eye and tell an interesting story.

Here’s what brands need to know to get started.

1. It lets you get experimental (and silly) with custom layouts and mirroring.

Layout users can select up to nine photos to collage. Depending on how many you choose, the app will present you with your options for grid layouts (10 at the max).

From there, you can resize, zoom, mirror, rearrange, and flip images within the grids. You can also easily replace photos with different ones by pulling up your camera roll and swapping with a tap. Facebook users seem be to having fun with the mirror feature in particular, by creating funny and imaginative images.

Once you have your image ready, you can share it on Instagram, Facebook, or other apps on your phone. The app is currently available on iOS devices, with an Android version on the way.

2. It’s not just a copy of apps that are already out there.

To compete with third-party apps, Instagram filled Layout with small, unique features, such as changing the order of the steps involved in collaging your photos.

“The first thing you see is a view of the Camera Roll,” Joshua Dickens, Product Designer at Instagram toldTechCrunch. “Most apps give you a bunch of empty grids. But more important is choosing the photos you want to share, before you lay them out.”

TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez noted that this distinction “significantly sped up the previously time-consuming process of collage building” and greatly reduced the learning curve for the new app. This could come in handy for marketers that are live-gramming events on Instagram.

As Forbes points out, Layout’s design offerings are rather simple compared to those of competing apps. For instance, InstaCollage and Diptic offer more complex layouts with irregular shapes and custom frames. However, this stripped back interface was intentional. As TIME notes, Instagram is encouraging offering users the ability to experiment with symmetry effects by using its mirror feature. Borders and irregular shapes would impede that process.

Eliminating clutter was also the motivation behind making Layout a standalone app, as opposed to a built-in feature of Instagram.

“Instagram is really simple and that’s what people love about it,” Dickens told re/code. “Building [Layout] into the main app would inherently make it more complicated.”

3. It helps you find faces.

As TIME reports, 90 percent of all collage images shared on Instagram are of people. To help Instagram users share more photos of their friends (and selfies, of course), Layout provides a “Faces” button that shows you all of the photos in your camera roll that feature people. Get ready to quickly filter through those cityscapes and product photos to share the human side of your brand’s story.

4. It includes a built-in Photo Booth feature.

For capturing spontaneous moments, the Photo Booth feature takes up to four photos in quick succession, just like the Photo Booth app on Apple computers. Tap the button to start the countdown, pose for your photos, and then find them instantly saved in your layout previews. As Forbes points out, the feature seems to be limited to the front-facing camera, so this one’s just for selfies.

5. It’s not Instagram’s first complimentary app.

That title belongs to Hyperlapse, which debuted last August and allows users to create high-speed, timelapse videos for Instagram. However, Layout is Instagram’s first standalone app exclusively for photo editing. As for Hyperlapse, brands quickly jumped on the app to try out new video effects for their posts and ads. Similarly, it didn’t take long for brands to start experimenting with Layout.

6. Brands are loving it.

As Adweek points out, a quick search of the hashtag #layout on Instagram gives a glimpse at how people and brands are using the new app already. Sephora used a quad-photo collage to show the steps of highlighting and contouring with their products. Victoria’s Secret joined the #NationalPuppyDay trend by showcasing the cuteness of models holding puppies. And Shutterfly went for a trippy portrayal of its product with the new mirroring feature.

Models + puppies = way too much cuteness!! #NationalPuppyDay

A photo posted by Victoria’s Secret (@victoriassecret) on

7. It provides new opportunities for storytelling.

As with Twitter’s quad-photo feature, Instagram wants to directly provide users with the tools they need to tell more visually complex stories—be it collages, comic-style narratives, or fantastical re-imaginings of everyday products and images.

As Instagram’s post reads: “From imagining mirrored landscapes to sharing multiple moments from an entire adventure, we’ve seen these kinds of visual storytelling happening on Instagram and we’re inspired by it.”

Given that Instagram has 300 million active monthly users, chances are your brand is already on the platform, enticing users with fun images, videos, or even sponsored ads. If not, maybe Layout will be the catalyst to inspire you—or at least get you to ditch a few of those third-party apps that were clogging your iPhone screen.

Image by Instagram

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