Instagram rolls out private messaging update to take on Snapchat and Whatsapp

Instagram has launched a product update that pits the Facebook-owned mobile app directly against the likes of Whatsapp and Snapchat by allowing users to send images and videos to select groups of friends.

From today (12 December) Instagram’s iOS and Android users can send videos and photos to up to 15 people – but only those they follow – in a private group, who can then go on to “like” and comment on the content. Users can also request to send images and videos to those who do not follow them, but that content will sit in a “pending requests” queue for the recipient.

Users can access their “Instagram Direct” conversations by clicking an in-tray icon in the top menu bar of the app.

The feature brings the photo-sharing app more in line with social apps like Snapchat – which also allows users to send videos and photos to select groups of friends, although they then disappear after a set amount of seconds – and messaging apps like Whatsapp, Kik, Viber and Line. Last month it was reported that SnapChat rejected a $3bn takeover bid from Facebook.

While the new feature takes users away from the Instagram feed in which advertisements appear, brands may be able to adopt the feature by sending direct messages to reward competition winners, for example.

Speaking at a press event in New York today (12 December), Instagram co-founder and CEO Kevin Systom revealed Instagram now has more than 150 million users worldwide, up from 80 million at the start of the year.

Facebook accounts for a growing portion of the mobile ad market. Research firm eMarketer predicts Facebook’s share of global mobile ad revenues will increase to 15.8 per cent, up from 5.35 per cent last year.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here