Instagram is building its own version of Twitter’s Super Follow with a feature that would allow online creators to post “exclusive” content in their Stories only available to their fans with access that would likely come with a subscription payment of some kind.
The company confirmed that screenshots of the feature recently circulated on social media are from an internal prototype that is now in development, but not yet publicly tested. It also declined to share specific details about its plans, saying they are not yet in a place to talk about this project.
The screenshots, however, convey a lot about Instagram’s thinking, as they show a way creators could post what are called “exclusive Stories” to their accounts, which are designated with a different color (currently purple). When other Instagram users come across the exclusive Stories, they will be shown a message that says “members only” can see this content. Stories also can’t be screenshots, apparently, and can be shared as Featured. A new message encourages creators to “save this as a Featured for your fans,” and explains that by doing so, “followers always have something to see when they join.”
The Exclusive Stories feature was discovered by engineer Alessandro Paluzzi, who often finds unpublished features in mobile app code. Over the past week, he posted a series of screenshots in a Twitter thread about his findings.
Exclusive stories are just one part of Instagram’s broader plans for creator monetization tools. The company was slowly revealing more details about its efforts in this space, with Instagram chief Adam Mosseri first telling The Information in May that the company was “exploring” subscriptions along with other new features, such as NFT.
Paluzzi also recently found references to the NFT Collectibles feature, which shows how digital collectibles could appear on a creator’s Instagram profile in a new tab. So far, Instagram did not make a public announcement about these specific product developments, instead opting to talk at a high level about its plans around things like subscriptions and tips.
For example, during Instagram’s Creator Week in early June, an event that could have served as an ideal venue to offer a first glimpse at some of these ideas, Mosseri talked about the kind of creator tools Instagram was interested in building, without clarifying that they were actually in active development.
“We need to build, if we want to be the best platform for creators in the long run, a whole set of things or tools that they can use to help with what they do,” he said, explaining that Instagram was also working on more creative tools and security features, as well as tools that could help creators make a living.
“So, for the most part, the monetization tools for creators fall into three categories. One is commerce, so we can do more to help with branded content; we can do more with affiliate marketing and merchandising,” he explained. “The second is ways that users can pay creators directly, whether it’s private content or subscriptions or suggestions, such as badges or other user-pay type products. I think there’s a lot going on there. I love them because they give creators a direct relationship with their fans, which I think is probably more sustainable and more predictable in the long run,” Mosseri said.
The third point focuses on revenue share, as with IGTV’s long- and short-form videos, such as Reels. Instagram is not the only major social platform moving forward with creator monetization efforts.
The membership model, popularized by platforms like Only Fans and Patreon, made its way onto several mainstream social networks as the creator economy became more consolidated.
Twitter, for example, first announced its own version of creator subscriptions, with the unveiling of its plans for the Super Follow feature during an Analyst Day event in February. Last week, it began rolling out applications for Super Follows and Ticketed Spaces, the latter, the competitor to Clubhouse’s audio social networking rooms.
Meanwhile, Facebook launched its competing Substack newsletter, Bulletin, which offers creators a way to sell premium subscriptions and members-only access groups and live audio rooms. Even Spotify launched an audio chat room, Greenroom, which it also plans to eventually monetize.
While the new screenshots offer a deeper look at Instagram’s product plans on this front, we should caution that a feature in development is not necessarily representative of what the feature will look like at launch or how it will ultimately behave. Nor is it a definitive promise of a public launch, although, in this case, it would be hard to see Instagram scrapping its plans for members-only content given its greater interest in serving creators, where such a feature is essentially part of the core offering.