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(Pocket-lint) - Instagram wants its users to privately communicate with each other more often (apparently anyway), because it has just updated a buried feature, called Instagram Direct, with the purpose of bringing its community closer together.

Although Instagram Direct went live over two years ago, we're willing to bet you've hardly used the messaging feature. It allows you to send private photo and video messages to another Instagram user, but first, you must figure out where your inbox is located and how it works - and then, often times, it's easy to forget about altogether.

But not anymore. Instagram Direct has been overhauled, and here's everything you need to know...

What is Instagram Direct?

Instagram Direct initially let you send messages (photos, videos, and text) to one or more people. In fact, this is how Instagram Direct has always worked:

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  • Manage your messages: To access your Direct message inbox, tap the inbox symbol in the top right of the Feed section. You can manage the messages you've sent and received from here.
  • Send a message: To send a message, tap the "+" symbol from the inbox. Keep in mind sent messages will only be visible to the people who received them and are never publicly posted.
  • Notifications and privacy: The people you message will get a notification. You can't tag people in messages, and the contents of your messages won't ever appear in hashtag/location pages.
  • Respond to messages: To respond or add another comment to an existing message, select it from your inbox, then scroll down to the comment field, and enter your new message. Simples.
  • Delete messages: To delete a message from your inbox, swipe left on the message, and tap "delete". You can also tap the "..." icon from within the message itself, and then tap "delete this post".

Check out Instagram's FAQ page for more tips and tricks.

How is Instagram Direct different from before?

Until recently, Instagram Direct wouldn’t let you share images from your Feed with other users. You also couldn't respond to a photo message with another photo or even start a new conversation using just text. With today's update, you can now do all of those things and more. Here is everything that's new:

  • Threaded messaging: This new system flows more naturally and gets rid of the old direct messaging setup, in which a new conversation was created every time you sent a photo or video to another user. Also, with this change, you're able to seamlessly respond to messages with photos and videos.
  • Directly share content: Instagram now offers the ability to send content (not just photos and videos, but also locations, hashtag pages, and profiles) from your Feed as a direct message. Just click the new arrow button under every post or right-hand corner of every page, and then you can share that stuff with a friend or group.
  • New types of conversations: You've always been able to start a conversation by sending a photo or video, but now you can also start one with just a text message. Instagram also added a quick camera feature to send selfies on the fly as well as emoji for when you don't have the right words.
  • Name your group: You can add up to 15 people to a direct message group - and to help you keep your groups organised, Instagram has added the ability to name your groups. Simples.

Why did Instagram change how Instagram Direct works?

About 85 million people use Instagram Direct each month. That might sound like a lot of people, but it's less than one third of Instagram's 300 million-strong user base. Although Instagram users don't take advantage of Instagram Direct, they still attempt to directly communicate with other users.

Instagram said 40 per cent of all comments on posts are "@" mentions - suggesting users want to share stuff they see in their feed with other users, but they prefer to do it through mentions rather than through Instagram Direct. But Instagram wants to change that/improve the way we connect.

So, it is hoping Instagram Direct will take the place of some of those mentions.

Want to know more?

Check out Instagram's blog post for more details on the new Instagram Direct. Also, watch the video above.

Writing by Elyse Betters. Originally published on 1 September 2015.