Spotlight is a new social media plugin for WordPress that integrates Instagram into your website.
Using Spotlight, you can automatically display your latest photographs and videos. This can increase engagement with your followers, attract new followers and expand your reach.
The plugin allows you to connect multiple Instagram accounts and display an unlimited number of Instagram feeds. This is useful in a number of situations. For example, if you wish, you could display the Instagram feeds of all of your website's writing staff.
As you would expect from a modern WordPress plugin, Spotlight uses responsive layouts so that your Instagram looks great on any device.
They have released the core version of Spotlight free of charge, however Mark Zahra from RebelCode got in touch with me recently and gave me access to the pro version of Spotlight. I would therefore like to show you both versions in this article.
Full Disclosure Alert!! :)
Please be aware that I am not an active Instagram user. Far from it.
It's a platform that many of my friends use every single day, but years ago I adopted Twitter as my main social media platform as I just do not have the time to regularly update Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and other services.
Getting Started With the Free Version of Spotlight
The free version of Spotlight can be downloaded from WordPress.org or from the plugin page of your WordPress admin area.
In order to distribute their WordPress plugin, RebelCode have used the Freemius service. The Freemius service helps WordPress developers by simplifying the deployment, maintenance and marketing of plugins and themes. Advanced tools such as cart abandonment and integrated affiliate programs are also provided.
Whilst I fully understand why developers use Freemius, as a WordPress user, I am not fan of this new trend of developers of displaying opt-in forms immediately after activating a plugin or theme.
It is one of many reasons why the WordPress platform is so bloated today.
Freemius also asks you for feedback when you deactivate Spotlight.
Again, I do understand why developers want this information, but it is another feature which is greatly slowing down WordPress and making it more bloated.
I have nearly 40 WordPress plugins installed on this website and a large number of the plugins I am using are hijacking the WordPress admin area.
Now that I have my complaints out the way, let's look at Spotlight :)
In the main feeds page, you will be asked to connect to your Instagram account.
A message displaying an offer of 7-day free trial of Spotlight Pro is displayed too. No credit card is necessary to take advantage of this.
My recommendation is to sign up for the trial on the Spotlight website as a 14-day free trial is being offered there.
When you select to connect to Instagram, you will be asked whether you want to connect to a personal Instagram account or an Instagram business account.
Unfortunately, Instagram does not provide the profile photo and bio test for personal accoounts. If you wish, you can add this manually in Spotlight.
One you have authorised Instagram, you will be taken to the design page where you can preview how your feed will look in desktops, tablets and mobile devices.
I did notice right away that posts that you have archived in Instagram are displayed on this page. These posts are only displayed to you and will not be displayed to others (though for the purpose of this review, the inclusion or archived posts means that I had to stealthily remove a photo of my ex-girlfriend from the screenshot below!).
The design pages has settings spanned across nine different sections. Settings for layout, popup box, captions and likes and comments, are not available in the free version of Spotlight, however there's still many options for those who choose to use the core version.
You can change the number of posts being displayed, widths and padding, whether bio information is displayed, colours and more.
Once you have finished designing your output, you just need to copy the provided shortode and embed it into a post or page.
You can also integrate the feed via a WordPress widget, but at the moment there is no option within the WordPress editor to insert feeds using a button or block.
That's all there is to setting up Spotlight and displaying your Instagram feed on your WordPress website. The whole process only takes a few minutes.
The Settings Area
One major limitation of many social media WordPress plugins is that you can only connect to one social media account. Spotlight has no such limitation.
From the main plugin settings area, you can manage all of your connected accounts.
When I first connected to Spotlight, I initially selected “No, maybe later” when I was prompted to upload my profile image manually.
Thankfully, you can go back at any time and add this information in the main Spotlight settings area by simply clicking on your connected accounts.
In the configuration page, you can define how often Spotlight checks for new posts and whether unseen posts are deleted after a set number of days.
On the tools page, you can clear the plugin cache.
There really aren't that many options in the plugin settings area, but it is important to remember that Spotlight is brand new. Over time, I suspect we will see more options being added.
On a personal note, I would like to see an option to remove all data once Spotlight has been deactivated.
I believe RebelCode have been incredibly generous with the features they have included in the free version of Spotlight, however there are many reasons to upgrade to Spotlight Pro.
Upgrading allows you to embed stories, use hashtags to display content from all of Instagram, filter tags and captions and customise colours, layouts and more.
There are two premium plans available and both versions give you access to the full version of Spotlight. The yearly license costs $59 and a lifetime license costs $199.
Unfortunately, both licenses only provide support and updates for one website. I would like to see the developers increase the number of supported websites as the plugin could could prove costly to anyone who wants to use Spotlight on a few websites.
On the plus side, a 14-day free trial of Spotlight Pro is available to help you test out features and all purchases come with a 14-day money back guarantee too.
Once you have activated Spotlight Pro, you will be asked to enter your license key in order to use the plugin.
When you go into the design page, you will see a number of new options.
In addition to the grid layout, you can now select a new highlight layout and a masonry layout. All of the pro features which were previously restricted are now unlocked too. This includes displaying the media count, follower count, Instagram stories and more.
Spotlight Pro aslo adds settings for pop-up boxes, captions, likes and comments. It's a useful feature for hiding certain types of content.
Spotlight Pro allows you to only show or hide posts that match specific words, phrases or hashtags.
Filters can also be added in the main plugin settings page. Any filters that are added on this page will be applied to all connected Instagram accounts.
Another cool feature in Spotlight Pro is the ability to show or hide specific images and videos. This is useful if you have private content on your Instagram account that you do not want to display on your website.
Just like in the free version, you can embed your Instagram feed by embedding the provided shortcode into a post or page.
I hope you have enjoyed this look at Spotlight.
Whilst the plugin is not in beta, it is important to remember that I have written this review just days after it has been released. Despite this, I did not come across any bugs or errors during my tests and I have no doubt that we will see more features and settings added to the plugin over the next year.
If you're an Instagram user, it is easy to recommend the free version of Spotlight. It only takes a few minutes to connect to your account and start displaying your images and videos using the plugin and there are a number of great layout customisation options available too.
Spotlight Pro introduces two new additional layouts, filters and many more design options, however I would love to see the developers expand the pro version further by introducing pre-made layouts. This would be a great help to non-designers like myself who have no imagination.
Is the pro version of Spotlight worth it?
If you are looking to display Instagram stories and have more control over what is displayed, I believe it's worthwhile upgrading. $59 is not a lot of money to spend if you are using Instagram to raise your profile or promote your business.
Of course, as I mentioned earlier, I would like the developers to be a little more generous with usage and increase the number of supported websites that their plans support.
Please visit the official website of Spotlight to learn more about what the WordPress plugin can do.
Thanks for reading.
Update From Mark Zahra
Following the publication of this review, Spotlight developer Mark Zahra responded to some of the points I raised in this review.
- The 7-day trial notification should be reading 14 days in the plugin too, I'll look into why that's happening
- I'll discuss the archived posts issue with the team too, it wasn't something I'd considered before
- A Gutenberg block and a WYSIWYG button are on the way
- We will be adding more options in the settings and tools, yes. Thanks for the “remove all data” idea
- We're still discussing the multiple site license tiers, hoping to receive some feedback from users to determine prices
- Pre-made layouts are one thing I personally want to include, we're still in discussion on how best to do that
It's great to hear that a lot of improvements are in the pipeline.
Be sure to try out the free version of Spotlight to see how the plugin is progressing :)