In the span of about a year, Instagram has released a slew of new features that affect everything from how you post to how you interact to how you market on the platform. If you’ve fallen behind on the latest and greatest that the app has to offer, don’t worry. Our second instalment in our social media series is a primer on Instagram so dig in to learn more about Instagram’s newest and best features.
In a word, Instagram is hot. Acquired by Facebook for $1.0 billion in 2012, the platform has experienced massive growth in 2020—its 10th anniversary year—and now attracts more than a billion monthly users. Instagram is the ninth most-queried Google search, the sixth most-visited website, and has the fourth-most users of any mobile app. These are numbers that should make any marketer sit up and take notice.
Best marketing features
Instagram’s got a full feature load. The following should be of particular interest to SMBs using Instagram to market their business.
Stories are short videos that disappear after 24 hours, unless you make it a Highlight (more on that below). Videos in Stories are 60 seconds long, broken down into 15 second intervals, and you can enhance your photos and video with effects, filters, stickers, and animations. The brevity of Stories is ideal for timely or time-sensitive content while the ability to be creative makes them a really effective way to highlight your brand personality and boost your visibility, reach, and engagement.
If you want the content from your Stories to stick around, save them as Highlights in your profile. Highlights can be categorized into themes (Products or Events, for example), which makes it a snap for your visitors to find what they’re looking for.
Videos in your regular Instagram feed have a maximum play length of 60 seconds. Longer than that and they get cut off. If you have longer videos to share you can use IGTV, which is embedded in the main Instagram app and is accessible through the profile tab, Explore page tab, in-feed teasers, or promo stickers in Stories. Videos on IGTV give you the chance to spread your wings with content without requiring your followers to leave the main Instagram app.
Instagram’s answer to TikTok comes in the form of Reels, 15-second videos set to music. Unlike Stories, Reels don’t expire. They stay on your profile in the Reels tab and can be seen by everyone including people who don’t follow you. This makes them perfect for attracting a wider audience through creative, entertaining, and fun content.
Instagram Guides are a cross between Instagram carousels, which show multiple images in one post, and blog posts or articles. With Guides, you can tell a story by grouping existing pins in your feed. Each Guide includes a cover image, title, introduction, and optional descriptions for every entry, each of which is linked back to the original post. Think of Guides as an article using existing Instagram posts.
Keywords are a vital part of marketing and Instagram’s newest iteration vastly improves the way they’re handled. Before, search results on Instagram would only return keywords that were found in hashtags or accounts that included the keyword in the account name or bio. Now, you’ll see results from posts that include those keywords, even if they aren’t hashtagged.
Many people scroll with their sound off, which means they’re not getting the whole story with content that includes audio elements. Enter Caption Stickers, a new feature that works similarly to captions or subtitles and turns verbal speech into written text.
This update means that you can mute your mic and turn off your camera during an Instagram Live broadcast. Only your profile image is shared. This feature is beneficial if you want the audience to focus on the individual who is speaking in the live chat. Note that this is activated by each participant on their own behalf—the host cannot mute or turn the cameras off for the other participants.
Previous to this update, you could only go live with one other person in a stream. Now, you can bring in up to three people by tapping the Rooms icon. Live Rooms are the perfect solution for hosting tutorials or Q&As with your followers, or for interviewing guest experts. And, during a live chat, viewers can buy a badge to show their support so this feature can help brands earn money.
Packed with features, Instagram is one of the most powerful social networks around. With a little bit of ingenuity and a grasp of the platform’s abilities, businesses can harness Instagram’s power to increase brand awareness, grow their reach and engage customers.