With social platforms like Instagram rolling out updates and features almost weekly, it’s essential to make changes to your social media marketing strategy regularly.
Brands need to constantly keep up with new trends and evolving user preferences to stay relevant and on top of the competition.
In this post, we’ll dive into the latest Instagram features and how you can use them as a marketer to grow your business.
Instagram business features
Launched in November 2020, the professional dashboard lets creators and businesses track performance, and access tools and resources all in one place.
The dashboard is easily accessible from the top of your profile page. Brands can now also track analytics for the last 90 days using the calendar feature, as well as view insights for posts, stories, reels and live videos.
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Instagram recently allowed creators to host Live sessions with up to three additional guests at a time (four people in total).
For brands, Live Rooms open up opportunities to host talk shows with influencers, hold Q&A sessions and even host a webinar with a panel of experts.
Your Instagram bio doesn’t need to be plain text. You can get creative and add functional, interactive elements to spice things up.
All kinds of accounts, from businesses to creators to individuals, can add clickable links, emojis, hashtags, Instagram account mentions and even a website to their bios.
Brands can now get support from followers and grow sales by adding gift card stickers to their Instagram stories and profiles. Followers can also choose to reshare these gift cards on their own stories to spread the word.
To use the Gift Card feature, you need to have an Instagram business or creator account. You can either add a story sticker or a button on your profile.
Similar to gift cards, food brands can also take advantage of the Food Order feature, which lets users order food from your business directly via Instagram.
You can find this sticker in your list of story stickers and add it to your stories after setting up your food delivery partner. You can also add the Order Food button to your profile.
Instagram lets you pin select comments so they stay on top of your post’s comments section. You can only pin up to three comments on each post.
This is a very useful moderation tool for businesses as it lets them make positive feedback, conversation-starters and thoughtful insights more visible than other comments.
Photo & video sharing via desktop
Instagram has finally made it possible to upload photo and video posts from the desktop version of the platform.
This Instagram feature, however, is not yet available to Stories and Reels, and the videos that can be uploaded need to be less than one minute long.
The new Instagram Collabs feature lets users co-create content with other users. This means that a collab post or reel will show up on both users’ profiles with the same number of likes and comments.
For brands, this offers plenty of opportunities to tap into larger audiences. It’s also a useful tool for assisting subsidiaries and making powerful announcements. However, for maximum impact, both creators need to ensure the content is aligned with each profile’s brand voice.
New branded content features
To support brand-influencer collaborations, Instagram has introduced several new branded content features. These include the Brand Collabs Manager, a tool that enables brands and influencers to connect and build relationships.
Other branded content features include paid partnerships in Reels, as well as a separate Partnership messaging folder, which helps creators sort through potential partnership opportunities from brands.
Instagram video features
Instagram Live has been around for some time, but the platform has recently also enabled scheduling for live streams. Live video is great for interacting with followers in real time. This helps brands build trust, and come across as authentic and human.
US businesses with Instagram checkout can also sell products during live streams by engaging with viewers in real time and directing them to shop right within the app. During a live video, users can also support businesses and creators by purchasing badges that show up as heart icons in the comments.
Previously, Instagram introduced IGTV as an app within the platform that gave users the ability to share videos that were up to an hour long.
This functionality has now been removed and replaced by the new and improved Instagram video posts. Users can now upload videos between 3 seconds and 10 minutes long. Select accounts can upload videos up to 60 minutes long.
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Instagram Story features
Instagram recently rolled out a new feature that lets users add text captions of what they say to their Stories. These captions are automatically generated but fully editable. Currently, Story Captions are only available in English and English-speaking countries.
The biggest benefit of this Instagram feature is that it enables brands to reach a larger audience and be understood by all viewers, regardless of whether they’re watching with sound or not.
Instagram Stories last for 24 hours on your profile. But users can now save their best stories as story highlights, which appear in your profile right below your bio.
Brands can benefit from this Instagram feature by saving Stories of events, BTS and other prominent moments as highlights so new followers can also watch them. Similarly, food businesses can share updated menus, specials and more, and save them as highlights.
In response to Snapchat’s revolutionary AR filters, Instagram also rolled out story filters that enable users to add all kinds of augmented reality effects to their Stories.
From funny faces to beauty and color effects to polls and quizzes, there’s a huge library of filters to choose from—some even user-generated.
Brands and creators can also make their own AR filters to drive awareness, go viral, start trends and engage users. Some examples of brands doing this include Adidas, Lego and H&M.
Instagram offers tons of interactive stickers to add to your Stories. Brands can take advantage of these stickers and make their stories engaging and interactive.
Other than static and animated stickers that add visual appeal to stories, you can also include stickers like:
- Emoji Slider
- Customizable Link
Businesses can also use stickers like Poll and Question to run mini surveys and collect feedback from their Instagram followers.
Text translation in Stories
Instagram now lets users translate text in Stories, such as captions, into 90 different languages. The platform currently doesn’t support audio translations.
This is a great opportunity for brands to reach a global audience with their stories and story ads. Just remember to add text that can be easily translated if that’s what you’re aiming for.
Instagram Reels features
New Reels features
Instagram has recently added several updates to its Reels feature:
- Reels can now be up to 60 seconds long.
- You can search for reels by audio or song.
This feature allows creators to “remix” a reel by incorporating the existing video into a new reel. This results in a new, unique mix of content, such as reactions, dance-offs and more.
Now you can use the Remix feature in Reels to create your own reel next to one that already exists 🎭
Whether you’re capturing your reaction, responding to friends or bringing your own magic to trends, Remix is another way to collab on Instagram ✨ pic.twitter.com/eU8x74Q3yf
— Instagram (@instagram) March 31, 2021
Users have the option to enable or disable remixing on their reels. Brands can use this feature to start trends and encourage user-generated content. For example, you could start a dance challenge and offer a prize for the best remix.
Instagram shopping features
Shoppable tags allow businesses to tag their products in their photos. For example, if you feature a model running in your brand’s running shoes–you’d tag the shoes so that users can click right over to the product page and purchase the shoes.
Now, businesses can tag products inside Stories as well. This is a great way to showcase your product(s) in live-action or in user-generated content (like from the @ mentions we just discussed). Imagine the authenticity of sharing one of your customer’s Stories in your own Story, with a tag on your product.
With this feature, customers can find a product and complete the payment process without leaving the Instagram app.
Users can choose from different sizes and colors before making a purchase, and only have to enter their billing information the first time they checkout in the app.
Instagram Checkout is currently only available to eligible US businesses and creators who have an Instagram shop.
Shopping from creators
Instagram now lets users shop their favorite influencers’ looks within the app by tapping on tagged products in the creators’ posts.
Currently, this feature is available to only a select group of creators. For brands, this means all the more reason to partner with influencers in their niche. Brands and creators will both be able to access the shared insights for these shopping posts so they can better analyze performance.
Other Instagram features for marketers
Brands can now communicate with Facebook Messenger contacts directly from Instagram. All you need to do is update both apps and modify your privacy settings.
Other new messaging features on Instagram include vanish mode, advanced controls, improved reporting and blocking to keep away abusive users and spam.
Back in 2020, Instagram removed its much-loved location Stories feature. Although the feature has yet to make a comeback, the platform has recently rolled out an alternative—map search.
Map search allows users to view location stories by navigating through a digital map within the app. The feature is currently only available in Australia and New Zealand. For brands in those regions, it’s a good reason to start using location Story stickers again.
Instagram Guides are compilations of posts, places and products, with the option of adding additional descriptions for each item.
Guides are a great way for businesses to repurpose existing content on the platform since they are similar to blog posts in some ways. Brands can create travel guides, food guides, trend guides, holiday gift guides, jewelry guides and more using pre-published content.
Be sure to check out our list of Instagram Guides that will help elevate your brand.
Leverage Instagram features to create engaging content
The world of social media moves quickly—marketers need to keep up with all the updates to stay on top of their game. This article will help you become familiar with all the different tools Instagram has to offer so you can create unique, engaging content that performs well.
If Instagram is a key part of your social media marketing strategy, make sure you check out the best social media management tools and learn how Sprout’s integration can help you use Instagram’s features to their maximum potential and stand out from the competition.
What are your favorite Instagram features? How are you using them to achieve your business goals? Tweet at us @SproutSocial and let us know!
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