Keeping up with social network changes is a challenge. Especially today when there are updates almost weekly. Your social media marketing strategy often needs to change with these updates.
We’re here to help. Instagram has nearly a billion users. Like most other modern social channels, Instagram is packed full of features and is constantly changing to keep up with the evolution of the social space.
We’ll first take a quick tour of the latest additions to the platform, then dive into detail on the more established features of Instagram that are essential for marketers.
Update: We are excited to share that you can schedule Instagram posts with Sprout Social!
What’s New on Instagram
Instagram has released a ton of updates in the last couple of years as it continues to grow. Let’s take a look at the most important changes for businesses and marketing experts.
- Testing removal of Likes: As of late 2019, Instagram is testing removing the public like counter on posts in multiple markets, including the USA. However, Likes are still tracked by the platform and remain an important metric for marketers.
- Stories Stickers keep growing: Dynamic stickers for Stories with functions like polls or countdowns are becoming more and more common for users of Instagram, and the platform just keeps adding new ones, including the recently added quiz sticker that can be great for highly interactive Stories – just be sure you don’t confuse this functionality with a multi-answer poll since it will display ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers when tapped.
- Shopping with AR features: Select brands are currently able to test a new Instagram Shopping feature that uses the augmented reality filters users are familiar with from Instagram posts and Stories, as well as other platforms like Snapchat, to ‘try on’ products and shop them.
- Messaging expands with Threads: Threads is a new stand-alone app that ties into your Instagram messages from the ‘Close Friends’ list you can create on Instagram. While this is a more personal-scale messaging service oriented around smaller groups of friends, the evolution of this app will help provide insight into when Instagram users want to receive widely distributed marketing-oriented messaging versus when they want to engage in more private and small-scale conversations.
Instagram Features for Marketers
Since its launch, Instagram has added many features that benefit marketers – both paid ads features as well as organic posts. Let’s take a look at some of the most important features of Instagram for marketers.
You’re probably familiar with Instagram Video posts – they’re like regular photo posts, except they allow for video up to 60 seconds long. You can add a filter, a caption and tag your location before you share the post.
Video posts generate more user engagement than photos on Instagram.
This is huge for brands who are looking to win with Instagram’s new algorithm which tracks user engagement in your posts to determine whether or not to display your content (more on this below).
To learn how to post a video check out this post.
Instagram Live Video
Live Video is different than Instagram Video because well, it’s live. Here’s how it works:
- Followers get a push notification telling them you’re going live
- Followers can comment on or like your Live Video stream in real time
- The video is gone after you end it (it doesn’t save to your account)
This is another way for marketers to build brand transparency and authenticity – both being important with Instagram’s latest algorithm update. Check out this Instagram guide to learn how to post Live Video.
Instagram TV is an app within Instagram that gives users the ability to share videos that are up to an hour long – like a TV episode.
This is big news for content creators who are into video content – one of the fastest growing trends in content marketing as over 80% of businesses are using video marketing.
IGTV gives marketers the ability to share longer video content with the advantage of your users being notified when you share a new video is shared.
Getting the Most Out of Instagram Features with Sprout Social
With all of the marketing possibilities available with Instagram, it may seem overwhelming trying to keep track of all your initiatives.
Fortunately, a social media management platform like Sprout is all that is needed for publishing at optimal times, detailed reporting, establishing a smooth workflow and much more.
One of the biggest additions to Instagram as of late is the Stories feature. Stories is similar to Snapchat in that users add clips of video to a story which is viewable for 24 hours before it vanishes.
You can view Story content as many times as you want within that 24-hour period.
Stories appear as little circles in the top of your followers’ feeds.
Shoppable Tags In Stories
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.
More Stories Features:
- Video recording up to 15 seconds
- Image viewing up to 10 seconds
- Unlimited story additions
- Direct messaging within Stories
- Swipe down on the camera screen to unlock photos and videos from your personal camera roll (You can only access content on your camera roll from the last 7 days)
- You can track the total number of views and which users have viewed your content
Under your Instagram settings, you can adjust Story settings. You can hide your stories from certain users’ feeds and edit who can or can’t reply to you via direct message. Want to learn more about Instagram Stories? Check out our Instagram video specs for ad sizes and more.
Other Essential Instagram Features for Marketers
Turn Existing Posts Into Ads
Previously, you couldn’t turn an existing post into an ad unless you hit the in-app Promote button. Now businesses can turn their organic posts into ads in the Ads Manager.
Here are a couple tips on what organic posts are worth paying to promote:
- Go with your most popular posts – these are likely your best content that, for whatever reason, your users are relating to most
- Run ads that make sense for the type of content you’re promoting – if your organic posts received a lot of likes, consider running them as an Engagement Ad
Check out this guide on creating Instagram/Facebook ads within the Ads Manager.
Note: You’ll manage your Instagram Ads within Facebook’s Ad Manager as Facebook owns Instagram.
Push Notifications for Your Favorite Accounts
As a business, you might not consider receiving notifications from accounts that you follow to be a priority. But, you absolutely want your followers to add notifications from you.
This somewhat hidden feature is available on the mobile app. To turn on notifications:
Go to the profile you want notifications from > click the three dots (hotdog icon) and select > “Turn on Post Notifications.”
Once selected, you’ll receive updates every time that account posts new content. In a study from Localytics, researchers found 65% of mobile users who selected to receive push notifications for an app returned within 30 days. The study also discovered users who enabled push notification engaged three times more than those who opted out.
Tips for getting users to turn on notifications for your account:
- Ask them to! You’d be surprised how many people respond to a direct command like that on social media. Ever wonder why majority of the web’s call-to-actions are “click here?”
- Always post the most valuable content possible. Ask yourself – is this post something that my users can’t live without? Is this something they absolutely want to know? The answers should be yes.
If your users enable notifications for your account you can bank on earning extra sales when you post about new product launches, deals, and promotions.
Hyperlink Username and Hashtags In Your Bio
When you type an @ or #, the username or hashtag that follows will automatically be hyperlinked.
This is great news for businesses as this is just another way to get your followers to engage with other accounts you own or branded hashtags your company uses.
Your Favorite Filters
There are 40 Instagram filters for you to get creative with when you’re posting new Instagram videos or photos. But, as a business, you’re going to want your content to be consistent in terms of brand image and style.
If you have more than one person managing your Instagram, it can be tough to keep your look and feel consistent. Instagram allows you to manage your favorite filters by selecting the gear icon at the end of the filter list.
Have someone on your design team or a senior marketer/branding manager select the filters that your company will use. Don’t go overboard analyzing this – just go with what you feel best suits your company’s identity.
Carefully Manage Geo-tagged Content
Using Geo-tagged content for marketing purposes can be extremely valuable, especially for brick-and-mortar businesses. However, if you’ve got Geo-tagging turned on, even photos or videos that you didn’t tag may display the exact street where you posted the photo to Instagram.
You might want this if the content you post is around the location of your business (especially if you want customers to remember your business location, like a restaurant or store). On the other hand, if you’re a social media manager or agency, you may want to watch where you post and ensure those geotags are removed.
You can easily do this: Select the location icon > click “Edit” in the top right corner > Select as many images or videos as you want and remove the geotags.
An Easier Way to Manage Instagram
While Instagram’s native platform makes it easier for businesses to switch between accounts, you still lack a lot of management features and analytics tools. With third-party social media management tools like Sprout Social, you can monitor hashtags, manage comments and gain powerful insights into Instagram data.
Here you can manage multiple accounts and all of the comments from one inbox as opposed to switching between accounts each time you need to check on what’s happened with each.
As a business, you simplify your engagement and provide your social media team with a collaboration tool to get things done more efficiently.
Social media evolves quickly to keep up with consumer demands and competition from other platforms. Your best bet is to stay informed of these new features and updates and focus on how you can benefit from new features as a marketer or business.
Make sure you’re not focused solely on Instagram Ads in the coming months – keep engagement as a top priority as the algorithm has changed to favor engagement.
What are your favorite, new Instagram features? How are you using them to achieve your business goals?
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