Since its launch in 2010, Instagram has been a disruptive social media platform. At its conception, Instagram dominated the photo content sphere and largely replaced blogging platforms that had been popular in the previous decade. The popularity of the platform introduced the modern day influencer we all know so well. From the get-go, there has been a pendulum shift between two visual aesthetics: polished perfection and authentic.
Pre-Instagram, bloggers (the then-influencers) shared photos to platforms such as Flickr and Facebook, and edited content by adding filters in other apps. Instagram presented content creators with the opportunity to take photos, edit them and then share all within one space.
For the majority of its existence, Facebook’s main focus was on photographic content. Within the last year, new Instagram updates have signified the importance of video features and content on Instagram. From Instagram Reels to IGTV to Instagram video chat, Instagram trends are changing to favour video content.
When using Instagram for marketing, it’s important to stay on top of the latest Instagram marketing trends. With more than 1 billion active users, 500 million of whom check the platform every day, it’s highly likely that your target audience lives on the platform. But what type of features really engage Instagram users?
The Instagram features you need to know about
Before we launch into the key Instagram features for marketers, it’s important to know the latest Instagram update from the Head of Instagram himself. Adam Mosseri revealed on Instagram and Twitter that Instagram is looking to lean into entertainment and video as its content of choice. Following the success of competitors TikTok and YouTube, upcoming changes and experiments to the platform include showing users recommendations of topics and making video content more immersive by offering a full-screen experience.
Changes are coming to video on Instagram 📺
At Instagram we’re always trying to build new features that help you get the most out of your experience. Right now we’re focused on four key areas: Creators, Video, Shopping and Messaging. pic.twitter.com/ezFp4hfDpf
— Adam Mosseri 😷 (@mosseri) June 30, 2021
The move suggests Instagram doesn’t want to be known as the “photo-sharing app” but as an entertainment platform, driven by algorithms and video.
Alongside the announcement for prioritising video content, Instagram hinted at a subscribers-only Story feature that’s currently in development. The “Exclusive Stories” would only be available to a creator’s subscriber base and would not be available for non-subscribers to view or screenshot.
Instagram Reels is Instagram’s answer to competitor TikTok’s popular short-video content format. Reels lets creators film and edit short-form video content of 15 seconds and is a great option for influencers who already have a large following on Instagram to join in on the TikTok-style content, trends and challenges without having to rebuild a following on another platform.
Instagram has been quick and consistent in developing Reels capabilities in order to compete with TikTok. Given the pace of additions, it is likely that Reels could become its own ecosystem within Instagram. Reels can be discovered through using popular hashtags and topical Reels hashtags. Currently, it is one of Instagram’s best features for Instagram growth.
Reels already offers monetisation and advertising. Reels Bonuses allow creators to be paid for sharing new Reels. Creators can track earnings and find new monetisation opportunities with a dedicated Bonuses tab. The Bonuses tab appears in the Creators settings, alongside other monetisation features.
Reels also offers brands ad spaces. The platform had been testing ads in Reels for the past couple of months. The ads appear in between Reels and can last up to 30 seconds. They include a sponsored tag alongside a call to action button. Viewers can comment, like, save, share, skip and hide or report them.
IGVT, short for Instagram TV, is an app within Instagram that allows users to share videos up to one hour long. It gives creators and brands the chance to share longer video content to audiences and ensure they are notified when the video is shared.
IGTVs appear in their own tab on Instagram account pages and in traditional grid feeds. Furthermore, IGTVs appear natively as users scroll through their home page, but only show the first minute of the content.
To make IGTV more attractive to creators, Instagram revealed they’ll be allowing ads on the platform. Since IGTV content creators will be getting the same ad revenue percentage as YouTube creators, Instagram could find itself in a position to compete against the video content giant.
Live video content was one of the most in-demand forms of content in 2020 and this demand will continue to grow. Throughout 2020, Instagram developed its Instagram Live to offer Rooms, which allows four people to go live at the same time and let users turn on and off video and audio (likely inspired by the Clubhouse craze).
Stories, Swipe Up and Stickers
Stories is a feature loved by Instagram Influencers, users and brands alike. Nearly 90% of Instagram users and Instagram Influencers post Stories and nearly 80% of brands say Stories have had a huge impact on influencer content about their brand.
Story features offer users different Instagram engagement opportunities. Through stickers, brands and influencers can engage users through polls, emoji sliders, links, Q&As, quizzes, countdowns and donations.
To users with more than 10,000 followers, they can use the Story “Swipe Up” feature to add links for specific Stories. This feature makes it easier to promote content and special promotions.
In May 2021, a sticker with the ability to automatically caption Stories in English was released. The auto-generated captions can be manually edited and the colour can be changed during the editing process. This can contribute to Instagram growth of your channel as it makes your Story content accessible to more users.
Instagram has been steadily developing its in-app shopping capabilities. Instagram Shop gives brands the opportunity to sell products directly within the platform. Instagram Shop curates a list of shoppable products that are directly accessible through a brand’s Instagram profile. Users can view the products available through Instagram by tapping the “View Shop” button on a brand’s profile page.
Instagram Shop means brands have a way to reach new customers. Instagram Shop is a streamlined way for users to discover shoppable products on Instagram, with the option to “Browse Shops,” “See Editors Picks,” “Explore Guides,” and “Shop Collections.” Furthermore, users can discover new brands and products through the dedicated Instagram Shop tab.
US-based brands benefit from Instagram Shop further if they have access to Instagram Checkout. Access to Instagram Checkout means customers can tap “Buy on Instagram” to make a purchase without leaving the app.
Recently, Instagram launched a new Shop section called Drops. Drops showcases collections of exclusive product launches. Users can browse, save items to wish lists, sign up for launch reminders and shop within the app.
Brands selected to feature on Drop will be able to go live to promote their product selection, alongside a countdown sticker. It is currently only available to US Instagram users.
Drops creates a great opportunity for brands to create a social buzz around launches and to increase shopper demand. As users are able to shop within the app, Drops adds excitement to ecommerce on Instagram with new and exclusive products. Products will be in limited supply and only available for a short period of time.
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