Instagram is making moves!
In case you haven’t noticed, your Instagram account looks a lot different than it did even 6 months ago. That is because Instagram has been extremely busy adding a TON of new features for both businesses and individuals to use.
Some of these features, like Reels and Shopping, were highly publicized and were quick and easy to notice when they were introduced (I mean, how could you miss the new icons on the bottom of the app), but many others slipped through the cracks and really weren’t talked about much by Instagram, despite being pretty cool and important!
So here is our guide to everything Instagram over the last 6 months and what your business needs to know about them!
Of course, we need to start with the most publicized and most important new feature on Instagram – Reels.
Reels is the oldest feature of this group and there is a good chance that you have probably already viewed some or even made your own by this point. While I am not delivering any “breaking news” here, we want to repeat how important Reels are going to be as a part of your overall Instagram strategy.
Instagram put a lot of time and effort into launching Reels quickly as the news of a potential TikTok ban in the US heated up. Even though that never came to fruition, Instagram made it clear that Reels was here to stay as a competitor to the powerhouse TikTok has become.
Because of the rushed nature of the launch, Reels were extremely buggy and lacked many of the features that Tiktok users know and love. However, Instagram has recently made a lot of updates to the Reels platform in order to make it easier and more effective to use.
It will be interesting to see what the future of Reels really is. Instagram has made it clear it wants to make Reels a major part of its platform. This is illustrated by the fact they place the Reels tab in the bottom center of your app right where the old “Create Post” button used to be. The only reason they would do that is to make Reels the main feature of your app and the place you may automatically try to go when you open up Instagram. That, in addition to the fact that Reels do also get posted into the timeline, shows you should certainly take it seriously and find ways to start incorporating it into your strategy like we are for our clients.
While Instagram Shopping has been around since May 2020, some recent updates have made it clear that Instagram wants to become a true online shopping platform.
Instagram Shopping was another icon that appeared at the bottom of Instagram profiles and was strategically placed right next to the Reels tab that we discussed earlier. Instagram is clearly trying to make this its own unique area where shoppers can go and browse goods and get inspired by products hand-selected by the Instagram algorithm.
If you are an eCommerce store and don’t have Instagram Shopping set up yet, you need to make it a priority! The process is pretty simple, especially if you already have a Facebook Catalog already set up. But even if you don’t, you can easily connect everything through your eCommerce platform or the Facebook Pixel.
New Instagram Search
This is one of the new features that Instagram did talk about briefly, but it was pretty overshadowed by a lot of other “shiner” features.
Until now, the only way that you could search for different topics on Instagram was through using hashtags. For example, if you wanted to see pictures of dogs, you had to search #dogs, #dogsofinstagram, or some other hashtag to find what you wanted. Now, that is all changing.
Instagram search now allows you to search for very specific words and topics simply by searching for that word. Let’s take the dog example above. All you have to do is simply search for the word “dogs” and BOOM, you’ll be in puppy heaven.
Right now, this search is pretty limited to only some very common words and phrases such as “Recipes” “Photography” and “Cats” but the list of words and phrases is growing rather quickly and it should support most of the common searches sometime in the next few months.
So what does this mean? Right now it is hard to say, given how limited some of the words and phrases are. However, at the rate that they are adding words very quickly and the fact that these results are the first thing that pops up when you search for things (above the most popular hashtags for that word), there is a good chance that Hashtags will be far less important and you may have to really be focused on good copy that helps rank your content higher in the search.
That’s right… you may need a full-blown Instagram SEO strategy!
We recommend you start to experiment with this tool and start to search for different words or phrases in your industry that are available. Once you do that research, start to experiment with including those words and phrases in your copy and see how much additional reach you are getting. Ultimately, you may find that using those keywords is more important than hashtags themselves!
This is by far the least known feature of the bunch and actually might be my favorite!
Guides was a feature that launched sometime over the summer and was only given to companies and brands that were focused on mental and physical health during COVID-19. However, they have now given it to everyone to start using with their profiles.
Guides is essentially a Blog on Instagram that allows you to group content together into something more useful for users looking for information.
For example, a personal trainer might be able to use guides to show their top 5 favorite exercises or their favorite places to workout. A food influencer might be able to show their favorite burger places or Italian restaurants. Heck, you may even be able to put together a guide to show your favorite memes!
In order to find this feature, make sure your profile is set to business and head to your profile page with your grid. In the upper-right corner, select the + button and you should see an option for Guides. From there, you can begin to select content from certain locations, different products, or posts from your page. When you select one of those options, you can begin to build your guide.
What is cool about this feature is that you can use not only your content but also content posted by other people. This is a great way to get some community engagement and involve others in the creation of your content.
Again, guides are super unknown. Even Instagram really hasn’t talked about them much which means they are likely less important than the other features we have talked about. However, they could play a significant role in the near future, and putting in a little bit of work now with this feature could pay big dividends later.
So… That was a lot…
You are probably asking yourself, “Well that’s all great, but I have limited time. What features should I be focused on?”
Our answer? As many as you can.
Instagram recently released information about what is important to them when it comes to prioritizing one account over another in their algorithm. One of the factors? Diverse content. That means Instagram wants you to be using as many of these features as possible to create a well-rounded account.
Now some of these features might not make sense for you and others might be out of your wheelhouse, but trying to use as many of the features as you can will be the most beneficial for you. For example, if you were posting to your normal profile 5 days per week, you should now consider dropping that to 2 days per week, posting 1 reel per week, posting to your stories 2 days per week, and maybe adding a guide every once in a while. The diversity in strategy should help the overall reach of your profile and get you seen by more people.
So which of these features are you most excited to try? We’d love to hear about it!