Well folks, it all started when a picture of a dog surfaced on some app back in 2010. Those big, brown eyes launched the social media giant Instagram a.k.a. one of the most influential social media platforms in the world that boasts over one billion monthly active users.
If you do the math, that’s about 13% of all people on earth.
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For businesses — however big or small — Instagram is the place to be to get the word out on who they are and what they do. I mean, who wouldn’t want a slice of Instagram’s mammoth-size presence? The app has over 200 million users that visit at least one business profile every single day!
So, if you ask me, Instagram is the sweetheart of the social media scene for marketers.
Instagram has come a long way since its inception in 2010 and the app has so much more to offer now when it comes to helping businesses grow their online presence than it initially did.
That’s why, as marketers, it’s important that you stay aware of some of the latest features and updates the app has already rolled out in 2020.
We’ve put together a list of the 20 features and updates you should be aware of to ensure your paid and organic marketing campaigns continue to hit their mark – and to safeguard your Instagram marketing tactics now and in the future.
Let’s dive in.
1. Making pages and accounts more transparent
In an effort to make people understand what they see and read on Instagram, specifically on topics around elections, Instagram decided to take extra measures to make pages and accounts with large audiences more transparent.
What is that extra measure, you ask?
Well, from here on out, the app will provide the location of high-reach Facebook Pages and Instagram accounts on every post they share to help people have more information and gauge the reliability and authenticity of the content they see in their feeds.
This feature was first announced to be piloted in the US, specifically with Facebook Pages and Instagram accounts that are based outside the US but reach large audiences based primarily in the US.
2. Keeping people informed, safe, and supported during COVID-19
From the time the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a world pandemic, Instagram stepped up to provide accurate information about the pandemic and practice the necessary precautions to keep people informed, safe, and supported. The following are the list of updates Instagram announced in early 2020.
Instagram made sure to:
- publish more educational resources on Instagram Search
- add stickers to promote accurate information
- remove COVID-19 accounts from recommendations, unless posted by a credible health organization
- roll out the donation sticker in more countries and helping people find relevant nonprofits to support
- create a shared story to help those practicing social distancing connect with others, using a “Stay Home” sticker
- launch a new way to browse Instagram with your friends over video chat.
3. New Instagram Story stickers to support small businesses
We all know that small businesses, more so than others, took a hard hit during the COVID-19 crisis. To help small businesses recover, Instagram made it easier to discover gift cards, online food orders, and fundraisers, so people could support the businesses they love.
These updates are made available in the form of stickers that people can share on their Stories. As a small business, you can reshare these Stories your business is tagged in to help get the word out.
In addition to that, Instagram also launched a “Support Small Business” sticker in Stories so people can show love to their favorite small businesses.
When you use the sticker on your story, your photo or video will be added to a shared story where friends can see which businesses you support.
Today we’re launching a “Support Small Business” sticker in stories so you can show love to your favorite small businesses.💓
Use it and your photo or video will be added to a shared story where friends can see which businesses you support. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/D68cAthCtq
— Instagram (@instagram) May 11, 2020
4. New comment management functions
Delete comments in bulk: Let’s face it. It’s not a great feeling when you receive negative and unwanted messages from people on Instagram. While it’s impossible to entirely stop people from posting negative comments, you can choose to remove them from your feed. Instagram now allows you to delete comments in bulk, as well as block or restrict multiple accounts that post negative comments.
If you’re an iOS user, tap on a comment and then the dotted icon in the top right corner. Select Manage Comments and choose up to 25 comments to delete at once. Tap More Options to block or restrict accounts in bulk. To block or restrict accounts on Android, press and hold on a comment, tap the dotted icon, and select Block or Restrict.
Pinned comments: We dealt with the negative comments first, but fortunately there’s also a ton of positivity from people who post positive and uplifting comments that deserve some extra love.
To amplify and encourage positive interactions, Instagram rolled out the Pinned Comments functionality. This feature gives people a way to set the tone for their accounts and engage with their community by pinning a select number of comments to the top of their comments thread. Cool huh?
Today we’re rolling out pinned comments everywhere. 📌
That means you can a pin a few comments to the top of your feed post and better manage the conversation. pic.twitter.com/iPCMJVLxMh
— Instagram (@instagram) July 7, 2020
5. Resources to help show your support to Black-owned businesses
We all know that COVID‑19 wreaked havoc on most businesses, but it was the minority businesses that were hit the hardest. Due to the pandemic, 41% of Black business owners had to close their businesses.
To help people show their support in reviving the Black-owned businesses, Instagram pulled together resources from the Instagram community that offered advice on how you can help support at‑risk businesses.
You can find topics that cover the history of racial injustice, a 10-step guide on how to be an authentic ally, resources on how to diversify your content and hire Black creators, and much more.
Instagram also announced a new grant initiative for Black-owned businesses. The company is investing $100 million in Black-owned small businesses, Black creators, and nonprofits that serve the Black community in the US.
— Instagram (@instagram) June 19, 2020
6. Badges in Live and IGTV ads for influencers
Instagram knows that its influencers are a core part of its community who have not only built their personal brand from scratch but also inspired so many others around the world with their talents. That’s why Instagram released a mix of monetization tools to help influencers boost their revenue stream through Instagram Live and IGTV.
Badges in Live: Want to show some love and support to your favorite influencer? Here’s what you can do. Instagram now allows you to purchase a heart-shaped badge that appears next to your name throughout the influencer’s live video. By doing so, fans who have purchased badges in Live will stand out in the comments and unlock additional features, including placement on an influencer’s list of badge holders and access to a special heart.
Go show your love for them today!
IGTV ads: More good news for the influencer’s community as Instagram introduces IGTV ads that last up to 15 seconds. These IGTV ads will initially appear when people click to watch IGTV videos from previews in their feed. If you ask me, this is a brilliant move from Instagram to support influencers and share advertising revenue with them.
7. Messenger rooms
What if Instagram told you that you can create messenger rooms on Instagram and chat with up to 50 of your friends?
That’s right, 50 people!
Instagram now allows you to create Messenger Rooms that can host up to 50 people in each room. All you need to have is a Facebook account linked to your Instagram account to create a Messenger Room. The best part is that anyone with a link can join the call, even if they don’t have an Instagram or Facebook account.
An easy way to video chat with up to 50 of your favorite people? Yes please 🙋♀️
— Instagram (@instagram) May 21, 2020
8. Instagram Shop
It’s time to bring out your shiny credit card because Instagram just announced the launch of @shop in the US, a feature that allows you to shop within the app.
Using Instagram Shop, you can browse selections from your favorite brands and creators, filter by categories like beauty and home, and buy products you love all via the Instagram Explore tab.
Instagram has also begun testing the Shop tab in the navigation bar with a select group of people, so you can get to Instagram Shop in just one tap. Exciting isn’t it?
9. You can now save Live videos to IGTV
To all those people who found themselves busy working and missing out on Chris Hemsworth’s live video on Instagram, I feel you.
But worry no more, you can now go check out the live videos any time you want as Instagram has rolled out a feature that allows you to save live videos to your IGTV.
You hear that, Chris?
Want to save your Live videos to IGTV? Now you can 🤩 and they’ll stick around longer than 24 hours in stories. pic.twitter.com/x5OjjmcA7u
— Instagram (@instagram) May 14, 2020
10. New controls to manage tags and mentions
Tagging and mentioning people has surfaced as a common tactic to target and bully others, so to end that, Instagram rolled out new controls that allow you to manage who can tag or mention you on Instagram. You can choose whether you want everyone, only people you follow, or no one to be able to tag or mention you in a comment, caption, or Story.
Amen to this!
11. Challenge Stickers
Are you up for a challenge?
Instagram released a Challenges sticker on Instagram Stories which allows you to join challenges when you tap the sticker in other people’s Stories or if you’re nominated by a friend.
So, anyone up for a pie-eating challenge with me? No? Just me then?
ICYMI, we announced two features this week to help you stay connected at home ✨
🏅 We’re testing a Challenges sticker in Stories. You can join challenges when you tap the sticker in other people’s Stories or if you’re nominated by a friend. pic.twitter.com/9DfBWgAp1J
— Instagram (@instagram) April 24, 2020
12. Direct Messages on desktop
Good news for marketers! Instagram has officially released direct messaging in the desktop version. For regions having limited network access, this new development allows them to connect to direct messages from an alternative device. Moreover, businesses can now easily use Instagram DMs to address customer service queries among other things.
13. Instagram Co-watching
Who doesn’t love to video call and chat with near and dear ones? After all, the COVID-19 global pandemic proved how essential video calls can be to stay sane during lockdowns. To make video calls a lot more fun and engaging, Instagram launched a new feature to help us all stay connected.
According to Instagram: “…to help people stay connected, we’ve launched media sharing, a new feature that allows you to view Instagram posts together with your friends over video chat.”
While you can’t scroll through your regular feed during a video chat, you can still create a list of posts that you want to discuss with your friends by liking or saving them.
Introducing Co-Watching, a new way to see Instagram posts together with your friends over video chat.👀 pic.twitter.com/ObLnqxbUTS
— Instagram (@instagram) March 24, 2020
14. Instagram Reels
What’s Instagram Reels you ask?
Well, the short answer is that it’s basically a Tik Tok clone.
Instagram Reels works very similar to how Tik Tok works. You can create fun and engaging videos that last up to 15 seconds and share them to your Stories. There’s even a music library from which you can choose a track and add it to your short clips.
While some of you might prefer Tik Tok over Reels, a country like India, whose government just banned 59 Chinese apps including Tik Tok because of border tension with China, will be very excited to try this new feature as the country had over 120 million monthly Tik Tok users.
Instagram continues to expand Reels https://t.co/rYaK71wI6T
— Social Media Today (@socialmedia2day) July 8, 2020
15. New appeal process to retrieve disabled accounts
Users who’ve had their accounts disabled get another shot at redemption as Instagram launched a new appeal process to retrieve disabled accounts.
This new process will allow users to request a review of the app’s decision to disable their accounts. To appeal for a review, you must enter your username, password, and state a reason why you think Instagram has made a mistake in disabling your account.
The app then takes 24 hrs to respond. While this doesn’t guarantee that the account will be restored, it sure does give the users an easy way to get in touch with the app and track the review progress.
16. The GIPHY acquisition
I don’t know about you, but no conversation of mine is ever complete without a GIF or two…or 17. I mean, what better way to express yourself than through GIFs?
Facebook figured out that GIPHY makes everyday conversations more entertaining and so decided to integrate GIPHY’s GIF library into Instagram and other apps as well. With this new acquisition in place, Facebook is actively helping people find the right way to express themselves.
17. Facebook expands its Brand Collabs Manager tool to include Instagram creators
In 2018, Facebook launched its Brand Collabs Manager tool, a search engine exclusively for Facebook creators, to help brands identify and connect with relevant influencers.
Now, Facebook is opening this tool up to a select group of Instagram creators as well to help them collaborate and plan partnerships with brands.
These creators will also be able to share their insights and engagement with brands to help them find partners that resonate with their audience.
18. Instagram tested the double-story feature
Seeing double? Don’t worry, your vision is just fine! Instagram recently tested a new format for Stories that will feature them more prominently in your feed.
A double-story Stories feed might be the new normal for Stories if the test comes back with good results. For all we know, this could either be a fun experiment that Instagram is testing out or a clear indication that the app is moving towards a Stories feed approach. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Instagram is Testing a Double-Story Stories Feed https://t.co/bpqFiKlE4c
— Matt Navarra (@MattNavarra) May 29, 2020
19. Emoji reactions on Instagram Direct Messages
I mean Twitter did it, so it only makes sense for Instagram to do it too, right? So, the next time you find yourself at a loss for words just add a reaction to the DMs you get on Instagram. It’s still in the testing phase so, if you’re not part of the testing group you’re going to have to wait a little longer till it’s rolled out to the rest of the world.
20. Instagram to review content distribution, account verification, and more.
Of the many events that 2020 has witnessed, one monumental event that stood out from the rest was the Black Lives Matter movement, a global rally against racial inequality and police brutality.
To ensure Black voices are heard and build a more inclusive product, Instagram took a harder look at how their product impacts communities differently specifically around harassment, account verification, content distribution, and algorithm bias.
The company is looking into its current account verification guidelines to make the necessary changes and ensure it stays as inclusive as possible. Instagram will also be reviewing how the content is being filtered on the Explore and Hashtag pages to understand where there may be vulnerability to bias.
As explained by Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, “Our goal is that Instagram is a place where everyone feels safe, supported, and free to express themselves, and I’m hoping this work will get us closer to that goal.”
You can read more from the official statement here.
Clearly, Instagram is not running out of ideas anytime soon. While it’s not quite possible — or relevant even — for marketers to use all these features, you can still pick the ones that you think will best suit your Instagram strategy.
At the end of the day, social media can only grant an equal playing field to organically reach new customers, but the success of it will always ride on the marketing strategy employed.
And let’s be honest, these days you can’t truly make headway on social media without a software suite. Not only can they free you from spreadsheets and email, but they can also ensure you have an overview of all your social media activities.
As a social media management platform, we’re constantly evolving to integrate the latest Instagram features into our own platform.
Using Falcon.io, you can create, manage, and collaborate on your Instagram strategy, including Stories, videos, and images, and also plan your next campaign with advanced insights. Talk to one of our strategists today and discover just how deep you can now go with your social analytics.