Instagram’s new features: how can we use them?

From ads in stories to IGTV, Instagram, the photo-sharing platform, has been developing rapidly over the past seven years. From launching on iOS in 2010 with 1 million active users to today’s count of over a billion, it’s safe to say that Instagram is definitely one of the leading platforms in the social networking industry. In fact, it’s hard to even imagine our lives without the photo-sharing platform.

And with the growth of the social giant, we’ve seen a whole range of different features added to the platform: from hashtags, tagging options, and video, to the controversial addition of filters to mirror its camera-based competitor, Snapchat, and then building the more complex features such as sponsored ads, stories, live video, shopping tags, and the shiny new Instagram TV.

With all these changes in mind, we’re diving in to explore how all of these additions, features, and changes can work for brands.

Sponsored Ads

Sponsored ads, which are posts brands pay to target your feed with, have been around since 2015. They mark Instagram’s first steps as an e-commerce platform.

Now owned by Facebook, Instagram currently has four different ad types, which include ads in Insta stories. Each of these ad types enables the viewers to explore and discover the brand in different ways: for example image ads will give users a still experience of the brand or product through one square frame, whereas, video ads develop a 360 experience for the users. Using Instagram ads will not only encourage your users to take particular actions but introduce them to your brand in general, giving you a bit of name recognition if they come across your feed organically.

One advantage of adding Instagram ads to a paid strategy is the setup being based within Facebook’s business manager. This means if you’re running ads on Facebook you can coordinate them on Instagram as well. In fact, you’re even able to target the same audiences on both at the same time. Ultimately this will increase your audience reach which could lead to new potential customers.

In all, adding Instagram ads to your paid social strategy is a simple, yet efficient way to broaden out your strategy. Plus, the visual aspect of the platform adds another dimension to your brand, increasing your brand awareness.

Instagram Stories

Instagram stories burst onto the scene in August 2016, following a very successful model paved by rivals Snapchat. They are an important feature because they allow the user to tell a digital story using something other than the feed, which is usually much more curated. Brands can champion video and gif formats as well as static images while adding text or emojis to any of the visual components they want to include.

Stories encourage the user to stay on the platform longer. It presents the platform not just as a portfolio of photos, but as a more robust communication channel based around narratives, including what their favourite brands and companies are doing behind the scenes.

Beyond pictures and videos, Instagram now allows users to add additional buttons to their content, such as Q&A, tags, hashtags, links, and stickers. This introduces new ways users can communicate with brands and creates a new set of touchpoints that enable brands to better understand their audiences. For example, using the new Q&A buttons available on stories gives brands the chance to directly communicate with their potential customers.

Live video

Instagram live videos came into action in 2016 alongside Instagram stories, but are slightly different, despite occupying the same space within the app. A ‘clip’ in your story is a 10-second piece of footage that can be viewed over the course of 24 hours. Live videos can only also be viewed for a total of 24 hours since being recorded, but with the main difference of them being, well, live. You can also use them to capture up to an hour’s footage. For brands, this might look like an event or conference, or potentially a live Q&A.

The main pull of live videos is that they are incredibly engaging. In fact, studies show that 80% of Instagram users would rather watch live videos from a brand then read a blog. So if you’re not doing live videos yet, what are you waiting for?

Shoppable posts

Though not yet completely rolled out worldwide, the introduction of shoppable posts is a complete game changer for brands on Instagram. Launching in 2018, shoppable posts allow brands to tag specific items in their posts and then enable users to shop from a link embedded in the image itself, almost like you would your mates. Back in the day, adding a link to your bio was the only way you could drive traffic and generate leads, but with shoppable posts, brands are now able to tag product ID and cost on the product, before directing users straight to the relevant landing page. It’s probably the easiest way to convert a sale yet, but could it make the platform less popular with users if Instagram present as an ecommerce platform first, and sharing platform second?


Last but not least, the feature that’s been generating sizable buzz over the last couple of months: IGTV. This feature is an extension of the original app and can be accessed both through the app and through an add-on download. But if we’ve got stories and live video, what makes IGTV different?

Well, IGTV also allows you to upload video content, but the cool thing is, it’s not going to disappear after 24 hours. What you’re essentially doing is creating a mini-channel within your Instagram account. And brands can most definitely use this to their advantage. As a company, there are many ways in which you can use IGTV to engage your audience: You could take a hint from the original YouTubers and begin vlogging content, or you could use it as a place to present your brand in video form, perhaps via product launches, product demos, or even demonstrating office culture.

All in all, new and old features considered, Instagram is (still) a rapidly growing platform that brands would be silly not to consider when it comes to their marketing strategies.

Want to give these new Instagram features a try but not sure where to start? Drop us a line!

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