In 2019, advertising on social media is nothing new. It is an increasingly, but still cost-effective way to reach potential and current customers. While the number of social media platforms is always increasing, not all platforms are equally desired by advertisers.
Instagram is #trending. It is well-liked across users, brands and creators. There seem to be new Instagram features and updates every week, keeping engagement and use of the app high amongst its one billion active monthly users of which 50% use the app daily.
Below I’ve outlined six game-changing and can’t miss updates to Instagram features that especially benefit brands and advertisers.
1. Ability to Apply for Verification
The blue checkmark is a very powerful status symbol on Instagram. It’s held by actors, musicians, macro-influencers, large brands and other select individuals. I imagine nearly every person on Instagram wants that blue checkmark and now you can apply for it.
Even though you can now apply for verification, it does not mean you will get it. Instagram will only verify accounts who they feel are important enough to be impersonated. It helps if you are verified on another social network, have a Wikipedia page, featured press, personal website or blog, contribution on another website and a trademark on the username/brand.
I highly recommend brands who are active on Instagram, apply for verification even though you’re not guaranteed to receive it.
2. New Story Features: Countdown, Polling, Chat and Swipe Up
With Instagram Story’s release, it rose quick to popularity and has seen many new and useful features since its inception. When posting an Instagram story, using stickers and other customizable offerings keeps viewers more engaged with your content.
For users, adding locations, tagging people, inserting hashtags and gifs are very popular. For brands, they should be taking advantage of those features in addition to the countdown, polling, chat and swipe up features. Some are newer than others, but all are valuable in their own right.
The countdown sticker counts down to a time and date that you set. This feature can be used to build excitement for a product launch or an important announcement. When using this feature, it also allows users to turn on reminders and share the countdown to their own stories.
The polling sticker allows you to ask users a question and users can choose which of two options they like best. This feature can be utilized by brands to easily gather consumer insights.
Another great feature is the new chat sticker. Adding the chat sticker to your story allows users to join a group chat centered around the topic of your choosing. This feature is a great way for consumers to connect and engage with your brand and with each other.
Previously, the only way you could link to somewhere outside of Instagram, without running an ad, was in the bio section of your profile. Now, if you have 10,000 or more followers you can add swipe up links to your stories, sending users to the link of your choosing.
3. Shopping on Instagram
Shopping on Instagram has made great strides since the release of its first shopping-focused feature. This feature allows brands to create shoppable posts, by tagging products in posts and links users to the brands’ website for purchase.
Now with Native Instagram checkout, users can purchase directly through Instagram, shortening the steps to purchase. Currently, this is only available for select brands, but once it is released to all brands it will rival other shopping platforms.
Another feature that is only available to a select few is shopping with AI. Selected brands, Mac, Nars, Warby Parker and Ray-Ban, can add a new augmented reality try-on feature to product pages. Users can preview how products will look on them before purchasing or having to go to a physical store. Users can also share the results in stories while linking back to the product, which has the possibility to drive mass awareness for these select few brands. Currently, this is only available for cosmetics and eyewear brands, but the plan is to make it available for more products and brands over time.
Although some of these features are only available to a select few brands, creating shoppable posts, Instagram’s first shopping-focused feature, is a valuable type of post and a convenience to users. Contact your account representative to see if you can try these limited-release features or others that haven’t been announced yet. And keep an eye out for the mass release of these features as they will be important to integrate into your organic and paid Instagram strategy.
4. Branded Content Ads
Influencer marketing on Instagram has only increased in popularity over the past few years. Recently, Instagram began allowing brands to run branded content ads. Branded content ads are brand-sponsored ads of influencer posts from influencer handles within the app. Essentially, these ads allow brand’s influencer marketing efforts to go further.
If you implement an influencer marketing initiative on Instagram, running branded content ads is an important addition to that initiative.
5. Creator Studio
Instagram has been a mobile-first and only app since its inception, but now with its new Creator Studio users can manage all Instagram posts and insights from their desktop without having to use third-party software.
Although the name creator studio implies that it was made for creators and influencers, it can really benefit everyone using the app.
Besides being able to post to Instagram from your desktop, my favorite new Instagram feature, you can schedule IGTV videos, manage your content in the content library, schedule feed posts and gain insights.
6. Ad Placements in Explore Section
A new ad placement option on Instagram is in the Explore section. The Explore section is where users go to discover new content that aligns with their interests. The ads will appear when a user taps on an Explore post and scrolls through the discovery feed. The Director of Business Product Marketing said: “Explore is where people are really open to discovery, and that’s why we’re really excited about this.” She continues that Explore is where consumers are in “the mindset of being most receptive to advertising” and is a perfect fit because it’s where “people come to discover new accounts, people or brands they don’t already follow.”
These are just some of the important Instagram features and updates that marketers can benefit from.
Facebook, has made it clear that it sees commerce as one of Instagram’s “big bets” for the future. And as a marketer and user, I cannot wait to see what else they have in store.
E29 Marketing featured as a Top Integrated Marketing Agency of 2019 by DesignRush.