Instagram has grown to be more than just a photo sharing social media platform over the years.
It has become one of the most powerful channels for businesses to tap into their target audience, across different industries.
In fact, this popular social media network has introduced several new features recently. Some of these features are:
So without further ado, let’s go ahead and jump right into it.
5 NEW Instagram Updates for 2021
Let’s get started with Instagram Reels.
Reels launched in the US and about 49 other countries in August 2020 and are short videos you can post on Instagram to entertain or give value.
Millions of people have taken to Reels pretty quickly as it’s basically the Instagram-version of TikTok.
But here are some of the recent changes you need to know about.
- Shopping is now available on Reels
Using Instagram for business, marketers and creators can add product tags to their Reels, allowing users to shop directly from their content.
Users just have to tap the View Products button on your Reels.
And they’ll be given the option to view the product in more detail right there within the app, with a link to direct them to your site.
Prior to this update, shopping was also made available across the board on posts, IGTVs, Lives and Stories too using the Instagram Story stickers feature.
In fact, when you click on the shop tab, there’s a whole category called “Watch and Shop” that allows users to watch shoppable videos.
Given that videos are the dominant media type in today’s digital landscape, this is a powerful opportunity for business owners to connect with followers and convert them into customers.
There is a Reels button on the main navigation bar at the bottom, just to the left of the shopping button.
The “plus sign” that was there originally that allowed you to create a new post, Story, Reel or Live is now in the upper right corner next to your notifications and DMs.
This change in placement was made to encourage users to use those functions and give customers quick access to watch reels and shop their favorite stores on Instagram.
- Reels are now 30 seconds long
They were originally 15 seconds long.
So if you shared a Reel to your Instagram Story, the viewer could watch the whole thing in your Story without ever having to actually click on the Reel.
Now that the entirety of a Reel cannot always be viewed within one Instagram Story slide, it likely will encourage users to actually click on the Reel to watch the whole thing.
And this can increase engagement such as likes and comments as a result.
We have a whole post on the importance of customer engagement that you can read next.
But in short, we’ll go ahead and say that increasing engagement is key to building brand-consumer trust and moving followers on down through your sales funnel.
2. Instagram Shopping
Okay let’s move on to Instagram Shopping.
We know we just covered a few Instagram shopping updates as they relate to Reels, but let’s dive a little bit deeper into Instagram Shopping by itself.
In one of the previous screen shares we just showed, did you notice the option to buy directly via Instagram? Here let’s take another look.
Under the shopping section, you can tap the “Buy On Instagram” category.
This will allow you to shop products that you can buy directly on Instagram without ever having to leave the app.
Users just simply add the product to their cart, insert their payment method and purchase directly via Instagram.
Business owners know that when building a website, you want customers to be able to add to cart and check out in as few clicks as possible.
Customers being able to buy from you directly through the Instagram app is just one less step they have to take.
And it takes you one step closer to having another converted customer.
As the business owner, you’ll want to set up your Instagram products in a way that gives users as much product information as possible.
You can do this by:
- filling out the description thoroughly,
- including photos that accurately represent your product,
- including sizing information, or
- adding any other applicable, dynamic information that would be relevant to your customer
As viewers scroll, they can see any information you’ve included in your description, your shipping and return policy and other products from your shop.
Instagram will also promote similar items from other shops at the bottom.
So make sure you’re grabbing your customers’ attention before then, early on at the top with your product listings!
Users can identify which products are available to shop directly via Instagram by looking for the “Buy On Instagram” icon.
Now if you don’t own an ecommerce store, tune back in! Instagram shopping doesn’t exclude you.
Remember earlier when we said users could shop Instagram Stories? That doesn’t solely include product tags.
In 2020, Instagram released new stickers to help support small businesses.
A couple examples include the ability for people to buy a gift card to your company (which can be applied to businesses that sell services, not just products).
And also, the ability to order food via delivery.
You can use these functions as stickers on your Stories or as a main action button in your Instagram bio.
If you want to learn more about Instagram Shops, we made an entire post on it, so be sure to read it after this.
But for now, let’s keep this train moving with Instagram Guides.
3. Instagram Guides
Instagram guides were released in late 2020, and many are still slowly finding out what they are or that they exist.
Let’s look at this small business’s Instagram page for example.
Looking at their feed, you can see all the different sections. From left to right, we have their:
- main feed,
- their reels,
- their IGTV’s,
- their guides,
- their products,
- their filters (yes when you use Instagram stories for business, you can create your own branded filters for people to use in their IG Stories!), and
- the photos they are tagged in
Many people are not familiar with the guide icon yet, so let’s take a look.
Instagram Guides are curated lists of places, products or posts.
And depending on how your business relates to any of those three categories, Guides can be a great way to promote your business.
This small-business owner for example sells hand painted mugs, calendars and greeting cards and is promoting her own products in her list of Coworker Gifts, Gifts for the Coffee Lover etc.
Because we are logged into the LYFE Marketing Instagram here which is a business account, we see the prompt to create our own Guide.
When we tap that, we see the option to create a Guide-based around places, products or posts.
Choose the guide type that is going to give the most value to your audience while still being related to what you offer.
For example, if you own an eCommerce store, a product guide would be perfect for you and your followers.
If you provide a service, a post guide that collectively teaches your audience how to do something may be best and so on.
4. Instagram Live Updates
Okay, let’s move on to Instagram Live.
An Instagram Live is where you as a business owner can film yourself on the selfie-camera.
Or you can film a process happening in front of you on the front-facing camera directly within Instagram, and your Instagram followers can watch what you’re filming live, in real time.
The people watching can actively comment as they’re watching, and these comments appear at the bottom of the screen in real time.
Here are a few instances in which you as a business owner could use Instagram Lives:
- To do a Q&A session with the viewers
- To show how your product works if it has a function, or how it fits if it’s something you wear
- To share exciting or urgent company updates as they relate to your followers
- And lastly, to show your followers how to do something that’s relevant to them as well as to your business- like the video version of a blog post.
Overall, the point of Instagram Lives is to strengthen your brand’s relationship with potential and existing customers.
Doing so will also increase social media engagement, as well as your reach.
So what’s new with Lives in 2021?
- You can now go Live for up to 4 hours.
Previously you could only go Live for up to an hour before it would cut you off.
You may be thinking an hour was plenty long enough let alone 4 hours, but you’d be surprised at how many brands used to get abruptly cut off from going over the hour limit!
Consumers appreciate transparency with the brands they do business with, and Lives are a great way to provide that.
So where can users find your Instagram Live? Users can still look at their Instagram Stories and see who is Live as marked by the Live button.
- Users can also now see who is live in the Live Now section.
With this Instagram update, users can tap to the Explore section, then tap the Live Now section and scroll through to discover more Lives.
Depending on how your followers have their Instagram notifications set up, they can also get notified that your account is going Live.
That is if they have notifications enabled for your specific account (which is why you see many business accounts encouraging their followers to do this!).
- Live videos will now be available in your archive for 30 days.
This Instagram update is important because that means you have more time to save them and re-use them for IGTV content if you want to.
Followers often appreciate when businesses save Lives to their IGTVs.
This is both for those who weren’t able to watch the Live in real time and for those who want to reference back to something that was said or shown in the video later on.
Again, Lives are just a great way to improve the relationship you have with your followers to nudge them along your sales funnel in the hopes of converting them into customers.
And these new updates give you more access to do that.
5. Keyword Search
Okay now this update is probably the biggest and most-anticipated Instagram update for 2021.
This could be a game-changer for the app as a whole in how brands interact with consumers and vice versa.
The update we’re talking about is keyword search.
To date, businesses have had to include hashtags and locations in their posts and/or Instagram bio if they wanted users to find their posts.
This was because hashtags made their content searchable.
But in 2021, Instagram is starting to test keyword search.
This means users can search a keyword in the Instagram search bar and find posts and accounts that have that keyword in their content, even if it’s not a hashtag or location.
This Instagram update mirrors how search engines like Google work.
Search engines use SEO (search engine optimization) which is a series of processes and functions you can perform to help you rank higher in Google’s search results.
A common SEO practice is to put the keyword you want to rank for in your website content.
Similarly, an Instagram spokesperson said the team considers “a number of factors,” including the “type of content, captions, when it was posted,” and more to determine the search results the app will show for a search query.
It also uses machine learning to “find the highest quality content that’s relevant to you.”
For now, only grid posts will show, and the search function will be limited to “general interest topics and keywords that are within Instagram’s community guidelines,” according to the spokesperson.
For example, some people are already seeing that they can search for puppies or pasta.
This is important for businesses to know as they plan their Instagram marketing strategy for 2021.
You’ll want to be more strategic about the keywords you’re inserting into your captions to help gain that extra reach from people searching for that exact keyword within Instagram.
And, like most new features on social media, if you can start utilizing these new Instagram updates early before your competitors do, you’ll usually have more favor with the algorithm.
This will put you ahead of the game when these trends really start skyrocketing and taking off.
Instagram Updates for 2021 Quick Recap
So that’s it for the top 5 biggest Instagram updates for 2021! Let’s do a quick recap of this post.
Today, we’ve learned the most-awaited updates from one of the best social media platforms for businesses. And these updates are:
- Instagram Shopping
- Instagram Guides
- Instagram Live Updates
- Keyword Search
If these Instagram updates excite you and want to upgrade your marketing strategy, let our team of social media experts help you. Get in touch with us today to get started!
Web Design, Digital Marketing, SEO agency, Arepo, Ibadan & Lagos, Nigeria