Instagram Stories is one of the biggest updates Instagram made to the app last year.
Stories are the Snapchat-like videos and images that appear at the top of the feed for 24 hours before they disappear forever.
And while stories have been around for awhile, this month we got a ton of new features that make them even more useful as marketing tools.
Are you curious to read more? Then you know what to do! 😉
This month has been an incredible rush of new Instagram Story features, including new objectives in Story Ads, Story location stickers, and Story Links, all of which take Stories from being only good for reach to actually being able to drive real results– including site traffic.
We’ve also got a sneak peek at a new feature Instagram is currently testing that will make it easier for influencers to mark sponsored posts, increasing transparency on the site.
Ready? Let’s go.
New Objectives in Instagram Story Ads
Instagram Story Ads rolled out with just one objective: reach. In these ads, brands could use stories to build brand awareness. These ads were limited, though, to the point where their usefulness was a little inhibited because users couldn’t click on them. Now, Instagram has changed that with a host of new, fantastic objectives.
Now, Instagram has changed that with a host of new, fantastic objectives.
- Video views
- Traffic (which used to be called website clicks)
- Mobile app installs
This is a significant, incredible update. Previously, brands had to hope that users were interested enough in their content to find their profile or find the site on their own. Now, these ads can drive actual conversions and actions instead of just views, making them more lucrative and customizable for each business’s needs. While brand awareness is essential, these new ad objectives will benefit even awareness more, since users can actually click to your site to learn more about who you are and what you do.
To create Story Ads, choose any of the above objectives (or reach). When you choose placements, click Edit Placements. Click to look at all of Instagram’s options, and choose Stories. This will only run as a story ad, and in no other format.
This is a good thing, though, since the actual size of the stories will take up the full screen (like regular stories), and functions a little differently.
In the past few weeks, Instagram has released a fantastic feature where users can add location stickers to their stories. Why does this matter? Because they can now tag your business in the stories they’re sharing with their friends. This can help build brand awareness and recognition, and it’s a powerful form of UGC.
Even more importantly, when users tap on the location sticker, they’ll see the option to “see location.”
When they click, they’ll be taken to the page of the tagged location, where they’ll see the business name, a pinpoint on a map, and all the top posts about that location.
To add location stickers to your story, first, create the story. It must be separate from a regular Instagram post.
Once you’ve taken the picture or video you want to use for your story, you’ll see options to edit the image in the top right-hand corner. Click on the peeling smile face, or the stickers icon. The first sticker you’ll likely see is the location tag. Click on it.
Then enter in the name of the business or location where you’re at. Review and publish.
Instagram Story Links
So thanks to Story Ads’ new objectives, we had a way to get some links into our stories and make them more lucrative. Not long after the new ad objectives were released, more businesses were given the ability to add links to their non-ad Stories, too.
If you’ve been watching Stories closely, you’ve likely seen other brands doing this in the past. You’ll see a CTA to “Swipe Up!” to “learn more” or “shop now.” It looks like this:
Previously, this was a feature being tested only by a select number of larger brands.
Now, business profiles (and only business profiles) with more than 10,000 followers have the ability to add links to Stories, sending traffic to their sites. Hopefully soon this will be available to all business profiles. You know we’ll let you know when it is!
Pro tip: Even if you run Story Ads, I recommend running a regular Story with the same information.
While it will only last for 24 hours and only your followers will see it, users can also click backward and watch it again. Story Ads have the unfortunate characteristic that once a user clicks away, they can’t click back– even if they want to. I–as a hasty clicker– actually scrolled through what looked like a really interesting ad on accident just yesterday, and when I tried to go back, poof! Too late.
When you have the ability to add links to your Stories, you’ll know because you’ll see the hyperlink sign in the top corner of the Story before you post it.
Once you click the link, add in the URL of the specific page you want to send users to.
In many cases, it would be best if this was a designated landing page. Because Stories are only a mobile feature, this landing page must be mobile friendly.
Make sure you enter in a great CTA; instead of just saying “Swipe Up,” add context with on-image text in the Story like “Swipe Up to Win!” or “Swipe Up to Learn More!”
New Influencer Marketing Feature: In Testing
This one is brand new and was just announced last week. Instagram is currently testing features that would make it possible for influencers to identify their sponsored posts.
Here’s why this matters: there’s recently been a huge ordeal with influencers being paid to create sponsored posts, but not disclosing them as much. The Federal Trade Commission requires that sponsored posts be disclosed as such, and right now, that’s just not happening. The FTC actually recently sent out letters to more than 90 influencers telling them that they need to label their sponsored posts.
Right now, some influencers aren’t tagging their posts as sponsored at all, so users have no way to know that they are. Even in the cases of the ones who do, they’ll mention it under the “See More” expandable option knowing many users won’t see it, or they’ll buy it in between nine other hashtags on each side. The term “sponsored post” is supposed to be visible immediately, and clearly—no using #sp to do the trick, like the example below.
In the new feature, influencers will be able to tag the sponsoring brand with a label that says “paid partnership with (brand name). It’s unobtrusive and doesn’t take away from the focal point of the post, but it still clearly labels posts as sponsored. This helps with transparency, which in the long run, is good for influencers, marketers, and users.
This tool is still really early in testing, with only select brands like Buzzfeed having access, but you know we’ll let you know as soon as it rolls out to everyone.
I’ve always really liked the idea of using Instagram Stories for marketing because users are super into the feature, and they have incredible view rates. The inability to add captions or even put links in Story Ads, however, always stumped me, a bit.
These new additions are extremely welcome and will benefit all marketers. They allow us to drive real, actionable results– both on the platform and off of it– instead of just increasing views.
Even if you don’t have the ability to add links to your regular Stories (yet), the Story Ad objectives and new clickable-stickers are incredible features you should start using immediately.
Don’t forget to check back every month to see what new Instagram updates we’ve got for you! I’m going to keep a close eye on the Story links, and watch the sponsored post feature currently in testing. Is it just me, or do you think that these sponsored posts might become shoppable in the future? Let us know in the comments!
Now you’re all caught up for this month, but have you missed any of our past updated? Keep reading then, the last 12 months (and more) are covered here!
Top Instagram Updates – May 2017 Edition
For our May Instagram Update, Instagram just announced a number of smaller features last week, and we have some new incredible data that shows the importance of Instagram as an advertising platform.
We’re going to go over all this and more (including the new web app!) so let’s get started.
This is my favorite new feature that we got this month. You can actually add “hashtag stickers” to your Instagram stories.
While you could add a hashtag before manually with text, this new feature works a little differently; now, when customers watch your story, they can click on the “See Hashtag” prompt.
When you use this strategically with your branded hashtag or when promoting a hashtag campaign, you can build incredible brand awareness and get interested users to your content to engage with it.
Because the quirky nature of the Stories feature is perfect for the hashtag sticker, it’s a great opportunity to promote a campaign or inspire user generated content (or both).
We’ve got yet another Snapchat-inspired feature! If you miss those flower crowns from Snapchat, you can now get them on your Instagram Story images.
They’ve just announced a total of eight filters, which include glasses, animal features, and several types of crowns. These filters even work with Boomerang content, images, and videos. You can use both your front or back camera.
You can use these filters to show some of your brand’s personality; you can crown your Employee of the Month in a story, for example.
If you love Boomerang, you might like Instagram’s new Rewind format.
This feature lets users take a video with the app’s native camera, and then play it only in “rewind mode.” You can watch a baseball that you threw come zooming into your hands, for example. This feature can be used to create eye-catching illusions that will capture users’ interest immediately.
This, right now, is purely a feature that users can take advantage of; the collections feature lets users compile saved posts into different, you guessed it, collections. These are groups of posts that users can organize their saved content in, so it’s easier to find and revisit at any time. I can already tell you what mine are made up of: a ton of different collections of marketing examples.
These collections, like a users’ saves, are entirely private. That being said, businesses can use this feature to their advantage. They can create collections of:
- User generated content about their brand, which they can use at a later time
- Groups of their own posts (since you can save your own posts) to monitor closely, or that belonged to a certain hashtag campaign
- Examples of great content from other brands that you love and find inspiring
(Almost) Fully Functional Web App
Instagram has been growing quickly (we’ll look at just how quickly in the next section), and they’ve got their eye on continuing that trend. One strategy they’re using to implement that growth in their user base is to offer an Instagram experience without users needing to download the app.
While downloading the app is a breeze for people in locations like the US, where WiFi and 4G LTE data is everywhere, this isn’t a reality for other places in the world.
Users who have more limited data will now be able to access Instagram without needing to actual download or utilize the actual app; there is a web-based version available for Android mobile phones to use, and users can (or will be able to) even upload pictures and posts from within the web-based app.
There’s also a “light-weight” version of the Explore section in the new web app, as Tech Crunch called it, expanding the app’s features even further.
Instagram’s Expanding User Base & Advertising Prominence
And now for our final May Instagram update, we’re going to go over Instagram usage information. This isn’t a feature update, but it gives us valuable insight into why we need to be channeling so much effort into the platform.
Instagram now has more than 700 million users. This is a substantial number, and may even rank them above Twitter; they’re definitely ranked significantly higher than Snapchat.
This is especially true considering that Instagram Stories has more than 200 million daily users, which is more than Snapchat’s entire user base. This means there’s a huge audience there, just waiting to connect with you.
It’s also worth noting that Instagram really has made its name in the marketing world. Instagram now has more than 1 million advertisers vying for users’ attention every single month. Even better? A study from #Hashoff found that Instagram is the #1 platform for influencer marketing.
What does all this mean? Brands and businesses have flocked to the platform because of its rapidly growing, high engaging, high converting audience. The competition may drive up ad costs, and it can make it harder to get users attention. What this boils down to is that our content has to be exceptionally fantastic every single time, and using segmented audiences for Instagram Ads can help give you some leverage against your competitors.
Did you miss some updates? Keep on reading: we have almost 1 year of monthly updates covered!!!
Top Instagram Updates – April 2017 Edition
In this Instagram Update, we’re going to go over the new streamlined disappearing messages, the wider release of the Shoppable Instagram features, and a quick (but important) update to Instagram Live.
Are you ready to know all the details?
Streamlined Disappearing Messages
Instagram and Facebook have both been stepping up their Snapchat game, especially with the new Facebook stories and Messenger Day. Instagram’s most recent development is their new Direct, which is their private messaging platform.
It’s been updated so that everything is more streamlined; regular private messages, shared posts, and disappearing photos and videos will all seamlessly show up in the same thread.
You can access your direct messages by swiping right on Instagram. To the left of the “Write a message” field, you’ll see the Instagram icon in blue. You can click on this to send a disappearing image or video. To send a non-disappearing image or video, click on the image icon to the right.
So how does this affect businesses? For one, we may be one step closer to a full-on Instagram take-over. I don’t think Snapchat will be fazed out entirely just yet because of its loyal audience, but we will start seeing more users drop off.
This feature can be used to create urgency and drive sales quickly. You could, for example, send a discount code or information about a flash sale, especially as an incentive to actions you want your users to take (like commenting on a particular post). You’ve got to use it before it’s gone, and since users can only replay the image once, it could help you get a lot of sales quickly.
As an added bonus, since disappearing content is streamlined into the regular messaging, users can reach out and ask you questions quickly, giving you the chance to start a conversation with potential customers.
Shoppable Instagram: Wider Release
Shoppable Instagram features were announced sometime around last October or November, and we’re finally seeing some movement in its development and release. While most businesses still don’t have access, a lot more do—and that’s a big step.
At the very tail end of last month, Instagram rolled out the feature to a large number of beauty, jewelry, and apparel brands. From the information at hand, it doesn’t seem like you have to pay anything to use this feature; it’s similar to tagging a photo, just with your product information.
These posts show up with the “Shoppable” icon in the bottom corner of the image, and will prod users to “Tap to See Products.” When you click on the tag, users can see basic price and name information of the item. Users can only see product tags on mobile devices.
When they click that information bubble, they’ll be taken to a more complete description of the item, accompanied by a “Shop Now” button. If they click the CTA, they’ll be taken to the brand’s site to purchase.
We can also now tag pictures with a single product if we have a product catalog synced to our Instagram account.
Instagram Live: Now Saved
One of the only downfalls of Instagram live (in my quite humble opinion) was the fact that once the broadcast, the video was done and gone forever.
There were still plenty of benefits to using Instagram Live—especially considering the reach boost—but the lack of permanence made it less ideal. Why would you want to waste a big announcement or an interview with an influencer if you couldn’t reap semi-permanent results from it?
Instagram Live broadcasts can now be saved onto your camera roll. After the broadcast is over, save it to your phone, and then upload it as a regular video post. If the video is too long for Instagram, you can take it straight to Facebook instead. Either way, you can now save your valuable live broadcasts, allowing you to build momentum from them and drastically increase their visibility and engagement.
If you don’t have this feature yet, update your phone; it’s currently only available for iOS and Android phones.
Aaaaaaand it’s all, for now!
What do you think? Have you used any of Instagram’s new features? And what about the previous updates, did you miss anything? Keep on reading, and then share your thoughts and questions in the comments at the bottom of the page!
Top Instagram Updates – March 2017 Edition
In this month’s Instagram update, we’re going to take a closer look at both Multiple Image Posts and Instagram Stories Ads and how to use them.
Are you ready to know all the details?
Multiple Image & Video Posts
Multiple image and video posts have been slowly rolling out for iOS and Android users over the past few weeks, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many businesses and users alike get on board with a new feature so quickly.
Multiple image posts (also called “carousel posts”) lets you create a single Instagram post with a slideshow of up to 10 images and/or videos. Users can scroll them. You can tag users on individual slides within the post.
Previously, the only ways to get multiple images onto Instagram was either using the image carousel ads or to use the layout app to create a photo collage; if you wanted videos and images, you had to use the image carousel ads.
These posts are engaging and dynamic, and I think it’s a powerful tool for both engagement and sales.
How to Create Them
Creating multiple image posts is really easy. Some users may not have access yet (I believe Windows users do not, and certain locations around the world may not). If you don’t, keep checking with future updates; I got the feature a week or so later than almost everyone I knew (and no, I did not wait patiently).
When you create a multiple image post, you’ll start like you would when creating a regular post. In the bottom corner of the screen, you’ll see “Select multiple images” or its associated icon if you have the feature. Click on it.
Once you do, select the images that you want to feature in the slideshow. You can rearrange their order later. Click next.
You can rearrange the order of the images on the next slide. Just click down on one image and hold it until you can move it; drag the images into the order that you want. You can also apply filters to your entire slideshow, or edit images and apply filters individually.
On the next screen, add a caption like you normally would. You can tap on the image icon and scroll through the images to tag users in individual pictures if you choose instead of tagging them in a caption.
There are so many incredible use cases for this feature, and the more creative you are with it, the better. You can show off multiple products or multiple features of a single product, for example, or a step-by-step tutorial.
Showing multiple images from different parts of an event can also help drive home the FOMO factor, and give you a chance to tag more users (or influencers) in a single post.
Restaurants could show the progression of a 4 course meal, all in individual images, and a painter could show how their artwork comes together, one step at a time.
Whether you’re entertaining, selling, or informing, multiple image and video posts have so much potential.
Instagram Story Ads
Instagram story ads just rolled out within the past two days. Businesses and marketers can now run ads in Instagram stories. This new ad type is unlike anything we’ve seen, and it’s now available globally (though some individual businesses may be later than others in getting it.
Right now, there is only one objective for Instagram story ads; it’s a new objective called Reach, where the goal is (you guessed it) to reach as many users as possible.
Since stories appear at the very top of a users’ need and they don’t have to scroll in order to hopefully find you, this can help eliminate some of the competition and views.
How to Create Them
You can create Instagram story ads through Power Editor or Ads manager. Right now, there’s only one objective that lets you create Instagram story ads; this is the reach objective, which is new and rolling out users globally.
Select the “Stories” placement under the Instagram category on placements.
On the next screen, you’ll choose from a single video or a single image. Whichever you choose, it must be compatible with Instagram’s formatting requirements.
Everything else, including setting budgets and audience, is exactly the same as creating other Facebook or Instagram Ads.
Strategies to Consider
Instagram story ads are designed purely to reach as many people in your target audience as possible and build brand awareness. A few great strategies to consider include:
- Lean towards video, which gives you more time and more content to introduce your brand and product to new users
- Showcase your business’s culture and brand; what makes you different, and why should users be interested in you? Keep this question in mind when creating story ads.
- Utilize UGC; since user generated content is such a powerful selling tool, using it to win over new users at the first potential touch point can help capture their interest.
Keeping your social media profiles and your marketing practices up to date become essential when you want to continue to build your online presence and the impact that it has.
As Instagram continues to grow and evolve as a platform, utilizing all new tools and features will keep you relevant and at the forefront of your audience’s attention span.
Top Instagram Updates You Need to Know – February 2017 Edition
For this month of February, the biggest news is that Facebook has extended a version of its Lead Ads to Instagram.
They’re also testing new types of posts and formats, and are rolling out their stories feature to more locations.
Instagram Lead Ads: Now Available
Facebook’s lead ads have been a huge asset for marketers, and were designed to make filling out lead forms as simple as approving information Facebook automatically pulled from your profile. They were such a success on mobile that Facebook released the feature for desktop, too.
And now we have them for Instagram. To run lead ads on Instagram, just select it as a placement on your campaign.
There are a few limitations to Instagram’s version of lead ads. They’re only available to be shown on the mobile app and not on desktop. This could potentially change in the future, just like it did for Facebook, but I wouldn’t count on it since significantly more users only use Instagram’s mobile app. To open the ad and fill out the form, users will also need to click through several pages to complete them; this could potentially make them slightly less effective than the Facebook version.
The fields and questions you can add to the Instagram Lead Ads are also limited. Instagram’s version only supports specific pre-filled forms; it doesn’t seem like you can add your own questions to the form like you can on Facebook. This is another hit, but you can still get name and best contact info, which is the most important part.
Live Stories Rolled Out & Competing with Snapchat: Now More Widely Available
The US and a few other locations have had Instagram’s live stories for a little over a month, but now more locations have access to the feature, too. Live stories are now available globally, including the ability to view and broadcast these stories. Upgrade to Instagram version 10.0 or higher for access.
While Instagram stories are so obviously copied from the concept of Snapchat that they haven’t even denied it, this added feature was a good choice. Instagram’s stories are snatching up some of Snapchat’s users; some social media influencers and big names have noticed that their Snapchat stories views and engagements have declined significantly since Instagram stories launched in August. This reiterates the importance of utilizing Snapchat stories (both live and regular) to live up to the full potential of the platform, especially if you don’t have a presence on Snapchat.
Multiple Images & Video Posts: Still in Testing
Instagram seems to be testing a new format of posts that allows users to display multiple images and videos. Sound familiar? It’s the exact design of carousel ads, but it would be available for use to all users as regular posts.
According to The Verge, there seems to be a beta version of this feature that’s been released on select Android devices. The Verge also reports that the feature is clearly in early development and a little buggy, but it is definitely a distinct and new feature. Since the closest we can get now to this is to either run carousel ads or use the layout app to create a collage, this could be a great feature to make sure of. Instagram doesn’t give us the option to publish albums, or groups of images, like Facebook, after all—this would allow us to string together images into a collection to more effectively tell stories and sell. If we’re able to combine this with shoppable posts when that eventually rolls out, the potential will be massive.
Since Instagram hasn’t even officially confirmed this new feature yet, it’ll probably be awhile before we get it– but we probably-hopefully- will. I’m hoping businesses will get access to shoppable posts (check out our recap on that below) first, or that they’ll at least be more widely available soon. Either way, we’ll keep an eye out on any new updates for you, and when we know, you’ll know.
Either way, we’ll keep an eye out on any new updates for you, and when we know, you’ll know.
And now, just in case you missed some of the latest updates, keep on reading, we have collected the very best updates of 2016, just for you!
Top Instagram Updates You Need to Know – December 2016 Edition
New Post Look & Updated User Features
Starting a few weeks ago, Instagram gave its interface a cosmetic update. All non-image content (like descriptions, sponsored tags, and CTAs) will now be moved to the left-hand side of the posts, underneath the header.
It’ll be interesting to see if the new position of the CTAs affects ad results or CTRs; it doesn’t jump out at me quite as much, but Instagram has stated that they’ve made this aesthetic adjustment to “streamline the design and make it more noticeable.”
With this new post look, users can more easily share the posts they like on Instagram. The icon on the right of the username on posts opens a drop-down menu with options like “Share to Facebook” and “Share to Messenger.”
This can expand the reach of our Instagram content, as it allows and encourages users to easily share the content that they love most. Which brings us to our next new feature…
Like Facebook, users can now save content that they love so they can easily access it at a later time. This is great news for users and businesses—having your content not only shared, but also saved, can keep users thinking about your brand’s content. Users only save content they want to revisit later, after all; sometimes this is to use the information themselves, while sometimes they want to show it to someone else.
Both options benefit businesses and marketers.
To increase the likelihood that users save your content, increase the amount of content that offers value, like short tutorial videos. We always wanted all of our content to be extraordinary already, but now it’s even more important than ever.
Save Business Stories (iOS only)
Users can save posts, and we can now save our stories—there’s saving options for everyone in this update.
Plenty of businesses are using Instagram stories to their full potential, getting more eyes on their content. The problem with stories, however, is that they’ll disappear before long and they can’t be easily shared to other platforms. Instagram has given us a solution to this!
You can now save your business stories from the past 24 hours to your camera roll as a single video. This can be re-uploaded on Instagram as a regular post, or uploaded to Facebook and other platforms. You don’t have to worry about “wasting” valuable content that will only disappear.
A great use case for this is showcasing UGC. A number of businesses use stories to feature user generated content; now, you can showcase a stream of UGC in your story and then save it all into one video, which you can upload to multiple platforms with a CTA to encourage more UGC in return.
Note: as far as I know, this does not include live video. I think we’ll see the ability to save and share live videos after the fact later on (like Facebook), but we’ll have to wait a little longer for now.
Shoppable Posts (In Testing)
Instagram has so much selling potential it’s mind-boggling, but with the exception of Instagram Ads, the platform hasn’t given us a lot of flexibility with actually selling directly from it. Plenty of third-party services like Like2Buy and Have2Have.it have found ways around this; Instagram is now, however, testing shoppable posts of their own.
Shoppable posts will allow businesses to tag up to five products in a post image. When a user clicks a “Tap to View” icon below the post, tags will pop up next to the products, showing their names and prices.
If they click on the image, they’ll be able to see even more information, like the product description and any details. From there, they can click on a “Shop Now” link. This will take the user to your site, where they can quickly and easily purchase the item.
I don’t even need to explain why this has such huge selling potential—combining Instagram’s high engagement and diverse audience with Pinterest’s drive to sell feels like a goldmine for businesses. Being able to tag up to five products per image only increases this selling power, displaying items as a set and increasing the value of your average purchase.
Shoppable posts are still in testing; only a very few select big-name brands have them, and it will probably stay that way for a while. This is a big feature, and Instagram will want to make sure it’s working properly before they release it.
Don’t worry, though- we’ll let you know as soon as they’re rolling out!
Insights & Ads to Stories (Announced/Coming Soon)
I’m most excited for shoppable posts in this batch of updates, but since we won’t see it for a while still, I’ll settle on throwing my enthusiasm into this one. Instagram just announced yesterday that soon we’ll be seeing two things: Business Insights on our stories (as long as we’ve converted to a business profile), and story ads.
The lack of metrics on stories have been frustrating for all of us trying to meticulously calculate our results on Instagram; we could track everything else but this. Soon, we’ll be able to see the reach, impressions, replies, and exists for each individual story. We’ll be able to better understand how users are responding to our stories, and which content they like to see there.
Instagram Ads have already been so successful that it’s hard to imagine that Instagram story ads wouldn’t be the same. This new ad format will show users full-screen ads when they click on the story, ensuring that you’re capturing their full attention.
Like regular ads, you’ll be able to use the impeccable targeting system and take a look at detailed analytics as the campaigns progress. The idea for these ads is to focus on immersive storytelling.
We’ll almost definitely see the story insights before we see the story ads. The story insights should start rolling out within the next few weeks.
Instagram has had some big changes and developments in the past few weeks, and more is yet to come. These changes are all potentially for huge for businesses. Staying on top of the trends and keeping your profile up-to-date is the best way to maximize results.
What do you think? Have you used any of Instagram’s new features? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Top Instagram Updates You Need to Know – December 2016 Edition
Happy holiday season, everyone! It’s a new month, and we’ve got some exciting Instagram updates to take a look at.
In the last few weeks, Instagram has given us new features—we now have live video and disappearing photos.
We’re going to look at these new features and how to use them, as well as if we’re in store for a Snapchat takeover in 2017 and a reminder about ad costs during the holiday season.
Are you ready to dig in?
For a quick note before we dive in: Instagram will now let users know if you take a screenshot of their disappearing photos– just like Snapchat. Screenshot responsibly, people (and at your own risk).
Live Video Is Here
So this is a big one. With the latest update, you can now—or will soon be able to—stream live video on Instagram. Since the boom of Facebook live video, it’s clear that this is an incredible feature that brands should be using. The “live” aspect adds urgency and can snag a user’s attention quickly, which can massively boost the number of views. When your live stream is done, the story disappears, so it works differently than Facebook’s live video.
Live videos are part of the stories function. When you go live, your followers will see the word “Live” your profile picture in the stories bar at the top of their feed. Public live videos will also be compiled and placed on Explore, so using this feature can give you an automatic (and free) instant visibility boost. This alone is an enormous reason that brands should utilize live video on Instagram.
Live video can be used to get a good number of views quickly. Given the format, however, it will only work if you’re going live at peak times when a lot of users are alone. Knowing when this is ahead of time will get you better results.
Because the story will disappear (and isn’t saved like Facebook’s live video) you don’t necessarily want to rely purely on live Instagram stories to distribute your most important information. If you have a high quality Q&A from an industry influencer, you want that to be permanent- not temporary.
Note: I’m in the US, have the new update and the new disappearing photos, but don’t have this feature yet. According to the Instagram blog, these features will be rolling out globally in the next few weeks. If you don’t have them yet, you will soon.
How to Use Live Video on Instagram
Click on your profile picture in the story bar to add a new story. On the bottom of the screen, next to “Normal” and “Boomerang,” you’ll be able to select “Live.” Once you’re ready, hit “Start Live Video” and you’ll immediately begin your live stream.
You’ll know how many viewers you have at any time, and users can interact with you as you’re live. You can pin a comment that you want everyone to see. You can also completely shut down the ability to comments if you want.
Disappearing Photos & Videos
In our most obvious copy-cat move from Instagram yet, we can now send disappearing photos and videos to other users on Instagram. This is the most defining feature of Snapchat—it was the feature the platform was actually built around—and now we’ve got it on Instagram, too.
You can send these disappearing images and videos to groups or individuals, but you can only send them to people who already follow you. While women everywhere are silently thanking Instagram for this slight restriction, it works in brand’s favors, too. If you let users know, for example, that you’ll release “flash sale” promo codes in these disappearing images but that they need to follow you, that gives them a reason to do so.
Sending promo codes is a great way to use this feature; it ensures that users will continue to open the messages, and it offers value, so they’re not annoyed and don’t feel spammed.
How to Send Disappearing Videos & Images
To send a disappearing video or picture, swipe right from your main feed. You must click on the white arrow to send it privately, and you must choose individuals instead of “story.”
When you click the arrow, you can choose who you want to send it to. You can send it to individuals, or a whole group. You can click “New Group” in the top right to create a new group for the pictures to go to.
The recipients can reply to your photos with their own. You’ll get replies as private messages, so they can be found in the private message tab.
Is Instagram Replacing Snapchat?
First came the stories. Next came the disappearing images. It’s not a surprise that people are asking if Instagram will replace Snapchat, or at least attempt to. Both platforms also have private messaging, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Instagram kept adding features to their platform that Snapchat already has.
I don’t think Snapchat is in any immediate danger. Even though both prioritize video and images over traditional “posts,” they’re still starkly different platforms—even with an increasing number of overlapping features. They’re used in different ways, by both users and the brands trying to connect to them. Considering the number of peers I have who use both on a regular basis, I don’t think we’re at risk for having Snapchat vanish any time soon. Long term that could be a different story, but as long as both keep developing their features, users will stick around for awhile.
December Ads Cost Reminder
As a quick reminder, it’s not unusual for ad costs to increase this time of year due to the increased marketers trying to push their products for holiday sales. The flux of traffic drives up competition, which can increase your ads costs. In some cases these increases may only be slight, but they can be substantial.
Since Instagram ads can cost a little more than Facebook to begin with, don’t forget to monitor all your ad campaigns extra close this time of year, just to be safe.
That’s all for now folks!! Happy Holidays and see you in January!
Wait… are you sure you didn’t miss any of the past month’s updates? Just keep on reading then!
Top Instagram Updates You Need to Know – November 2016 Edition
For this month’s Instagram update, we’re going to look at Boomerang and Mentions and what they mean for businesses.
Then we will discuss the importance of adding links to stories, and best practices for Instagram stories (did I say stories??) so you can get the very best results when using them.
Boomerang was previously an Instagram-related app that allowed you to capture a brief moment. It takes a burst of pictures, stitches them together, and creates a high quality mini-video. The video captured would play forward, then rewind, then forward again, and on, and on. It looks a little choppy (in a good way), and the back and forth can grab users’ attention in the newsfeed like nobody’s business. The grabbing attention part is great news for businesses.
Boomerang was previously its own app, but boomerang videos can now be created right inside Instagram without leaving. You can use the videos to create new stories.
As a new feature to boomerang, you can now zoom in on the video’s subject with one finger while filming.
How to Use It
To access boomerang through Instagram stories, scroll from “Normal” to “Boomerang” on the very bottom of the screen. You can edit the video from this screen, too.
Boomerang is a great tool to use, but I recommend against overusing it; using it on occasion is great, using it in every post and story is probably too much. Always make sure to hold the phone steady while making boomerang videos; otherwise viewers will be in store for a really rocky video.
While big, dramatic movements (like someone jumping off a diving board) can look great on boomerang, small movements can look just as great. Picture a fork slicing into a piece of cheesecake looping back and forth—simple but effective (and drool inducing).
We can already tag users in posts, but now we can mention them in our stories. This is a great improvement for stories, and can be used to boost visibility and engagement. If you’re mentioned in someone’s story, after all, you’ll immediately receive a notification.
Out of the two features most businesses currently have access to with the new Instagram update, this is the one I’m more excited about.
How to Use It
To mention someone in your story, all you have to do is type “@username” and they’ll be tagged. It’s as simple as tagging someone in a post.
Starbucks is already using this feature in an incredible way; they’re sharing stories of UGC and tagging users and their locations. This can help inspire more UGC, and is a fantastic addition to their Red Cup Contest they host every year.
You can also partner up with other local brands (or other brands in general) and influencers in stories. This can benefit all parties, and can increase the visibility and relevance of your post.
One thing I’d like to stress: please only tag users that are relevant to the story and would be happy to be tagged. Tagging random people or influencers who don’t know you in an attempt to promote your content or connect with them is not a good idea.
And the news we’ve all been waiting for: we’ll soon be able to add links to our stories. We still can’t add them to our posts, but this is the next best thing. In some ways, this could be good; by saving links only for stories (and potentially only for brands), it will keep the number of links lower overall and will increase the chance users will click on the ones we post in stories.
Any links that aren’t our profile bio links or links coming from paid ads are something I’m excited about.
These links won’t be intrusive, which is a plus. Users can choose a “see more” option on the very bottom of a story’s image. From there they’ll be able to preview the link right inside the app. This is good, too; by keeping users in the app, they may be more likely to continue to click.
So far only a few users have access to this, and (at least for now) only verified brands will see this rolling out. Instagram testing and announcing this feature is a great step, though. Hopefully soon we’ll be able to have more than our profile link and links from our ads. This can drastically increase the sales and off-platform conversion potential that I definitely think Instagram has. They haven’t fully tapped into it yet, but I think we’re getting there.
I’ll update this post when links roll out to more businesses going over how to use it, so stay tuned!
Why This Matters
The more features we see get added to Instagram stories, the more complete it will feel. Instagram is not only fleshing out their stories, but taking steps to separate themselves from the Snapchat stories that came first. We’re not 100% there yet (they still feel really similar), but we’re getting closer.
Since Instagram’s algorithm prioritizes certain content over others, having your story appear above users’ Instagram feeds is a huge advantage. This means that stories matter, and if the algorithm ever starts reducing the organic reach of businesses like Facebook, they’ll matter even more.
These changes are all steps towards making stories more engaging and dynamic, which is a good thing for brands. The more interesting and diverse your content is, the more users will tune in to see what you’re saying. This means more engagement, more views, and (once links come around) more clicks to your site and conversions.
To get access to these new features (minus links, which are rolling out slowly), you need to update to the latest version of Instagram. This is version 9.7 for iOS, Android, and Windows.
Amazing Use Cases for Instagram Stories
The new features are exciting and make Instagram stories more dynamic and interesting. The stories will still fall flat, however, if they aren’t being used correctly to promote your brand.
To get the most out of Instagram stories, some amazing use cases include:
- Share UGC. UGC matters more and more in social media marketing, and featuring it in a story is a great way to show how much it matters to you. It’s also an effective method to make sure other users see the UGC. Since UGC weighs so heavily on user opinion of brands, choosing it as a featured story is a smart use case.
- Feature tutorials. Content that offers valuable to users is content that will likely perform well. Having brief video tutorials as stories can offer a lot of value to customers in just a few seconds. Teaching viewers how to tie your scarf or pipe frosting roses on a cupcake, for example, are highly visual, interesting, and likely to be really helpful.
- Advertise sales and offers. Have a limited time sale going on? Let your customers know! This information is extremely valuable to them, and it might increase the likelihood that they’ll tune in more to see what you’re saying on social media. You can always offer a “limited time only” coupon code through your Instagram stories if you want to elevate this use case further; just make sure users have enough time to purchase, since many of them use Instagram on mobile.
- Announce new products. Using Instagram stories to announce new products or brand information can be extremely efficient. You can give users the first look at all new products before sharing the information elsewhere, and give them “inside information” about it. By spacing out announcements, you can ramp up the excitement and hype around your product launch and make sure people are really paying attention.
That’s all, for now, folks!
Eager to know more? Keep on reading what happened in the past few months then!
The Instagram Updates You Need to Make – OCTOBER EDITION
In the past year, Instagram has released some major updates that improve the experience for both users and marketers. They’ve released both algorithms and new tools that help people connect with the content they want to see most. We’ve gotten Instagram Ads, a new algorithm, Snapchat-inspired Stories, and the optional business update.
Instagram Ads have so far been extremely successful as a paid advertising platform for marketers. This isn’t much of a surprise, considering that they’re directly tied to Facebook’s amazing ad platform. This also means that Instagram Ads gets most of the updates that come with Facebook Ads. The new ad features we’re going to look at now are the new objectives, and the video view functioning on mobile. We’ll also take a look at the new save draft feature.
Instagram and Facebook Ads have some new objectives available to choose from when you’re running campaigns. The two new objectives I’m most excited about are geared towards local businesses and brick-and-mortar stores.
Reach People Near You
The first is the awareness objective to “Reach People Near Your Business.” While you could use specific ad targeting in the past to reach a local audience, this objective was created to help local businesses do this easily. With this objective, Facebook will automatically suggest a target area centered around your business with a 3-mile radius.
You can adjust this by creating a custom radius, entering a different street address, or dragging the target area; if you want to use this to target specific neighborhoods or areas that aren’t defined by zip codes, this is a great tool that gives you a lot more control.
The second objective we’re going to look at also focuses on targeting local audiences. The new Store Visits objective fits comfortably with the recent business profile update, which can provide users with directions to your business, and I think it’s a great addition to both Facebook and Instagram Ads. We’ve long had the option to encourage online conversions, but for many local businesses driving in-store traffic is crucial.
In order to use the store visits campaign, you need to add business locations in your business manager (which means you need to be using business manager). You can learn more about this here.
If your business has multiple locations, you can create dynamic product ads to send targeted ads to each specific area.
While it’s a bit of a pain to set everything up if you don’t have it already in the system, this objective is 100% worth it for local businesses.
You can use this type of ad to increase and track store traffic. Users will be shown a map of where your business is in relations to themselves, and will also be shown information like estimated travel times, contact information, and store hours.
Video Ad Views
Three weeks ago, Instagram announced that the way video ads are viewed on users’ mobile devices was changing.
Now, when a user un-mutes a video ad on Instagram, they’ll be taken to the ad’s destination URL– but the video won’t stop playing. The video will continue to play at the top of the screen unless a user clicks away from it. This way, a user will be able to scroll through the landing page or site while still watching the video in the background.
Users can also choose to watch the video in fullscreen, ensuring that you’ll have all of their attention.
This new method of showing users videos can potentially increase the number of users clicking to your site, especially customers who may have watched the video but not converted otherwise.
The closer you can get them to converting, the better, and hey- if they’re already there, why not check out your catalog or sign up for your email?
Save Draft Feature
At the end of last month, Instagram released a great feature that marketers who don’t use scheduling software will love- you can now save your posts as a draft and come back to them later. This was a feature that’s been tested for a little while, and just rolled out within the last month.
In order to save your post as a draft, you get the post ready to upload, including selecting an image, filters, and text. Then, when you scroll back to your feed or profile, Instagram will ask you if you want to save your image as a draft. When you select yes, the entire post will be saved. When you go into the posting section in the future, you’ll be able to review and manage all your drafts.
This feature has a few great use cases. The first is that it can be used to get a few days or a week’s worth of posts ready ahead of time, and you’ll just need to post them when they’re supposed to go live. You can also use this feature to review posts before they go live, which is especially useful if you’re supervising or part of a social team.
Aaaaaaand we’re done with October news. These updates are all quick, easy to make and could have a significant impact on the results you’re getting, both now and in the future.
What do you think? What new features are you most excited about? Share your thoughts in the comments at the end of the post!
Or keep on reading, if you want to have a complete overview of what has been going on on Instagram in the last few months!
Instagram September Updates
For those checking in with the new post refresh, this information is still applicable, accurate, and extremely relevant!
This next section goes over all the updates you need to make to your Instagram (if you haven’t already) to maximize engagement, website traffic, followers, and conversions, and at the end of the post is our dedicated section for everything you need to know about the business profile updates.
Instagram’s New Algorithm
In the past few years, Instagram has quickly made its way into a top-ranking social media marketing position, with the majority of businesses signing up for an account in hopes of connecting with their audience there, too.
The platform turned out to be a huge success for marketers, with incredibly high engagement from followers. This is all good news. The good news just might take a dip there, unfortunately.
While more users are continuing to join Instagram, more businesses are too, increasing our competition. This is only more noticeable as Instagram implements its new algorithm, which could potentially take a hard hit on brands’ organic reach (like Facebook) long term.
So what do we as businesses, brands, and marketers should do?
Keeping our engagement up is more important than ever, and while a user’s (or brand’s) actual profile doesn’t normally get a ton of attention on Instagram, it’s more important than some of us think.
In case you haven’t heard, Instagram’s new algorithm has taken effect, and it automatically prioritizes certain content in a users’ newsfeed. They’ll place content that they believe that users will want to see most at the top of that users’ feed.
While this can be good for users by theoretically getting them the content they’re most interested in first, this may not be great for brands. Facebook’s algorithm, which also reorders content based on what they think users will most want to see, have resulted in an insane decline in organic reach over the past few years, as we all know. Now that the business profiles are starting to roll out, it only makes sense that eventually the same will likely happen here. This means that keeping our content and profiles at the top of their game is more important than ever before.
Profile Updates & Changes You Need to Make
Typically, once a user follows you, they may not visit your profile too often afterward; instead, they’re more likely to just interact with your content as it shows up in their feed. Your profile and the information in it is still important; users can click on your profile at any time, and having the right information could encourage them to follow you or to visit your site and even make purchases. To maximize engagement, the number of followers, and potential conversions, there are five changes and updates you should make to your profile (if you haven’t already).
1. Take Advantage of Your Bio Description
This is one of the biggest updates so many businesses need to make; a large number of brands aren’t making use of the bio available for them to fill out, which shows up on the main profile. And by that, I mean they don’t have anything written in at all.
Though plenty of users look at our content more than our profile, that doesn’t mean that it’s not important.
Your bio is an additional place to sell and promote your brand, letting users know who you are and why you’re on Instagram. Even if you only add your business’s motto or tagline, it still helps fill out your profile and contribute to your brand.
The bio will be one of the first things users see if you have it, so you should always take advantage of that to help form a good first impression. You can also use feature a CTA in your bio, like encouraging users to use a hashtag to share UGC.
To add a bio to your profile, click on the “Edit Profile” button on your profile page. Once you do, you’ll immediately see the section aptly labeled “bio.”
Bios can be up to 150 characters but no more, and should represent your brand’s voice. For tips on how to write an amazing brand bio, check out this incredible blog post from Sprout Social.
2. Choose the Best Link
I’ve seen a surprising number of businesses who either don’t place a link on their profile, or they don’t choose the right one that will benefit them the most.
Unlike all other social media sites, Instagram doesn’t let you post links on individual posts. You only get one link period (the exception being Instagram Ads), and that will appear the designated profile area.
With only one place for a link, you have to decide which link will best benefit your business. An obvious choice is to place a link to your website (or, in some cases, a link to a designated landing page on your site). You can also choose a link to your Facebook Page, or to a sellable shop front like those created with third party tools like Have2Have.It.
The key is knowing which link will benefit your business most.
Plenty of big name brands are using the virtual shopfront links (including media sites without sellable, physical products). If you don’t want to use one of these tools, sending users to the homepage or a landing page on your site can help boost conversions.
Unless you’re trying to drive users to a Facebook Page and have an active community already there, I’d advise against linking to a social profile, as it doesn’t hold the same potential for conversions like sales and newsletter sign-ups as the other two.
3. Keep Your Profile Public
This may seem like an obvious change, but it’s plenty easy to have it set to private and not even realize it (I’ve had this happen with not one, not two, but three different clients). You don’t want users to need to follow you to see your content; when they view your profile the first time, you want them to be able to access all of it.
To update or check your privacy status, click on the wheel in the top right-hand corner that leads to your settings. You’ll see the privacy setting halfway down; switch it off to turn your profile public.
4. Keep Your Username Simple
While users can get plenty creative with their names just like the good ole’ myspace days, brands don’t have that option (or at least they shouldn’t exercise it). Keep it real (and simple), if your business is “Luckys Market,” you don’t want your username to be “eat-a-lot_at_luckys.”
If possible, keep your username the same as your Twitter handle. This helps users find and connect with your cross-platform. Along the same lines, it’s also good to have your logo as your Instagram profile picture to drive home the branding and help users know it is, in fact, you.
If you need to change your username, you can adjust it from the same “Edit Profile” screen where you can update your profile picture, off-site link, and bio.
5. Convert to a Business Profile
This feature isn’t available for everyone at the moment, so if you don’t have it, don’t sweat it; I don’t have access yet, either.
When you do have access, though, convert immediately to a Business profile. While there’s the risk that being a brand on Instagram could lower us a bit in the algorithm, it will also give you access to features like the ability to give customers instructions on how to contact you and Instagram’s on-platform analytics. I’m personally dying to get my hands on those numbers.
If you do have access, you can see how to convert your profile to a Business profile here.
Right now, there’s an update the majority of brands (of all sizes) have not made on their Instagram account but definitely should; if you haven’t yet, it’s time to update your Instagram account to a business profile.
The business profile comes with a lot of incredible, too-valuable-to-miss features, and these next few sections are all about how to convert your user profile to a business profile, and how to take advantage of the new benefits.
How to convert a User Profile to a Business Profile
To convert your user Instagram profile (which is what we all start out as), first double check that your profile is public. While plenty of brands already have this setting, you can see how to check a little higher up in this post.
If your profile isn’t public, you can’t convert it to a business profile, which makes sense, and you’ll automatically be pinged with a message letting you know you need to change the settings.
Once you do this, head to the same profile settings area. About halfway down, you’ll see the option to “Switch to a Business Profile.” Once you click on this, you’ll be prompted to connect with Facebook, if you haven’t already. You’ll next be taken to a screen (in Instagram) that shows the Facebook Pages that you’re an admin of.
You must choose one, and you absolutely need to have a Facebook Page in order to convert into a business account. Once you select your Page and press enter, your profile will officially be converted a business profile. Congratulations! 😀
Setting Up Your Business Profile
You’ll notice that your Facebook Page doesn’t necessarily dictate much about your profile (it added that I was a “writer” because that was my type of business Page on Facebook)- I tested to make sure. My profile image for my Page and my Instagram profile were different, and were linked to different websites; this didn’t seem to be a problem for Instagram, though it may interfere with the “clicks to website” metric (an experiment for later on!). If you want to update your profiles to match, I typically think that’s a good idea- it feels more official and uniform.
Updating Contact Information
At this point, you’ll need to update your contact information. You want to add in the information that you want customers to contact you with (it sounds like a no-brainer, but some people don’t even realize what they’re filling out and put their personal cell number instead of the store number), and remember that this is public information.
If at all applicable, you’ll want to add your business’s:
- Email Address
- Phone number (and choose if you want users to contact you via call or text)
Once you do this, you’re pretty much set; all of your old posts, descriptions, and website links from before will still be there, and you’re ready to start taking advantage of everything the business profile has to offer.
Note: Though some of the original documents online say that once you’re a business profile, you can’t switch back, that isn’t true for me. As soon as I convert to a business profile, if you view the settings page again, I have the option to switch back to a personal profile. If you do this, you’ll lose all the analytics data, but as of now, you can change back if you want to.
What Are the Benefits of a Business Profile?
While I think the business profile just looks more official (and yes, that matters big time to users, even if it’s unconscious), there are also some additional iron-clad benefits that I don’t think should be overlooked, and we’ve already touched on two above. To date, the features that provide the biggest advantages are the contact information, the address (and map), and the analytics.
1. Contact Info
Instagram accounts don’t really allow for a lot of self-promotion the way that other platforms do; with the exception of Instagram Ads, you can only put one link on your profile, and that’s it (you can’t even post links on your images). You get a brief description on your main profile page, your links, and a profile picture, and that’s it. There wasn’t a lot of room for contact information before.
Now, not only can you share contact information on your site, making it easier for users to contact you if they wish, there’s actually a blue CTA “Contact” button at the top of your Instagram profile.
Users can click on this button and:
- email you
- call you (not shown here because I haven’t entered in a phone number)
- get directions to your business
This can send more users to you and facilitate conversations. This has a ton of potential to help drive leads and conversions. I think this is an amazing step for Instagram.
Though the address addition falls underneath the “contact info” category, I think it’s important enough to highlight on its own. Any opportunity for local businesses to encourage users to visit them in-store has significant potential.
Here’s the best part: Instagram doesn’t just give you the address (this address is not my actual address, for the record), but it will pull up your store on a map and provide directions to your location.
This does all of the work for users, and with so many of my clients asking me how we can encourage more local customers to visit us on social media, this feature holds a ton of value. Even Facebook doesn’t have something quite like this yet.
And now we come to the analytics (titled “Instagram Insights”). As a few of you may know, I’ve been really excited to get access to these. And they were worth the wait! Your insights can be accessed by clicking on the three bars in the top right-hand corner next to the Settings wheel.
There’re three main sections to the analytics:
- Your weekly report, which includes information on the number of impressions, your reach, and the number of clicks to your site. This makes up the top portion of the screen (right now, this account says 0 because I just activated as a business account- it seems to take some time to register)
- Views on your top posts. You can go into each post individually to view their specific stats, as seen in this image.
- Followers, which will give you demographic information about your audience base. On the account above, I don’t have enough followers (this is my account I use to test examples). This will give you amazing information like what times of the day and when in the week your users are active, as well as their gender, age, and location. Examples are pictured below.
If you want to get information on how specific posts are performing, you can click on them. You’ll see the option to “View Insights” or “Promote” (so if a certain post is doing well, you can promote it right from this screen).
When you view the insights on a specific image, you’ll be able to see when it was posted (down to the minute), as well as its number of impressions, reach, and engagement.
Are There Any Advantages to Not Converting?
As of now, nope. There are no reasons not to convert. I think there might be a chance that we could eventually potentially see business profiles have more struggle with natural organic reach like on Facebook, but for now, the huge benefits (especially the analytics) outweigh that risk.
Being able to provide customers with the best way to contact your business and having those powerful analytics can make Instagram even more valuable in terms of boosting leads, visits to your site (or your store), and sales.
What do you think? Have you converted to a business profile yet? Have you used any of Instagram’s new features? Share your thoughts in the comments below!