Instagram turned 11 in 2021, and like any pre-teen, the social media giant is undergoing some serious changes.
Granted, the app launched in 2010 with a photo of founder Kevin Systrom’s dog—which might lead some to believe we haven’t actually come that far—but over a decade later, Instagram now sees 1.4 billion monthly users. Eighty-one percent use the app to research products and services, and 090% of users follow businesses. Eighty-three percent say Instagram helps them discover new products and services.
All in all, if your business is not on Instagram, it’s a major red flag.
To help you navigate the app’s newest developments and further optimize these features in your 2022 communications strategy, check out these tips:
1. “Add Yours” sticker helps Instagram Stories go viral.
On Nov. 1, Instagram rolled out a new, interactive “Add Yours” sticker, designed to create viral chains of content through Instagram Stories – and sparked a major opportunity to drive engagement. “Add Yours” is exactly what it sounds like; users can add their own Stories to a thread of content based on a certain topic specified by the creator, e.g., add on a photo of your favorite vacation destination.
The sticker, designed for collaboration, can also be seen as a way to discover like-minded users and brands. By clicking on the “Add Yours” sticker in someone’s IG Story, users will be able to see everyone who has taken part in the chain, as the topic specific “Add Yours” content will be housed together (similar to the way hashtags keep content together). From there, users and brands can easily connect with one another.
2. All Instagrammers gain access to Story link stickers.
One of the most profound recent announcements was the launch of Instagram’s Story link stickers.
Introduced in September as a means to replace the “Swipe Up” feature, the stickers were originally rolled out for accounts with over 10,000 followers. However, in October 2021, Instagram made the Story link stickers available to every single user—a true game-changer for small businesses, brands and content creators worldwide who can now link their stories directly to external websites.
3. Users can stir up Instagram strategy through ‘Collabs.‘
“Collab,” another one of Instagram’s newest features, enables users to co-author Instagram Feed Posts and Reels, unlocking an entirely new way to reach untapped audiences. Through “Collabs,” anyone can invite a fellow Instagram user to collaborate on a Post/Reel, whether it’s a business or personal profile, and the post will appear on both IG profiles.
This way, business, brands and content creators will be able to share views, likes and comments—allowing them to engage with each other’s audiences. Instagram anticipates this new feature will inspire a rise in collaborations, particularly in the realm of educational content.
4. Instagram enables ussers to post to Instagram via desktop.
Yet another announcement made by Instagram in October was the option to share photo and video content via desktop computers (Stories and Reels cannot be shared through PCs—yet). For social media managers, entrepreneurs, content creators and users that regularly create visual assets through design software on their computers, posting to Instagram from their PCs could save time and improve overall efficiency.
5. Text-to-speech has made its way to Instagram Reels.
If you’ve used TikTok in the past year, you’re familiar with the Siri-like robotic voice that converts text to audio—a popular feature now available on Reels.
In October, Instagram Reels began rolling out the text-to-speech feature, with two different automated voices to choose from. The new feature is a great way for businesses and content creators to be creative with video storytelling with audio that showcases brand personality, highlights product features and benefits, adds humor to videos, allows for tutorials and more.
6. Instagram merges IGTV and Feed videos.
Instagram top exec Adam Mosseri had hinted at a more “simplified video experience” for months and by merging feed videos and IGTV into a single format, dubbed “Instagram Videos.”
Instagram now provides a clearer distinction between regular videos and Reels. To support the change, Instagram added a new Video tab, which replaced the old IGTV tab on a user’s profile. So, what does all of this mean for users? Technically, that things are a bit more streamlined. Now there are now four (versus five) video functionalities on Instagram: Instagram Stories, Instagram Reels, Instagram Video and Instagram Live.
7. Instagram Posts can drive traffic directly to WhatsApp—and sales.
Businesses can now connect their WhatsApp business account directly to Instagram by adding a WhatsApp business number to their contact information.
This allows brands to boost posts that drive customers to message them directly on WhatsApp. Boosting a post that leads viewers to WhatsApp allows businesses to reach more people through personalized messages. This feature was developed after Instagram noticed businesses were utilizing third-party tools to drive Instagram ads to WhatsApp business accounts.
COMING SOON: Instagram is developing a vertical TikTok-inspired feed for Stories.
Instagram is currently working to reconfigure the way users view Stories by shifting Stories into a vertical format (TikTok style). Right now, users browse through Stories by tapping or swiping horizontally—a feature Instagram adopted from Snapchat years ago.
As it stands, swiping vertically feels more natural to most, as it’s how users navigate the mobile web and many other apps. Migrating to a vertical feed also allows Instagram to further adopt its video-first strategy and compete with TikTok. This change will result in a shift away from static posts on Stories as Instagram will prioritize video over photo content through its algorithm.
Note: Instagram is still rolling out some of these updates worldwide, so if you don’t have all of these functionalities yet, sit tight – they’re coming!
Jessica Goswami is director of integrated media at Schwartz Media Strategies, based in Miami Florida.