Despite the scrutiny its parent company has faced the last two years, Instagram has risen from the fray to become one of the world’s most popular and influential social platforms. Want proof? Just last month, the photo and video sharing network crossed the threshold of 1 billion monthly active users, a major milestone in the company’s eight-year history.
As its meteoric growth continues, Instagram is constantly finding new ways to innovate or adapt popular trends to outlast its competition. The platform is rolling out new features and tools that brand marketers should be paying close attention to.
What are some of them and how do they work? We’ve outlined a few key updates that could prove to be beneficial branding tools for companies looking to reach Instagram’s massive and growing user base.
IGTV arrives to rethink television on mobile
Watch out YouTube, IGTV is here.
Instagram introduced the new feature in June, which allows users the capability to share videos up to one hour in length. Originally an application that featured only photos, Instagram first added functionality to post short-form video in 2013.
Instagram stated the decline of traditional television viewing in favor of mobile video as a main reason behind the launch of IGTV. The social media network noted that 78 percent of total mobile traffic is projected to be generated by video in the next three years.
IGTV can be accessed in two ways: either directly within Instagram or via a standalone application on a user’s mobile device. Upon opening IGTV, users are shown videos from other creators they follow with no need to browse or search for content. The feature isn’t available for users browsing Instagram on desktop/laptop computers.
Brands no doubt are already exploring ways in which they can use IGTV to their advantage. However, it’s worth noting that paid advertising is one feature that’s not yet available. During a launch event for the new platform, Instagram CEO Kevin Cystrom didn’t rule out of the possibility of ads coming to IGTV in the near future. Here are some of what Systrom said via TechCrunch:
“There’s no ads in IGTV today,” says Systrom, but he says it’s “obviously a very reasonable place [for ads] to end up.” He explained that since creators are investing a lot of time into IGTV videos, he wants to make that sustainable by offering them a way to monetize in the future. Instagram isn’t paying any creators directly for IGTV videos either, like Facebook did to jump-start its flopped Facebook Watch video hub.”
For years, many professional users have clamored for Instagram to add the functionality of prescheduling posts to the platform. Their wishes were finally granted when the app updated its API to allow business associated profiles to do just that.
Though it’s an improvement over the previous status quo, the new update still has some limitations. Currently, only single photo posts can be scheduled for automated sharing. Other content such as carousel and video posts must still be posted manually.
Additionally, the functionality to preschedule posts doesn’t exist within the Instagram app or web platform. Instead, users have to link their accounts to a trusted third-party social media management platform such as Hootesuite, Sprout Social or Sprinklr. A complete list of approved partners can be found here.
eCommerce and Advertisement Updates
Considering how visual Instagram is, it was only a matter of time before the social network added shopping functionality for businesses that sell products and services. Shopping posts make it simple for professional accounts to turn their profiles into a visual storefront for their followers to access.
The feature was first available to nine countries, including the US, upon its release in March. It’s since expanded to 34 more countries, mostly in Europe. Further information on Instagram’s new shopping capability can read here.
Instagram has also added capability to promote organically shared posts with advanced advertising. Previously, it was only possible to promote organically shared content using the app’s promote button. Now business account users can utilize the capabilities of Facebook Ads manager to run brand awareness, post engagement, reach, and video view campaigns according to WeRSM. At the moment, advertising is only possible for single photos and videos, not carousel, stories, branded and shopping posts.
There’s so much to be excited about if you’re a brand that counts Instagram as a major piece to your marketing strategy. The aforementioned new features are just a snapshot of some of the platform’s newest developments. There’s certainly going to be much more to come that will have a huge impact on the marketing landscape.