How can brands make the most out of Instagram’s latest features?

Posted by Daniela Hamill

Instagram is approaching its first decade and the time of the ‘Valencia’ filter and waiting to get over 11 likes seems like a lifetime ago. But, as the #10YearChallenge in which many of us took part in at the end of 2019 suggests we all may have had a slight ‘glow up’, and Instagram is no exception to that. Insta has been rolling out many weird and wonderful updates and features on the app since its launch. The question is how can businesses benefit from Instagram’s newest features?

Figures show that over one billion people now use Instagram every month – 95 million posts are shared and 500 million ‘grammers are using Instagram stories each day. A blog on AdEspresso by Hootsuite revealed that approximately 200 million of those users visit one business profile per day. 

We’ve selected the top three of the latest Instagram features that are simple and easy for businesses to use as part of their Instagram strategy.

 

Instagram filters catch up to Snapchat

Since Snapchat rolled out its dog ears filter in 2015 filters have been part and parcel of most social media activity especially when selfies, dogs and posh brunches are involved. Instagram Stories now has a range of filters to use, from classic retro film filters and fun prediction generators. 

While story filters probably appeal more to personal accounts, it doesn’t mean there’s no room for businesses to give them a try. Of course, like any feature, it depends on the industry, your target audience and Instagram theme as to whether these would be appropriate to your business and social strategy. 

One of the best prediction generators that I have seen (and used) on Instagram is from Waitress the Musical, which revealed which character from the musical you are. Now I may be a little biased because I loved the show but it is a great example of how a business profile sparked up a bit of creative fun to get its fans and followers involved. 

A word of caution, as fun as it is to use a prediction generator to see what the MD is going to be ‘doing’ this year, it’s important to stay consistent and true to your brand.

However unlike other social media platforms there’s plenty of scope to be more creative on Instagram, rather than being too corporate. People expect creativity and a great aesthetic on Instagram so it’s a good platform to trial what is popular amongst your followers, and if story filters work then you can add these to your weekly Insta schedules.

To access the filters, click the camera icon on the top left right corner on your Instagram feed. Where the capture button is, slide right to scroll through some of the filters that are available. When you get to the end, there’s a search button where you can see all of the filters there are, and you can also search for specific ones you want to try. You can ‘try it’ or can download the filter so that you don’t have to search for it again as it will appear to the left of the original capture button when it comes to adding a story again.

 

Click to give with Insta’s new donation button

The donation button first became apparent to me during the peak of the Australian bushfires back in January. It enabled people to add a donate sticker to their stories which linked to a chosen charity. It provided a quick and convenient way to donate. Once a person donates, they will then be able to add the same button with the same link to their own story.

As businesses look to become more socially responsible and engaged with purpose-driven comms, the donate feature is a good way to share what you care about, and why you care, with your customers. For example: if you have a yearly charity that you support, it’s a good way of reminding your followers of the charity and how they can get involved by donating themselves. Or, if you have a one off fundraising event/activity you are doing for a charity, then it can be used to raise money for that too.

To use the donation app, go onto ‘your story’ and add/take the image that you want to use. Click the stickers button (the square with the face in the top right corner) and select the donation button. There’ll be a list of popular charities and non-profit organisations that you can choose or you can search for the different ones. A sticker will then be added on to your story saying ‘HELP SUPPORT *chosen charity*’ and an active donation link will be available to your story viewers. Like other stickers, you can move the donation sticker around the page and can change the size of it by pinching it in on the screen. 

 

Build excitement with the countdown sticker

Another new feature for Instagram stories is the countdown sticker, which allows you to add in the date and time of a particular event/day/occasion and it will say how many months, days and hours there are until it.

It’s a fun feature and one that can be beneficial to businesses, but only when it’s used correctly. The key is to not overuse this feature so much that your followers get bored of it. If you’re using this feature for the same event/date every day then it takes away the point of the countdown button. Staggering out when you use the countdown is when you’ll build the excitement around the date. For example: a nice way of using it for a big event three months down the line is by using it once a month on the run up to make people aware of the event and gather some momentum around it without overstraining it. This can be more flexible when the event gets nearer – post a countdown update a week or so before the event and then the day before the event. 

The amount of times you use the countdown button does come down to the size, importance and relevance of the event to your followers. Take internal team days as an example. Followers may be interested in what the team is doing and behind-the-scenes transparency does work well on Insta, but they probably won’t be too invested in counting down to a team day that they’re not going to be involved in or can get excited about.

To add this to your story, follow the same steps as the donation button and add the countdown button instead. You will then be able to add a name of the thing that you’re counting down to and the date that it is on. It will then add this to your story and viewers will be able to see how long it is until your event/milestone etc.

What’s next for Instagram?

A recent article in Business Insider revealed that the majority of Americans don’t know that Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp, and this is probably similar for the UK too. Facebook has come under much scrutiny in the past few years with the rise in privacy concerns and how the platform has been using user data, resulting in an influx of people ditching the app. Surprisingly though, Instagram user numbers have been on the up. Perhaps because people view Instagram as less cluttered, easier to use and with fewer ads, or at least, fewer random ads.

As Facebook’s popularity decreases, the platform is losing ad revenue making the pay to play model increasingly unaffordable for most micro and small businesses. It’s unclear whether Instagram will steer this way but if it does this could mean that businesses are forced off yet another platform, limiting social marketing options. 

On the non- ad front Instagram shows no signs of slowing down its services and new features, and this new set of options is not going to be the last. And, as technology advances even further over the next decade, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on what else the app has to offer and how it can boost creativity in your social media strategies.