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Unlocking Instagram Features to Boost Your Business Marketing

Unlocking Instagram Features to Boost Your Business Marketing

Staying abreast of the changes to Instagram can boost your marketing efforts on this ever-evolving social media platform. Their steady cadence of updated features and functions has helped grow their active monthly users from six to seven hundred million in the first four months of 2017, roughly twice as many users as Twitter.  Because they have been rolling out new stuff every month or so since mid-2016 (far more than the average for most platforms), you need to update your Instagram marketing strategies to keep up.

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First, a word on the low, low bounce rates.

Marketers have seen near zero bounce rates from leads generated from Instagram, primarily because users that eventually end up on the website had to do several clicks before they get there. This is a clear indication of an engaged audience, and therefore high quality traffic. An Instagram campaign may not yield impressive click-through rates, but the conversion rates once users are on the website is higher than for other platforms.

In the beginning, it was all personal.

Back in the day, Instagram accounts were all personal, even if you were a business. Sure, you could include a “Visit page” button after several clicks, but that was it.

Around mid-2016, Instagram rolled out Instagram Business accounts, where you could add a contact button on their profiles and measure engagement using Insights. Creating an account and accessing Insights is free, although you do have to pay to promote the post, just like in Facebook. Some instagrammers changed their personal account to business in order to use all its benefits. Additionally, the switching feature allows you to manage multiple accounts (up to 6) on one device without having to log out. Simply toggle from one account to the other using the switching button at the bottom left hand corner of the screen.

Some people are critical of the value of a business account on Instagram, stating that it will choke off organic traffic unless you pay to promote a post. While this is a possibility for startups with no followers, established users are not going to be affected as much.  However, startups with no followers could get a boost from promoting some posts, as this will put them front and center with the target audience that may not happen organically.

The Art of Storytelling.

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It is now possible to post longer videos (up to a minute long) on Instagram, giving you more time to engage with existing and new followers.  In addition, you can now curate views for each video, so your followers don’t have to “like” a video for it to count in your Key Performance Indicator, or KPI.

Photo carousels were actually introduced in 2015, but they were limited to 5 photos meant for ads. In 2016, Instagram added videos in the postable content. In February 2017, this was expanded to 10 photos or videos you can swipe left or right, and it is open to all users.

Being able to tell a cohesive story or share an interesting experience for your business is a great way to develop and foster a relationship with your audience, especially if the content is not branded.  It is also a great way to show a tutorial, or present highlights of a certain product, event, or place. This feature is available on iOS and Android devices and it is easy enough to use.

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Ephemeral tools - so hot right now. 

First, there was Stories, and now there is Direct, a private messaging tool where you can send threaded messages to one or more people. You can choose to send:

  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Feed posts
  • Profiles
  • Text
  • Hashtags
  • Locations
  • Disappearing photos and videos

The last one is especially interesting from a marketing point of view. If you choose “Disappearing photos and videos” when sending your message, your recipients can only view them twice before they disappear. If this sounds familiar, then you know about  Snapchat.

Instagram has also added a feature called Live, which comes very close to simulating “hanging out.” When a user streams a Live video, selected followers are alerted so they can watch and jump in on the action as it happens by commenting, showing reactions, and tap encouragement if the broadcaster allows it.  Once the stream stops, however, there is no way to replay it unless you record it. The broadcaster does have the option to save it to the camera roll, which can then be posted on other platforms such as YouTube.

The benefits of these ephemeral features to business are the same for Snapchat, formerly the most popular of the “Hey, presto!” social media posts: fostering a sense of urgency and exclusivity, and activating FOMO (the "fear of missing out.") The participatory nature of Live, in particular, can also help you engage with your audience in real time. You can expect that conversions from these types of posts when promoting a product or an event will be higher than usual.

And now, and word about security.

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Not as exciting as live streams, but equally important, is the beefed-up security of the platform.  Social media account hacking is a very real threat. This is especially important if you use it as part of your marketing strategy, because you don’t want your account flooded by unwanted or inappropriate content.

Instagram implemented 2FA or two-factor authentication protocols, which requires you to input a code sent to your smart phone when logging into your Instagram account on a new device.  This makes it harder for a hacker to get into your account. Note, however, that this is an optional feature; you have to activate it in the account settings menu.

Change can be confusing, but progress isn’t possible without it. Instagram is proving its dedication to the user experience by rapidly rolling out this slew of updates and new features. While its ultimate goal may be retention and market penetration, it does not detract from the benefits it offers its users, especially you marketers.

About the author:  Laura Buckler is writer for,  blogger, marketing consultant, and avid social media user. She makes a point of monitoring new things that happen in the marketing world in connection with social media. She likes dogs and LOL cat videos.

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