Latest Instagram Updates and a Quick Start Guide to Advertising
Advertising on Instagram can be a difficult thing — it’s an extremely saturated platform that is constantly changing in order to maintain an increasingly fickle userbase.
However, if executed correctly, Instagram advertising can (and should) be a crucial part of your business’ revenue.
With a lot of changes in the last year and even more to come in 2022, advertising on Instagram has more ways to get your product or service in front of a primed, interested audience than before, but with all the new features and the changing tastes of people (read: TikTok), it can be overwhelming to dive into the world of Instagram advertising.
Not to worry! We’ve compiled some of the biggest changes to Instagram over the last year, and how to plan your marketing approach toward this crucial marketing channel.
In this article, we will cover the current state of Instagram, some big-picture strategic decisions that affect the app, all the important changes the team has made to the app recently and finally offer a bullet-point guide to get your ads up and running ASAP.
The New Rival: TikTok
There’s no question that TikTok has serious lasting power. With its quick, digestible videos, incredibly easy-to-use interface, easily shareable and mimicable trends, and of course, a large preponderance of Gen Z users — TikTok has quickly become a heavyweight in the world of video sharing for users and advertisers alike.
The folks over at Meta (Instagrams’s parent company) have definitely noticed the growing power that TikTok has in what was previously their uncontested ground: photo and video social media. With TikTok’s surging numbers and engagement, the Instagram team has spent the last year hell-bent on maintaining Instagram’s competitiveness in this space (read: copying everything that works on TikTok).
Instagram has always been good at reacting to potential competitors. We saw this first with the introduction of Stories in reaction to Snapchat’s growth, and this year, we saw the creation of Reels as a way to imitate the short bursts of content created on TikTok. The introduction of Stories changed platform significantly and how advertisers can place their ads on the platform, and we have seen that Reels has been no different.
In 2021, Instagram only went further in chasing TikTok, not only re-adjusting the company’s focus and attention from a strategic level, but also rolling out new features that directly affect the user experience.
- Bye-bye Photo
Last June, Instagram Product Head Adam Mossieri said that the app was “pivoting towards video and shopping” and away from the photo-sharing app that Instagram made its name on. Instagram already rolled out its Shopping in 2021, and now they’re really pushing video by releasing new video-based formats like Reels and enhancing connectivity and interaction with existing video formats like stories, interactive ads and more.
All this is to say, Instagram wants to be a video-focused shopping platform, so expect to see engagement on photo posts decreasing whilst engagement on video content and shopping activations rising. It’s an absolute no-brainer to weigh your advertising strategy towards these two explicit goals of Instagram, and away from (but not entirely avoiding) photo content.
- Reels as the way forward
Perhaps the most obvious example of Instagram chasing that sweet, sweet TikTok money, Instagram launched Reels in August 2020 as a direct response to TikTok’s (and before that, Vine, (RIP)) 15-second punchy, interactive, repeatable video format.
Although they haven’t specifically said whether they weight towards Reels or not, Instagram obviously really really wants Reels to succeed as their newest format. They would be silly not to encourage users to use the platform by rewarding them with an easier path to engagement, just as they did when they rolled out video content on the platform.
What we do know is that the Reels are here to stay and Instagram is seeing them as the most crucial aspect of their platform going forward.
So how do you take advantage of this? Well, you use Reels, but more importantly — you post consistently. Instagram have repeated ad nauseum that consistent posting and engagement on the platform is rewarded with higher visibility — so ensure that you are highlighting Reels as a crucial part of your Instagram advertising strategy in 2022.
Here’s more about TikTok vs. Instagram Reels
- Death of the hashtag
Hashtags are so 2010. Hence why Instagram is doing away with them. Okay, maybe not doing away with them entirely, but they have explicitly said that they are no longer placing algorithmic importance on hashtags the way they used to.
Instead, Instagram will be using keywords in written captions as a way to help connect people with things they want to see, so focus on writing captions with key phrases or words, rather than jamming up your entire feed with 2000 hashtags of increasing irrelevance.
Important New Features In 2021
Instagram consistently rolls out updates, tweaks and changes to their constantly-evolving platform. Here’s some of the most important features they rolled out in 2021 that will affect the Instagram ecosystem for years to come.
- Deleting single photos from carousels.
After much demand, Instagram has introduced the option to delete single photos from carousel posts. Given that Instagram carousel posts typically earn 1.4x more reach and 3.1x more engagement than regular posts, this is good news for social media managers who want to refine their strategy, or simply go back and delete an accidental upload.
It is interesting to think, though, that a push towards video might mean making carousels obsolete. We’ll keep an eye on that for you.
- Using desktop to upload photo and video
Another long-demanded feature finally comes to fruition — the ability to upload photo and video locally via desktop. Since its inception, Instagram has been a mobile-native platform, only giving you the ability to look at and engage with posts on their platform, which is a huge pain in the neck to designers, editors, animators and other creative professionals who are creating media on a desktop computer.
Although this seems like a minor fix, the ability to upload directly to Instagram will come as a huge quality-of-life improvement for creative teams with lots of deliverables, allowing for a more efficient use of time and manpower and increasing the speed at which you can get ads up and running.
It’s important to note that Reels and Stories are unavailable, which makes sense as they are mobile-native formats.
- Link Stickers
Previously only available for accounts with more than 1000 followers, Instagram will now allow people to add a Link Sticker to their stories, so interested audience members can immediately take action on a story to learn more, take a quiz, or make a purchase, for example.
While everyone has access to adding a “swipe up” action at the bottom of a story, Instagram’s UI means that oftentimes it gets lost in the midst of a chaotic, fast-paced swipe through a collection of highly-visual stories.
With this feature, your CTA is direct, large and easily clicked, improving CTRs and conversions in a single sticker. Make sure you include this in any and all Reels or Stories focused on conversions
- “Add yours” Sticker
Another direct result of competing with TikTok, Instagram has just rolled out an “add yours” sticker, which allows users to directly chain their content to other, relevant content, in the same way that TikTok has videos that are then copied and reposted by other users in their own way. This sticker will allow memes or trends to be easily copied and propagated between users in the same way TikTok does.
You can incorporate this in your advertising plan by seeking out relevant trends to your audience and creating content that can then play within these already-established memes. Having influencers take a trend and work your brand into it is a common and effective way of utilizing these existing trends into a tongue-in-cheek branding opportunity.
Quick Start Guide
Completely, totally, brand new to Instagram advertising? Here’s a quick guide to get you started.
- Set your budget
- How much are you willing to spend on this campaign? Identify what you have available to dedicate executing a successful ad.
- Identify your audience
- Who is your customer? What is their age, race, gender, etc.? What are their interests, and so on? The more closely you hone in on who your audience really is (and it takes some testing!), the more effective your ads will be.
- Select your Instagram format
- Which format is most important to you? This largely depends on your audience. For example, younger audiences tend toward Reels + Stories; older audiences toward Feed. Maybe you’re creating content only for your Shopping page, so the images may be more product-oriented.
- Which format you choose all depends on your budget, audience and goals, but generally speaking, it makes sense to maximize your budget by
- Create your content
- Pay attention to where your content is going to live. If it’s Reels or Stories ads, you’ll have to shoot it on your phone, or maybe you collaborate with an influencer. For Feed ads, you might want to spend a bit more on production.
- Launch the campaign
- Create a new campaign for your ads and get them live by posting them directly into the Instagram app through your business account! Huzzah! The hard part is done.
- Track, analyze, optimize
- Possibly the most important part of the campaign — optimization and learning. Use the analytics dashboard inside Instagram to learn about how your ads are doing. You can then use this information to rework your current ads while also gaining valuable data about your customers and what they respond to. for creating and deploying your next set.