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What’s new on Instagram and why it matters for your brand?

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Instagram’s been ringing out the changes recently with lots of new features. But what do they mean for your brand’s social media strategy? With 800 million monthly active users (more than double that of Twitter), Instagram offers the perfect way to build brand personality and a dedicated community. However, in our content saturated world, it’s an ever greater challenge for brands to cut through. Read on for the skinny on the recent Instagram updates and how your business can use them to its advantage.
IGTV – Instagram’s new social video channel
The big ticket news is the launch of IGTV, Instagram’s new long-form video channel. It’s a combination of YouTube with longer video content (up to 60 minutes) and the vertical format of Snapchat or Stories. It’s a stand-alone app but users can also watch the videos from within Instagram itself and a brand’s community will automatically follow their IGTV channel via Instagram. IGTV is very much integrated with Instagram accounts, and therefore brand managers are not building a new community on a new channel from scratch.
How can brands use IGTV? Instagram’s move to longer form content will attract influencers and content creators to the channel so it’s a good opportunity to use those extra minutes of video to pull in your influencers to help reach new audiences.
A great place to start is to experiment with content that you’ve already used on Stories or other video formats. However, if you’re adapting existing content, ensure that you get the format right; it’s 9:16 as opposed to the traditional 16:9 video format. We would encourage brands to start out with shorter content rather than using the whole 60 minutes and test to identify what works for your audience.
Creating algorithm-friendly content
Instagram has no plans to return to the reverse chronological feed, despite the backlash against the shift to the algorithm in 2016. Instead the channel is seeking to educate brands and users about how it works, and in June, Instagram gathered tech journalists together to share some secrets. To start with, it’s useful to know that there is no prioritisation of personal accounts over business accounts or vice versa.
Three key aspects of the algorithm are interest, recency and relationship. In terms of interest, users are more likely to see content by accounts they follow and engage with frequently. With recency, timeliness is also really important, so brands must analyse the best time to post. Relationship is all about how close you are to the person who shared the content as signalled by tagging you in photos and comments.
All in all, it’s back to content marketing basics. In your content plan, identify the topics that your audience are interested in and create relevant content. The 80:20 rule is useful here, with the majority of content focused on being interesting and helpful to your audience and 20% of the content selling your brand. Instagram is trying to identify posts that users like so that it can feed them more of the same, so create content that gets responses; think questions, quick-fire contests, and user generated content to increase engagement. It would be worth trying to show that you have a relationship with users by encouraging them to create their own content and tag your brand in.
Ecommerce comes to Instagram Stories
Most of the UK are just getting into the swing of summertime, but many businesses will already be thinking about Christmas campaigns, and Instagram is a preparing a little pressie for social media managers. Instagram will be rolling out shopping tags in Instagram Stories over the next couple of months after completing a testing phase with selected brands.
Instagram is stepping up its ecommerce capability and has already added collections to Instagram adverts that blend video with product catalogues. Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg said recently:
“Instagram is a business’s visual shop on mobile, and we’re seeing more people seek out businesses there. About two-thirds of the visits to Instagram business profiles are from people who don’t yet follow them. This is how many businesses are finding new customers.”
Social ecommerce is really exciting combining the inspiring visual content of Stories with direct sales. If you run an ecommerce brand, testing these tags on Instagram Stories will be a must-try.
Question stickers come to Instagram Stories
What are question stickers? Glad you asked. They are a new way for users to ask each other questions on Instagram Stories. These are different from poll stickers and emoji sliders which allow users to vote on a poll, as Question Stickers put followers in the driving seat. You can tap the new question sticker and set up a prompt to invite users to ask you a question and then you can create a new Story to answer it with the initial query appearing on your Story for context.
This feature ramps up interactivity on the feed. It is handy for brands as helps them get closer to their audience; use this as a way to show off your expertise by answering questions, crowdsource ideas, and conduct market research to create even more relevant content. If your brand is using influencers, this could be a good opportunity to allow users to get closer to them, or open up your brand by inviting users to pose questions to your team.
A quick word of caution here. When this new feature started, many fans did not realise the questions were not anonymous and posted content that they would not necessarily want to put their name to. The “Ask me a question” can be customised, and therefore you can guide users as to what to ask and as with all social, manage public content.
Is your business winning on Instagram? If you need help growing your brand on Instagram, follow @OggaDoon and get social with us over a cuppa.

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