There’s so much more to Instagram than image sharing, and since its conception, a multitude of amazing features have been added to the social media platform enhancing social media marketing for business. Let’s explore Instagram’s features and the various benefits of each one!

Instagram marketing in 2021: Instagram’s key features

• Single image posts

Single images are what they say on the tin and the O.G. of Instagram. Instagram is a visual platform, so ensure your content is aesthetically pleasing.

Simply edit, trim, filter, and upload your images to Instagram with compelling, cleverly crafted captions and strategically chosen hashtags to generate reach and engagement.

Knowing when to post on Instagram for your business, and at what frequency, is key to achieving strong engagement and growing an Instagram following if you’re primarily posting single image content – make sure it is also of high quality over large quantity.

• Carousel posts

Similarly to Facebook, you can add up to 10 images on an image post to create a carousel. This is ideal if you have more than one killer image to share, or a selection of products to show off. If you have savvy design skills, you can also construct your carousel to be a scrollable infographic, which is great for generating saves, interaction, and engagement.

• Instagram Video

Instagram videos are like Instagram image posts in the sense that they’re uploaded to your feed, and they allow you to upload 60-second videos to your Instagram feed.

Instagram videos make a refreshing change to regular image posts, and their 60 second time limit means that they don’t require much commitment from your followers to give them a watch.

If you’re going to upload a 60 second Instagram video, make sure you use one of our creative and engaging Instagram video ideas.

• Instagram reels

Created by the ‘gram to rival TikTok, Instagram reels are video montages made up of images and 15-second video clips that you have created. They allow room for creative expression and are great for showing your audience a process of how something was made or offering a compelling, snappy piece of content such as ‘a day in the life,’ or a quick tutorial.

When creating your reel, you can overlay music and sound to your reel, set a timer to record any of your clips hands-free, use the reels ‘align’ tool to line up objects for a smooth transition between clips, speed up or slow down a video’s pace, and add AR effects and filters to your reel.

If you’re unsure just how reels work and look, Instagram’s Explore page is a great place to find them to get inspiration and ideas for content for your own reel.

• IGTV

IGTV is a platform within the Instagram app allowing businesses to upload videos that are up to an hour-long. This gives your company a ‘TV channel’ so to speak, featuring ‘episodes,’ that you have created and uploaded.

This feature could be utilised by non-profit or charity organisations with documentary-style videos or could be used to share long-form interviews or tutorials with key creators and influencers within your business niche, or even for showcasing your new products and services at a more in-depth level.

Your followers will be notified when you share a new video on IGTV, and all your ‘TV episodes’ will sit on your feed underneath the IGTV icon.

• Lives

Going live on the gram generates authenticity because the content is more raw, less staged, and a bit rougher around the edges. You can go live on your stories and your followers will receive a push notification alerting them that you’re live!

Instagram Lives are ideal for showcasing behind-the-scenes peaks, streaming events you’re attending, and updating your followers in real-time. Note that the video is gone once you’ve finished, which gives followers an incentive to jump on and join you while they can.

• Stories

Stories are video clips and images that are viewable for 24 hours, and you can use your most favourable stories to create highlights by simply opting to add a story of your choice to a highlight reel on your profile. Each clip you upload is 15 seconds long. If you upload a video that is longer than this, it will all be uploaded, yet it will be broken down into clickable 15-second snippets.

Stories are ideal for content that doesn’t make the cut as an in-feed post, for promoting and sharing user-generated content and providing quick updates to your followers. Stories appear at the top of your follower’s feeds so they are an absolute must for building and maintaining an Instagram presence.

Furthermore, you can add call-to-actions to Instagram stories, such as ‘shop now’ stickers and links to your products using Instagram shopping.

That’s not all – you can add GIFs to stories to inject personality, and run interactive, engagement-enhancing polls and questions which are a great tool for finding out what your customers want.

• Highlights

Highlights are stories that you have selected to be permanently accessible (unless you remove them from your highlights, which you can do at any time) to online Instagram users beyond the 24-hour time limit allocated to the Instagram stories feature.

Your highlights act as ‘channels,’ and are accessible to followers and users from your Instagram profile. A best practice is to organise your highlights into categories and upload your relevant stories into their correct category.
Popular highlights include FAQs, product previews (often broken down into additional highlights by product type, e.g. bags, shoes) how-to’s, about us, reviews, and user-generated content.

Highlights make it easier for your potential customers to understand your company and they break down any barriers that may prevent an Instagram user from purchasing from you or converting in some way.

• Filters

Businesses and creators can create filters and AR effects to use on stories. Having your own branded filters is great for business presence and awareness building on the app. As a (very, very) loose example, a bathroom emporium company could create a filter for stories featuring moving bubbles (and who wouldn’t love that?)

• Guides

Instagram guides are a hybrid of Insta feed posts and blog content.

They allow businesses to create a scrollable, shoppable product guide which is shared in-feed and also sits within the guides tab on their profiles.

To create an Instagram guide of your own, you can choose from the following 3 formats:

1. Places: recommend places in your city and beyond (fantastic for tourism and hospitality companies)
2. Products: Recommend your favourite products (from your store or other peoples, products must be available on Instagram Shopping)
3. Posts: Recommend posts you created or saved

You can then add your own captions and commentary and express your brand persona, voice, and tone to your audience.

A great place to start with Instagram guides is curating a guide of new products you have released and launched every month.

• Tagged posts

Users can tag your profile and all material you are tagged in will appear under the tagged icon on your Instagram profile.

This is a brilliant place for your UGC to be collated and having content here strengthens your social proof. So ensure you are encouraging user-generated content from your customer base.

• Paid Ads

As well as creating Facebook Ads that run across Instagram from Facebook Ad Manager, you can promote your ad directly from your Instagram feed. You can choose your own audience, budget, and campaign goal.

This is the best option for accelerating your growth and boosting your awareness on Instagram as it places your company, products, or services in front of your target customers who may otherwise not have found you and your content organically.

Why not read more about social media advertising?

• Instagram shopping

Having Instagram shopping allows you to tag your products with clickable links directly to the product point of purchase online – could you make it any easier for your followers to buy an item from you?! We’re guessing not!

When you have utilised Instagram shopping you can create your own product guides and have your own clickable shop button on your profile within the app and an online social catalogue!

You can also curate product collections allowing you to categorise products by themes.

The US has introduced Facebook Pay, meaning that customers can check out on Instagram rather than having to click through to your website, so it won’t be long before the feature is rolled out here in the UK. In the US, you can also maximise the reach of your products by creating a paid ad in Ads Manager featuring your tagged products or boosting shoppable posts.

Want more Instagram marketing advice and tips? Here is some related reading:

How to beat the updated Instagram algorithm in 2021

Why is social media engagement so important?