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New Instagram Updates and Features That You Need To Know (2021)

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Have You Heard? New Instagram Features Are Here to Up Your 2021 Marketing Game! 

In our previous list of Instagram updates, we summarized the updates Instagram introduced in 2020. Since then, there are several more updates that have been rolled out, or are going to be rolled out. Some of these latest updates are still at a planning or testing stage, but they will no doubt be introduced soon.  

As business owners, these updates will be essential for your marketing strategy. You’ll need to know about them in order to ensure that they figure into your plans, or that they don’t interfere in your marketing programme. 

Here are some of the latest Instagram updates for businesses as of March 2021 that you should be taking note of if your brand is on the platform. 

Top Instagram Updates You Need to Know As of March 2021

These are the relevant updates that Instagram has prepared for you as a business owner or creator on the platform. On the whole, these updates are meant to make your operations and marketing strategies much easier and smoother. 

To be an effective marketer on Instagram, you should spend at least a bit of time experimenting, exploring and understanding these new features, so that they can assist you in reaching out to make your strategies work better. 

Professional Dashboard for Business and Creators

This new feature is available for all Business and Creator accounts, including accounts owned by influencers – which is accessible on the main account as a link just above your profile photo. 

The Professional Dashboard doesn’t actually introduce a brand new feature for business owners and creators.

Instead, it is a centralized platform on which professional accounts can launch and track their marketing strategies. 

The consolidation of Instagram’s marketing tools in one central location will no doubt save you plenty of time and effort.

Now instead of needing to click all over your profile for your marketing campaign, you can launch and track everything from Instagram’s Professional Dashboard. 

So once you’ve clicked on the ‘View Professional Dashboard’ link on your main page, you’ll be brought to the main dashboard screen, where you can see three main features.

These are ‘Track Your Performance’, ‘Grow Your Business’ and ‘Stay Informed’.

Let’s explore what each of these features have for you.

The 3 Key Features of the Instagram Professional Dashboard


Key Features #1

Track Your Performance

The ‘Track Your Performance’ section starts off with an important graph showing how many IG users interacted with your posts in the last 30 days or so.

Apart from that there is a link which will take you to the rest of your Instagram account analytics, called ‘Insights’. 

Although the Instagram insights feature is nothing new, and you can actually access it from another link on your main account site, this section is actually pretty useful. 

This is because you can now make quick decisions based on the key performance index, which is your engagement rates. This is important for the next section, ‘Grow Your Business’.


Key Features #2

Grow Your Business

The second section has all the important tools for you to launch marketing campaigns.

This includes setting up IGTV ads, story ads, branded content and more. Although the tools to create marketing content isn’t new, you now can see and access all of them at one go.

You can also discover any new content making tools you’ve never tried before in this section. 

More importantly, there’s an option for you to track whether any of your content is eligible for monetization, and what you can do to make sure that your content can be monetized in the future. 

This is also the section where you can find key creator tools like Instagram live badges, Instagram Shop, Instagram Checkout and others. 


Key Features #3

Stay Informed

This section is filled with curated videos, tutorials, articles and guides to help you bring your Instagram content to the next level.

If you’re new to the business of marketing on Instagram, this section will really benefit you as you’ll learn some of the tried and tested content production methods. 

Additionally, if you’re out of ideas on what to post to promote your business, this section also offers inspiration and ideas, some of which are pretty out of the box. 

The Instagram Professional Dashboard is full of features that you can discover as you look around its links.

It also allows you to discover possibilities of partnerships in order to reach a different set of target audiences. 

A short tour of Instagram’s Professional Dashboard. Source: Ghems Tutor

Vertical Stories For A More Natural Reel

Currently, all Instagram stories are displayed and played in a horizontal order, that is, from left to right.

Users who want to skip and play the next story will usually tap on the screen, and the story on the right will play. 

Now however, Instagram has been revealed to be working on vertical stories.

This means that stories will now play from top to bottom.

This is similar to TikTok – where the TikTok feed plays content one after the other in a vertical fashion. 

One key reason for this, according to Instagram themselves, is that vertical scrolling is more natural than scrolling from left to right or horizontally. 

Instagram however, has been silent on when this new feature is going to roll out.

Right now, it is still very much in its developmental stages – there isn’t even a demo online yet. 

The first person who spotted this was mobile developer Alessandro Paluzzi, who shared his findings on his Twitter account.

Instagram later confirmed that they were indeed working on this feature, but did not say much more.

The first tweet about Instagram’s vertical stories. Source: @alex193a

This move is said to be in the works also because Instagram wants to attract TikTok users to the platform, Instagram story reels hopes to create a more dynamic side to its story content

Which is now considered very ‘stiff’ and static in comparison to TikTok. 

The new vertical display is also said to encourage more short clips as content, as opposed to single pictures which are the norm right now.

The Vertical Stories feature will apparently make it a lot easier to record, edit and upload video clips. 

A news bite about IG’s vertical stories. Source: Channel IAM-English

Instagram’s interest in exploring vertical scrolling video content is in response to the decline in traditional picture based story formats.

They are expected to introduce a transition phase where both pictures and videos are accommodated. 

However, as time goes along, it’s expected that this vertical stories feed or reel will focus more on short videos.

This current trend of preferring videos to static images is nothing new.

It can be seen in the popularity of TikTok, as well as Snapchat’s latest feature called Spotlight

As a brand, this means that you’ll have to update your video creation skills and possibly improve on your video making techniques, so that when the updates are rolled out you will be confident in your short video making knowledge. 

In addition to knowing the technical aspects of making videos, you can also be prepared with various ideas on how to effectively make those videos attractive to users and the target audience.

This way, if and when the vertical stories roll out, you won’t be caught off guard. 

The Removal of the Option To Share Feed Posts in Stories

In mid-January 2021, Instagram began sending out messages to selected users.

This message was to test out a new feature for their stories, whereby users were now disallowed from sharing their feed content on stories. 

This news was shared by Matt Navarra, a well known social media consultant.

It was first posted on his Twitter feed and according to reports, only users from a few countries were notified about the removal of this feature, including Thailand, Chile and Argentina. 

News about Instagram’s plans were first posted by Matt Navarra. SourceL @MattNavarra

For those who are unfamiliar with Instagram, it’s important to know that feed posts are what regular posts that users put up on their account. It will appear on the regular timeline wall of their followers. 

Stories on the other hand, are transient content that appear like a reel that plays for 15 -30 seconds.

If you’re an Instagram user, any stories posted by the accounts you follow will appear on the top of  your profile, highlighted in red. 

You can choose which stories you want to watch first, and the rest  will all play automatically, in order of the profiles you interact the most with.

You can too choose to skip any stories by tapping on the screen. 

Now the removal of feed posts in stories is a practical one, and based on user feedback.

According to many users, it is highly redundant as it shares a post that will appear on their daily feed, making it also appear on their stories. 

Some user profiles and brands do this in order to promote their feed content on their stories.

However, their followers seem to think otherwise and find it annoying instead. 

Example of a feed post being shared to stories. Source: Buffer

What does this mean to business owners?

The news isn’t exactly good. 

In the past, business profiles and even creators were able to save time and create only one content, using it for both the feed and stories.

If the removal of feed sharing to stories on Instagram comes through, you’ll have more work as a content creator.

The same content can no longer be used on the feed and stories platform.

As such, you’ll either have to re-work or repurpose the content if you want to send out the same message. 

Introducing ‘Recently Deleted’

On February 2nd 2021, Instagram rolled out a new feature, known as the ‘Recently Deleted’ folder.

According to Instagram, this feature has been requested  by many Instagram users. 

This folder has many benefits.

It protects against several things, including accidental content deletion, content deleted by hackers, mistakes and much more. 

The Recently Deleted folder is able to store any type of content that you delete, such as photos, videos, IGTV videos and stories.

Our Instagram stories will only stay in your deleted folder for 24 hours (unless you choose to archive it), which is the usual lifespan of stories on Instagram.

Other content will stay there for 30 days, after which it will be automatically deleted. 

How the Recently Deleted folder works. Source: Instagram

During these 30 days, you will be able to access and restore these content from your settings bar, where you’ll see the deleted folder.

You can now choose to permanently delete it or restore it back to its position on your posts. 

In addition to having this folder, Instagram is also protecting you from hackers and non-account holders.

If any content is to be permanently deleted or restored from the Recently Deleted folder, one must prove that they are the rightful owner of the account. 

As a business owner, this Recently Deleted folder is truly a blessing.

Previously in order to save an old post,you had to manually archive it.

This applied to stories and videos as well.

Additional great thing on the Recently Deleted folder is automatic-based

This means that if you or another person managing this account made a mistake, you can still backtrack and save the post.

It also saves your account from being meddled on by outsiders and hackers who may delete your content on purpose. 

If and when you recover your account, you’ll still have the deleted content backed up here and all will not be permanently lost.

The best part is, all your likes and comments will also be restored too.

A short tutorial on how to use the recently deleted feature. Source: Gadget360

The Ever Growing Users

According to Tech Crunch, the new Instagram features unveiled this year show the platform’s heightened interest in SEO and marketing. The latest Instagram update delivers some of the best features seen in other social media platforms such as Snapchat and TikTok.

Started as a social media platform for photo sharing, Instagram now enjoys more than 1 billion users, according to Statista. More than 56 percent of Instagram users are female in the United States and more than 50 percent of ages 34 to 18.

Don’t underestimate the power of Instagram – it could be your next most important platform for business.

So what does these numbers mean to digital marketers or businesses?

LEADS. SALES. And eventually…MONEY. 

Question is, how do you target those key audiences on Instagram? Especially when the whole world is still recovering from the Covid-19 uncertainties, what can you do to reach out to this huge pool of potential prospects?

This is where our saviour, Instagram, proudly steps in, flashing its new enhancements. You don’t have to use Instagram like an influencer, but as long as you understand these features enough to make the most out of them, that’s already a great start!

New Instagram Updates and Features That Vows The Users

To sharpen your Instagram skills, we’ve detailed each new feature Instagram has rolled out during the past year and how it can help your marketing campaigns influence more people in key demographics for your business or organization. 

NOTE: At time of writing, not all of the new Instagram updates and features are made available in Malaysia. However, you can definitely access these shiny features already if you are located in the United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland.

Instagram Keyword Search 

Hold up…don’t we have this already? Nope. In the past, a search on Instagram would deliver only content that included hashtags and usernames, including the words searched. 
Now an Instagram Keyword Search will turn up content, including those words whether they’re in a hashtag or not. You can access this new feature Instagram if your region has been introduced to this search function update.

Key FeatureInstagram Keyword Searches will now deliver a wider array of content, functioning like a search engine on its own. From dogs and cats to plants, recipes or world news, you can easily look for videos or pictures related to your search terms immediately instead of staring at a list of weird hashtags and account names.
How to UseUsers of this new Instagram update can just type in the words after tapping the search icon. It feels like Googling!
How it Helps the Current IndustryMarketers will love this feature because it increases the chances of their content reaching their target audience, when done right with relevant visuals and accurate hashtag usage.
keywordresearch instagram
The updated search feature on Instagram allows you to input keywords and delivers search results just like your standard search engines.

The Emergence of Instagram Guides 

A completely new Instagram feature, Instagram Guides provide marketers an article-length format to recommend places, products, and more. These Instagram Guides can be shared in users’ profiles and stories, giving them a chance to go viral, a marketer’s dream! 

Key FeatureThis Instagram feature gives marketers a tool to provide more information across Instagram. Think food reviews, shop recommendations, how-to articles, quick tips, product videos and more — the world is your oyster when it comes to content creation! The best thing is that Guides can also be shared to your profile, giving them a life of their own. Perfect for influencers!
How to UseInstagram Guides are available in the tab section of the main profile page and is accessible on desktop and app versions of the platform. Click on the plus sign (either on the top left or top right of your profile) to reach the Guides for posts, products, and places. 
How it Helps the Current IndustryThis new Instagram feature opens the once-photocentric platform to longer posts and articles. Even better, marketers can share these Guides to their business accounts, letting everyone who follows them see their latest promotions and product reviews. Imagine a mini promotional blogging site within Instagram itself!
Step by step guide on how to activate Instagram Guides. Source: embedsocial

Watch Together Feature 

Part of the Instagram new update to messaging, Watch Together lets users and their friends tune into IGTV, Reels, TV shows, movies and videos in real-time over video chat. If you are familiar with Facebook Watch, Watch Together is probably a similar idea, albeit a slightly different way to use the feature.

Can’t watch shows together with your loved one, friends and family due to the movement restrictions imposed? Watch Together is another alternative to sharing screens on webcam tools like Skype, Google Meet or Zoom.

Key FeatureUsers can watch trending IGTV, Reels and more together in real-time and chat about it. It’s like a group movie night or cinema outing, except in virtual mode. Everyone can go ooh and aah together and exchange feedback as they watch a movie or a video post via Instagram now! 
How to UseTo start a Watch Together gathering, start a video chat in Instagram, tap the media icon, and choose the “TV & Movies” tab. For TV Shows, you can select from the content available, which is rather limited in our opinion, since you don’t have the option to choose your own shows out of the selection (unless you upload the videos). You can also choose IGTVs or posts you have liked or saved as well to view together.
How it Helps the Current IndustryThis new Instagram feature allows marketers to gather an audience to watch content together, discuss ideas, and ask questions on a platform that is less formal but more fun and casual.
Watch Together co-watching video feature allowed users to watch and respond to videos in real time. Source: messengernews

Vanish Mode to Make Messages Disappear 

This latest Instagram update, Vanish Mode, is an opt-in feature that makes users’ messages disappear after they leave a chat thread. Memes, GIFs, and spontaneous messages that users don’t necessarily want hanging around in their social media history vanish once they’ve moved on from that thread.

Key FeatureThis new Instagram feature keeps spontaneous discussions in the moment, making those messages vanish after the user’s chat participation is over. It has the feeling of using Snapchat when you choose to. This is useful to declutter your chat conversation with customers separating business from one-off marketing campaign questions, or when discussing delicate issues.
How to UseIn this latest Instagram update, people who are following each other on Instagram or are connected via Messenger can use Vanish Mode. They can choose in what situations to activate it. To enable Vanish Mode, swipe up as directed in the chat thread. Users will be notified if another user takes a screenshot of the chat thread while using Vanish Mode.
How it Helps the Current IndustryVanish Mode gives Instagram users greater privacy after leaving a chat thread. For marketers, this new Instagram feature will mean that some of the posts on their chat threads will have a shorter life span, so they’ll need to closely monitor chat threads. On the other hand, this feature may be useful for discussing more sensitive matters related to your business (such as giving special discounts only to specific supportive customers…oops).
Instagram Vanish Mode allows user to send messages that disappear once they’ve read. Source: messengernews

Reels and Shop Tabs 

Another new Instagram update for 2020 is the Reels and Shop tabs’ addition to users’ home pages. Reels gives users quick access to create and watch entertaining short videos TikTok style, while Shop gives Instagrammers a quick route to the brands and products they love.  

For Reels, you can film and edit up to 15 seconds of multiple clip videos combined with sound and music, visual effects, timer and more. For the Shop tab, there’s also a wishlist function for users to go back to items they saved.

Key FeatureReels and Shop tabs make videos and shopping close at hand for users. For Reels, it’s basically creating a short yet sweet video right from the app just like TikTok, though editing your Reels video may be more simplified (yay!). For Shop, you can now browse through products and be informed of the price tag directly from the Instagram app itself before you make your purchase via company websites.
How to UseTo go to Reels, tap the movie icon at the bottom of the home page. To create Reels video, access the Story function but click on Reels to get started. As for Shop, it is just a tap of the shopping bag icon away!
How it Helps the Current IndustryReels and Shop help to up the marketing game simply by giving Instagram marketers the chance to directly display their products and services to their audiences. Reels can be used to educate and entertain, while Shop allows potential customers to be directed to your website to shop for products, thus generating leads and sales in the process.
Reels & Shop Tabs make it easier for user to discover content from creators all over the world. Source: Instagram

Conclusion 

That’s all about the latest Instagram update for 2020! We don’t deny that these cool features certainly transform our existing perspective on Instagram, from being just a simple photo sharing app into a potentially powerful platform for businesses and marketing professionals apart from the usual day-to-day content sharing by its users. 

The new Instagram features – Instagram Keyword Search, Instagram Guides, Watch Together, Vanish Mode and adding Reels and Shop to the home page tabs – add to the user experience on Instagram and give marketers more ways to influence on Instagram. 

Careful use of keywords, writing longer posts recommending products or places, creating short videos for Reels, hosting Watch Together parties and keeping tabs to monitor messages in Vanish Mode will help you formulate your marketing campaigns this year and beyond.  

Well, we can’t wait to see all the aforementioned updates and features fully rolled out to Malaysian users here! With these new enhancements, perhaps Instagram will become the next best social media platform for business?

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