We are spending MORE time than ever on Instagram in 2018. But, likes and engagement are down! Are we just spinning our wheels only to be left in the algorithm dust? Is anyone out there?!
It’s flat-out frustrating when we put so much time and effort into creating awesome content, yet cannot share it with the world, yet alone our own followers! The struggle is real, and we felt it too.
But, Instagram is THE place to be if you want to grow your brand or business. So we sought out the latest updates on Instagram for what’s working and what’s not working to gain exposure and engagement. Plus, we dug deep into hashtags to give you all the best, most updated recommendations on where, when, and how to use these bad boys!
Here are some of the biggest, and most important updates for Instagram.
Instagram Verified Badge – aka THE blue checkmark
You’ve seen the coveted blue checkmark next to big name brands, celebrities, and businesses. But now, there may be a chance to request it.
Instagram is now allowing brands and public figures to apply for the Instagram Verified Badge. This is huge, as becoming verified on Instagram adds enormous credibility to business accounts. Users know that they can trust these verified accounts more easily, which may lead to better engagement, sales, and/or activity.
To request verification, go under “Settings” and then select “Request Verification”. Although, keep in mind that submitting a request does not guarantee that you will receive verification!
New ways to shop on Instagram.
Hide yo kids, hide yo wife, and hide yo wallets because Instagram is coming in hot with these new shopping options. There are two new, enhancements to the user’s shopping experience.
First, business accounts can now tag products in their stories, similar to tagging other users. This is huge as Instagram stories is KILLING it right now and is a great way to maximize your reach without the negative effects of the algorithm. Second, Instagram is launching a new shopping option in the Explore section. This channel will be tailored to the user’s tastes and and preferences based on brands they follow as well as brands they may NOT yet follow. What this means: think Instagram meets Pinterest. As a business, your potential customer reach could be outstanding!
Amp up your Instagram stories.
Instagram stories are hot. Like, really hot. These brief, 15-second clips are one of the best ways to give your audience a “behind the scenes” look into your life, build community, and earn your followers’ trust. Not to mention, it adds another level of potential exposure for when you’re feeling a little left in the algorithm dust. Lately, Instagram added a few really cool features to enhance your stories even more.
- Question Stickers
These interactive stickers allow you to ask your followers any type of question. Story viewers can respond to the question right on the screen, which is then sent back to your account. From there, you can either reply privately, or share these responses publicly to an additional story clip! The question stickers give you the opportunity to share your expertise, answer frequently asked questions, or start a conversation (i.e. engagement!).
- Adding Music
We humans get bored really quick these days. That’s why the new music addition to Instagram stories gives a keen edge. Keep your followers attention for longer by adding a relevant song to your clip. Drake got you feeling some type of way? Share it! To add music, simply click on the music icon that’s found in the stickers, and select which song vibes the best with your story.
- New Superzoom Effects
Look, as pretty as you all are, people want to see a variety of video clips in your stories (not just your face). Instagram rolled out five new superzoom effects to help us make new, creative, and interesting stories!
- NOPE – Remember that old MTV show called “Next”? This new superzoom reminds us of the big, red X that slams onto the picture over those poor contestants. Instagram hilariously named this new superzoom “Nope.”
- FIRE – This effect spews explosive fire with mosh pit inspired music to really amp people up!
- BUMMER – For all your #firstworldproblem posts like spilling your coffee or getting a parking ticket, this effect plays sad music with lonely floating leaves.
- PAPARAZZI – Constant camera flashes and clicks gives you lots of opportunities to use this new superzoom.
- HEARTS – A superzoom effect for those delicious #foodporn story shares!
Ay girl, your DMs are now upgraded!
Instagram has rolled out two new features to the direct messaging component.
Similar to Facebook Messenger, Instagram now has the online status feature. If online, followers or previous connections will show a bright green dot next to their account name. Additionally, you can now video chat via your DMs with another user or a group of up to four different users! Both of these upgrades are excellent ways to connect with your audience in a more advanced manner. Messaging with active, online users may increase your chances of a response, while video chatting with followers can boost the sense of personal connection and may be helpful with troubleshooting issues or concerns!
New time management tools.
We all know that we probably spend too much time on social media. But, how much time exactly? Surprisingly, Instagram is letting us know. Under the “Settings” tab, you can now monitor your average daily time spent on the Gram. Want to work smarter, not harder? Set a time limit to alert you once you’ve reached a certain time interval on the platform that day. While it won’t kick you off or block you after this limit, it is a good reminder to use Instagram intentionally – especially if business or account growth is your goal.
Tighter security options.
Instagram is now offering expanded security options to ward off hackers, like two-factor authentication. This is a security feature that requires a special login code each time someone accesses the Instagram account from a new device.
To set it up, go to Settings, and locate “Two-Factor Authentication” (under Privacy and Security). From there, choose which two-factor authentication you would prefer – text message code, or a code from an authentication app (such as Duo Mobile or Google Authenticator). Boom! Your extra level of online protection is now in place. Not today hackers, not today.
Increasing your exposure opportunities.
Instagram is launching two more ways for businesses and public figures to expand their reach. First, the “New Recommended Posts” feature will show several relevant, post recommendations at the bottom of their feed. These are posts that the algorithm thinks the particular user may like based on accounts they follow. Additionally, Instagram announced their new Topic Channels feature in the Explore section. These channels offer various categories of posts based on the user’s current Instagram activity.
These two features are excellent ways to connect with new, potential target audience members. To increase your chances of having posts shown in the “Recommended” or “Topic Channel” section, strive to improve engagement in all of your posts. Ask thought-provoking questions, provide meaningful replies, and incorporate other engagement tips (see hashtag section below) as well.
The new “About This Account” feature.
It’s increasingly difficult to know who is authentic on social media these days. Instagram wants us to have more access to information about any large accounts we may question. Basically, this can help us rule out any of the Sketchy McSketchersons. Go to the profile in question and select the three dots (…) in the upper right hand corner. Then click “About This Account”. Instagram will provide some information about this account’s authenticity such as:
- Date Joined Instagram – Authentic accounts generally have a longer history on Instagram.
- Country – To help you learn if they’re misrepresenting their location in their pictures.
- Ads – See all the current ads the account is running.
- Former Usernames
- Accounts with Shared Followers – Seeing public accounts that have the most followers in common can help you identify accounts with common interests.
Keep in mind, not all profiles have this data available. For now, the “About This Account” feature will only show up on large Instagram accounts.
IGTV Creators Handbook
What’s the deal with this whole Instagram TV feature? While IGTV is still up and coming, Instagram seems to hint that it is a good idea to jump on the train, as they created a free 50-page guide ALL about IGTV content. This guide includes various tutorials on anything from uploading videos to recommended apps to enhance your IGTV content and maximize results.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em – #Hashtags are here to stay
During the “shadowban paranoia” days, there were a lot of questions surrounding whether or not hashtags provided value and growth to your Instagram account. Good news! Hashtags are still helpful…if used correctly. Here are the big, updated, need-to-know takeaways on how to use hashtags on Instagram these days.
Following hashtags is now a thing.
If you have a few off-the-wall interests you’d like to follow, like say, #doublejointed, you’re in luck. You can now follow it as a hashtag! Following a hashtag works just like following an account. The algorithm will drop in a few of these top hashtagged posts into your feed and latest stories.
This is good news in terms of your Instagram growth! Encourage your own audience to follow your branded hashtags to further increase engagement and visibility. Following hashtags is also a great way to keep up to date with your industry competitors or stay in touch with fellow collaborators.
(Just in case you’re wondering, yes, there actually is over 22,000 #doublejointed hashtags… what a time to be alive).
Keep your hashtags relevant.
Instagram has always favored posts with relevant hashtags, but now it’s even MORE important.
For example, if you hashtag #doublejointed on an unrelated picture of your fancy anniversary dinner, you may get flagged. When following a hashtag, users can now click your irrelevant post and tell Instagram “Don’t Show For This Hashtag”. Too many strikes and you’re out. If enough people flag your posts in this manner, Instagram could flag your account which may negatively affect your visibility. So, make sure your hashtags fit with the picture.
Try to also avoid gimmicky tags such as #likeforlike or any hashtags that have over a million posts (#cute ain’t doing much for you). While some of these tags may get you a few more likes, ultimately they do not lead to more engaged and targeted followers.
Switch up your hashtags.
If you made a stank face reading that tip, we feel ya. Gone are the days of copying and pasting the same list of hashtags to every post. While changing your hashtags each time can feel like a huge pain in the you-know-what, it’s a sacrifice you’ll want to make for your account growth. Using the same hashtags on every post can be misinterpreted as “spammy behavior” which may result in less engagement and visibility. Here’s how you can switch things up a bit:
- Choose and write down a variety of tags that describe your account, niche, and target audience.
While this may seem obvious, it is vital to your Instagram growth. Plus, it leads the right people to your account who will be more likely to engage and potentially buy from you in the future (if that’s your M.O). This is also a great way to connect with and mutually support like-minded accounts!
- Find new, relevant hashtags.
Search other industry leaders or influencers to see what community hashtags they may use, so you can add some of those to your hashtag options too (as long as they apply to your brand, of course). Remember how users can follow hashtags? Well, once you follow a tag, go to your main profile and click on the people you are following. From there, you should see different hashtags that people you follow use, too!
Hashtag your Instagram stories.
If you haven’t jumped on the Instagram story train yet, you’re missing out my friend! If you ARE recording stories, plop some hashtags into those videos as well. Instagram geo-locations and hashtags now have their own stories. These stories show up across the top of the hashtag page (alongside the new follow button) to feature accounts who used this tag in their own story. Still following? Basically, you can throw some hashtags in your story for an additional exposure opportunity!
You can incorporate story hashtags by choosing the hashtag sticker or simply typing it out with the text tool. While each 15-second story technically can include up to 10 hashtags, try to shrink the text so it does not appear messy. You can also hide hashtags by placing other stickers or gifs over them – sneaky, sneaky! The same relevance rules apply with tags in stories. However, although you can add up to 10 hashtags in a story, Instagram favors stories with only one hashtag when featuring stories on the hashtag page. So, choose wisely.
How many is too many?
While still controversial in the Instagram world, a popular yet important question is this: how many hashtags should I use in my post?
Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags on each post. While this may seem like a lot, using the maximum amount of tags exponentially increases your chance at exposure to new, targeted followers and engagement. If the thought of researching 30 new hashtags every time you post makes you want to poke your eyes out, find comfort in knowing that quality is often better than quantity. However many hashtags you choose, do so intentionally, prioritize relevance, and switch them out often. The goal is to use high quality hashtags that your target audience is searching for and following on Instagram.
Track your success.
Don’t be a hit it and quit it user. With all the time and effort you put into your Instagram account, you should track your success AND failures when it come to hashtags.
Within a business Instagram profile, you can analyze how individual posts are performing and track specific results. Simply click a post from your profile, and choose “View Insights”. After swiping up, you will see a full page of data for that post. How effective was the post at reaching new audiences? Did it result in any follows or profile visits? In particular, you can track how many impressions came from the group of hashtags on that post. Play around with different hashtag combinations to find your own industry sweet spot that is most effective for your business.
You deserve to be seen.
We know there is a lot of amazing content out there that doesn’t get the credit or recognition it deserves. We also know that you’re spending loads of time trying to grow your brand, business, and/or passion. Fortunately, implementing these updated Instagram tips and recommendations can help you use this platform both intentionally and successfully. Now, you can reach more of your target audience while sharing your unique voice without spending endless amounts of hours on Instagram.