2019 has been a busy year for Instagram, with a range of updates and changes that have helped to advance and evolve the platform, and provide new opportunities for both users and brands.
There's been a heap of announcements from the Facebook-owned platform, ranging from options to facilitate in-stream shopping, to hiding Likes as a means to reduce societal pressure on posting. In fact, there have been so many updates that it's been hard to keep up.
Are you confident that's you're across all of the latest Instagram updates - especially those of relevance for your marketing efforts?
To help with this, we’ve rounded up a list of the most important Instagram updates which every social media manager needs to know about as we head into 2020.
Here are the key shifts that are likely to impact your future Instagram approach:
1. Checkout on Instagram
Back in March, Instagram made a strong start to the year when it introduced Checkout on Instagram. The option makes it easier to purchase an item through the app - which is one small step for the platform and one giant leap for brands looking to maximize their eCommerce opportunities.
The update makes significantly easier for users to go from browsing to buying, all within the app. When a user taps on a product they’re interested in, a "Checkout on Instagram" button appears, enabling the user to purchase a product without ever leaving the app.
And the best part? Once a user fills out the information it’s saved for future use.
We have to say that, out of all of the updates Instagram has released this year, this one is one of our favorites - and one which is also likely to become significantly more relevant in 2020.
2. Donation Stickers
It's no secret that Stories have exploded on Instagram, with over 500 million daily active users.
Adding to the interactive capacity of Stories, Instagram launched donation stickers for Stories back in May, giving users the capacity to raise money for non-profit groups via the option.
This enables users to tap into the popularity of Stories to raise awareness, with 100% of the profits received going to the relevant organization.
3. Shopping or Creators
Influencer marketing hit a new peak in 2019. Our data shows that usage of the #Ad hashtag on Instagram increase by 33% compared to Q2, 2018.
That's a significant leap - and that doesn’t even take into account the influencers who are required to, but sometimes don’t, include #Ad on their sponsored posts.
Due to the rise in influencer marketing, Instagram has also made it easier than ever for users to shop for items sported by content creators.
Rather than screenshotting or Googling for specific articles of clothing or accessories, influencers now have the option of tagging items within their posts to enable in-stream shopping, via 'Shopping for Creators'.
The option extends the capacity for influencer marketing on the platform, providing more means for users to discover new products, and more ways for influencers to generate revenue from their efforts.
4. @Shop Launches
The Instagram team have also launched @shop, an Instagram page dedicated to small businesses and creators.
The page features unique content and inspirational stories from business owners, and it can be a great place to learn best practices from trendy companies.
5. Explore Tab Revamp
One of the best updates we saw from Instagram this year was a revamp of its Explore tab.
By expanding its navigation bar, Instagram made it easier than ever before to discover new content, adding tabs like IGTV, Shop, Food, Art, and Travel.
This has also been a huge win for brands, as you now have a better chance of capturing attention from the competitive feed.
When it comes to clicking on a category, such as Shop, users also have the ability to narrow down their search, improving the product discovery process. For example, you can specifically filter posts dedicated to beauty if that's what you're in the market for.
But the coolest update for the Explore Tab is probably the redesign of the grid to feature Stories content. It's a great way for brands to get more visibility from their Stories, which can also help them build their audience in an organic and natural way.
6. IGTV Supports Landscape Videos
Not all updates have to be complete revamps to be significant. Sometimes it's the smaller updates that can make the biggest impact.
IGTV's launch of landscape video on IGTV is just that.
Instagram also made some significant changes to IGTV to make it easier for content creators to get involved, including adding the ability to publish IGTV video previews to the News Feed. The landscape update also puts the desires of the user front and center, as they're now able to consume various types of content in the way they were intended to be consumed.
7. Instagram Threads
Instagram also recently launched a new "camera-first", separate messaging app designed to help users better connect with their closest friends and family.
Threads enables users to share photos, videos, messages, Stories, and other content to a specific group of people. The app gives users the ability to control who sees their content, enabling them to create a more personalized communication experience for their closest circle of friends.
8. Create Mode Updates
On This Day
#ThrowBackThursday became more than just a hashtag with Instagram's update to create mode. Users can now see an "on this day" feature where they can view feed posts they posted on that same calendar day in the past.
It's a great way to encourage users to share content via Stories - outside of their day-to-day updates.
These make it easier than ever to ask your audience questions. Great for quick interactive content.
Utilize quick polls to gauge your audience's interests and taste. You can also choose from pre-selected polls, like "Sweet or savory" or "Better first date: dinner or a movie?"
Ask your audience quick questions. Again, there's a pre-set list of selected questions to choose from, or you can create your own.
The ultimate cherry on top when it comes to content creation. While GIFs were always able to be searched for through Stories, GIFs in create mode can also be used as a background, rather than just being overlaid on top.
9. Instagram Tests Hiding Likes
Instagram also launched a new test of hiding total Like counts on posts - an option that has since been expanded to Facebook as well. Instagram's test initially began with users in Canada, before expanding to six other regions.
It's worth noting that Likes are not hidden completely in the test - the poster still has access to his/her total Like counts and users can tap on the Like listings to see a list of all the people who have Liked any update. The only difference is that the summary Like count is not visible beneath the image itself.
The idea behind this test is to help facilitate a safe environment for sharing and mental well-being. Instagram says that it wants people to focus on the quality of what they share, rather than fishing for likes.
And while it could be a huge change for marketers, adapting the platform to better fit the audiences' needs seems the right move. We've yet to get any insight into how the initial test is performing, but expect to see more about this in 2020.
10. Instagram Removes the 'Following' Tab
Instagram also announced recently that it's removing its 'Following' tab - also known as the stalker tab.
The platform says that many users don't even know that this tab exists, and with all of the expanded options available within the Explore tab, people can discover new people to follow there, rather than on other people's pages.
11. Instagram Launches @Creators
Instagram has also launched a new @creators account, which will provide content creators with insights, tips and tricks.
Here you can see inspiration from other savvy Instagrammers along with stats - such as "80% of broadcasters have fewer than 1,000 followers."
Likely worth a follow to help improve your on-platform efforts.
12. Instagram Gives Users More Control Over Data Shared with Third-Party Apps
This is an update that will cross over into 2020 territory - but nevertheless it's still big news.
The goal of this recently announced update is to give users more control over the data that they share with third-party apps.
As per Instagram:
"You’ll have the option to remove any third-party services you no longer want connected to your Instagram account. When you remove a third-party service, they will no longer have access to new data on your account."
The update will be rolled out to all users over the next 6 months.
As you can see, there have been a lot of changes at Instagram, and you can expect to see many more as we move into the new year. Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform, and with new options and tools designed to help brands connect with users through their posts, it should be a consideration for all social media marketers in 2020.