This year has brought a lot of changes in the world of social media. Updates to platform regulations, new tools and features, and entirely new platforms are just the beginning. We’re here to help you navigate these changes through highlighting a few of Instagram’s most important updates and features.

Stories

Instagram Stories may not be new, but the way brands are using stories has transformed over the past year. In 2020, brands lowered their frequency within the feed and focused more on story content. Originally, this was to adjust to updates in the Instagram algorithm. However, partnering stories with feed content has since become a best practice for many brands.

There are a few reasons this stuck around. The first is to reach new people. Studies show that the audience engaging with your feed content is typically different than the audience engaging with your stories.

It’s also an easy way to get people to engage. Stories offer various engagement options including questions, polls, voting and more that allow people to engage with just one click. Finally, stories are not permanent and go away after 24 hours. If a piece of your content doesn’t do well, there’s no long-term impact to your page.

Hashtags

There are a lot of differing opinions around the best way to incorporate hashtags into your Instagram strategy. How many should you use? Where should you put them? Through some research and trial and error, we’ve narrowed down a few best practices we like to use to help content reach more people.

In general, we like to use around eight hashtags in our posts. Of these hashtags, we use a combination of branded and content related hashtags. These are based on your brand, industry and post content. We also spread them out between very popular, moderately popular and niche specific hashtags. This ensures your content is not only reaching new people, but also people who are interested in your post.

Finally, one of social media marketing’s longest debates: where to place your hashtags. Some people prefer to keep them hidden at the end of their post content; others say you should put them in the first comment of your post. Our opinion is to put them wherever works best for you. The best way to incorporate hashtags into your strategy is to simply use them.

Try some out and see what works for your brand and content. If you aren’t seeing an increase in reach and engagement, identify new options and try those. It’s an art, not a science. Once you find the right hashtags, your content will reach more people than it did before.

Guides

We saved the newest feature for last. You may have heard about Instagram Guides after they launched at the end of last year. Guides are a new tab option within your profile page, similar to IGTV or Reels. They are focused on three main categories: places, products and posts.

Guides are a collection of posts already shared to your profile feed, as well as content posted on other public accounts. The purpose is to collectively curate content so users can consume and share your content in an easy way.

While guides were initially created for travel and wellness content, marketers have identified other strategic ways to make them work for their brands. Here are some of our favorite ways Instagram Guides are being used:

  1. Themes: Use Guides to communicate themes or key messages about your brand. It is a great way to help someone visiting your Instagram page to see and understand specific messages about you. At SA, we created an Instagram Guide to highlight some of our favorite parts of our culture.
  2. Tutorials: Another great way to use Guides is to teach your audience about something. You can provide step-by-step instructions or a ‘How To’ guide that users can read to learn how to complete a specific task or project related to your brand.
  3. Community: Instagram Guides are a great way to build community. You can link to content posted by other organizations and individuals. The reach for your message has the opportunity to expand beyond your audience by including content posted by other businesses, brands or influencer partnerships.

Overall, there so many ways your brand can use Instagram Guides. If you’re looking to create a Guide, consider what your key messages are on Instagram and what content you’ve already posted that fall under the same categories. The great part about Instagram Guides is that they are new, so we are all exploring and learning new ways to use them.