Top Instagram Updates: Most Crucial Ones Brands Should Not Miss in 2021

Due to several Instagram updates in 2020, Instagram has become the next titan in social commerce. Major social media companies like Facebook, Inc., and Google have been collecting data for more than a decade and probably know you better than you know yourself. That makes you an easy target to sell to. 

Instagram has had a busy year in 2020. There have been some major Instagram updates to the platform, including the introduction of Instagram Checkout, new features for brands to work with influencers, updates to IGTV, and a merging of Chats with Facebook Messenger. 

Biggest 2020 Instagram Updates Brands Need to Know About

Instagram’s homepage is soon going to get a new look with the Shop and Reels tabs. Source: Instagram.

These 2021 Instagram updates make the platform more convenient and user-friendly, but you could argue that brands have the most to gain. Facebook, Inc. has been making waves to bring its signature platform, as well as Instagram, into the social commerce space on a monolithic scale. 

With the coronavirus causing havoc on economies and forcing businesses to close their doors, online retail is the one thing that can keep many entrepreneurs and merchants afloat. Therefore, brands must be aware of these Instagram updates for a brand new beginning in 2021.

The social commerce takeover

Instagram has more than 854 million users as of 2020 and this number is expected to hit over a billion in the next few years. Instagram is introducing updates to make the platform more commerce-friendly. 

Here are some stats to blow your mind on social commerce. 

  • Social media referral traffic has grown 100% in the last two years alone. 
  • The social commerce market is expected to grow by 34% by 2021.
  • 70% of consumers search for products on Facebook and Instagram. 

Instagram updates in 2020 largely reflect these numbers. Your brand stands to benefit from the features added to the platform to expand existing sales channels and take advantage of the upcoming social commerce boom. 

Biggest Instagram updates in 2020 

From checkout to shops to stickers, the team at Instagram have been busy kitting the platform out with great new features for everyone to enjoy. The first thing you’ll notice going into the new year is that the Instagram homepage will change. This reflects the Instagram updates we’re about to go through and will result in the camera and activity tabs being replaced by ‘Shops’ and ‘Reels’.

Instagram Shops

Instagram Shops is a revamped feature that will now allow brands to build their own mobile-first custom storefront. These are linked to the new Facebook Shops that offer the same great experience. Instagram Shops haven’t been fully rolled out at the time of writing, although select brands can use them. They’ll become more available in the coming year. 

Top 2020 Instagram Updates Brands Need to Know

Instagram Shops are a game-changer for social commerce. Expect more sales and traffic. Source: Instagram.

Key features of Instagram Shops

Instagram Shops will allow brands to expand their presence on social media, not only gaining more referral traffic but also making sales within the platform itself. You’ll be able to visit an Instagram Shop through a brand’s business profile, story, or posts. 

  • Collections: You can create collections in Instagram Shops just like on your eCommerce store to group relevant products and improve the shopping experience. 
  • Sell in live streams: You’ll be able to link to products in a live stream so users can quickly get to the product page and purchase it. 
  • Sell in stories: You’ll also be able to link to products in your stories, further increasing your brand’s reach on the platform. 
  • Free to use: Instagram Shops won’t cost you a penny. They’re completely free to set up and manage. 

We recommend you use the free Socialshop app to set up your Instagram Shop and sync your Shopify product catalog. You can also use the app to optimize your product listings for the Instagram algorithm. 

Top 2020 Instagram Updates Brands Need to Know

You’ll now be able to checkout without even having to leave the Instagram app thanks to Checkout. Source: Instagram.

Instagram Checkout

This is perhaps the biggest update to the platform in 2020. Instagram Checkout allows you to buy products without leaving the app. This is in contrast to before when you’d be able to follow a link to a brand’s website or checkout page. 

The person’s payment and shipping details will be saved after their first purchase, meaning they can buy with a single press of a button each time thereafter. This effectively removes all hurdles in the way of checkout and will certainly increase conversion rates. 

Shoppers will also receive updates about their purchase and shipping times as notifications on Instagram. 

Checkout isn’t available for everyone as of writing this article, but it’ll be rolled out around the world throughout 2021. You can already use Checkout when shopping with large brands like Nike, Zara, and Dior. 

New Messenger features in Chats

Instagram’s messenger feature has always been something of a little brother of the more fleshed out Facebook Messenger. The company recently announced a merger of the two messaging platforms to make it easier to find conversation threads and stay connected. 

These Instagram updates also make it easier for brands to manage their responses to customers across both social media platforms. 

Top 2020 Instagram Updates Brands Need to Know

Facebook and Instagram will be integrated to the point that they’ll be indistinguishable. Source: Instagram.

Key updates of Instagram Chats  

Instagram updates to its Direct message system adds some of the best features from Facebook Messenger while also paving the way for a more complete merger of the two. 

  • Chat across apps: You’ll soon be able to access your Facebook messages on Instagram, and vice-versa. This also applies to video and voice calls. This integration will make it much easier to keep track of conversations.
  • Facebook’s best: Much-loved features like replying to specific messages, sending stickers, custom emoji reactions, and animated messages have already debuted on Instagram. 
  • Vanish mode: This allows you to send messages that will disappear after being read or when you close the chat, allowing for more privacy in your conversations. 
  • Watch together: You can now watch IGTV Facebook Video and the upcoming Instagram Reels with other people during video calls. Brands can take advantage of this by putting out more video content on IGTV, which now also features auto-generated closed captions for people with hearing difficulties (or who just want to keep their phone on silent). 

We recommend you use the Socialreply app to manage all of your Facebook business accounts in one place, including messaging, marketing and merchandising. This will become even more useful once Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct combine.

Explore section revamped

The explore section is the bread and butter of Instagram. It’s where people come to find new content from influencers, brands, and popular pages. Instagram has updated the Explore section to place brands at the center stage. 

This Instagram update improves the discoverability of brands while also keeping content relevant to users. There will also now be links to IGTV and Instagram Shopping on the bar in the Explore section to encourage more traffic between these areas. 

Perhaps most importantly, brands will now be able to set up ads specifically in the explore section.

How to set up ads in Explore

Setting up ads in explore works similarly to setting them up on any other area of the app. Those who are familiar with Instagram ads will feel right at home. 

  1. Go to Facebook. 
  2. Open Ads Manager
  3. Press +Create.
  4. Select your objective and fill in details for your ad set. 
  5. Select Manual Placements. 
  6. Choose  Instagram Explore. 
  7. Publish your ad. 

NOTE: You might want to choose Automatic Placements and let Facebook determine where is best to display your ad based on your stated objectives.

Top 2020 Instagram Updates Brands Need to Know

Building content on Instagram is much easier with Facebook Creator Studio.

Facebook Creator Studio integration

Another major Instagram update in 2020 is its integration with Facebook Creator Studio. This means marketers can now produce content on a desktop without wasting data or battery on their phone and they can have much more control over the creative process. 

Facebook Creator Studio makes content production quick and easy, so your brand can have more confidence in what it’s putting out on the platform. 

  • Create stories with images uploaded from the cloud. 
  • Add stickers like Shop Now, Find Out More, and Sign Up. 
  • Insert links to product pages on your Instagram Shop or your website. 
  • Create posts, short videos, and more. 

Facebook Creator Studio allows you to manage content across all of your accounts, making your life easier. 

Instagram Reels

Instagram recently announced its new Reels feature that allows you to upload 15-second multi-clip videos. This is essentially Instagram’s answer to competition from social media newcomers TikTok and is an important update that shows Instagram has its finger on the pulse of the changing dynamics of social media consumption. 

Top 2020 Instagram Updates Brands Need to Know

Get ready for a whole new dynamic in the way people use Instagram with the upcoming Reels feature. Source: Instagram.

Brands can take advantage of this new Instagram feature to promote products or raise awareness. You’ll be able to use Facebook Creator Studio to create and edit your Reels, or you can create them on the go using your Instagram camera. 

The popularity of short video clips makes it easier to consistently post content from your Instagram business account. Viral Reels will reach a massive audience and could drive tons of traffic to your Instagram Shop. 

Influencer/Brand content updates

Social media influencers are an important stone in the castle of marketing and nowhere are they more prevalent than on Instagram. 

A whopping 89% of brands say that ROI from influencer marketing is the same as or better than other marketing forms. The same percentage of brands say that Instagram is the best platform for influencer marketing. 

Instagram updates in 2020 include new rules ensuring influencers clearly state when content is a paid partnership with a brand. This actually benefits brands as their business page will be linked in the content. 

Brands can also share influencer content in their stories or ads. 

How to use Instagram to build brand trust and drive more sales?

With all the latest Instagram updates, it’s no doubt that Instagram will be another big social commerce boom in 2021. However, do you know that Instagram can do more than that?

You can leverage Instagram to build your brand trust, create greater first impressions on customers and skyrocket sales on social media. All you need to achieve all those goals is ‘Socialwidget‘.

Socialwidget – one of the best Shopify apps for Instagram feeds solutions.

With Socialwidget, merchants can embed their best-performed Instagram feeds on Shopify stores. By showcasing your Instagram feeds on websites, you can earn several advantages:

  • Impress web audiences at first sight
  • Increase the dwell time customers spend on websites
  • Build brand trust by visible social proof
  • Convert browsers into customers
  • Channelize traffic from websites to your Instagram channels and vice versa
  • Tag products into Instagram feed to increase sales

To acquire the full advantages of your Instagram, get Socialwidget > add a gallery > Connect your Instagram account > Done. Then you can customize your best-performed Instagram feed on websites as you want in Widget Setting. For further instruction on how to use Socialwidget, check out here.

Closing thoughts

Instagram is changing to reflect a new direction of Facebook, Inc. to make Facebook and Instagram the world’s primary social commerce platforms. The company is learning from the competition and integrating with eCommerce giants like Shopify, as well as merging its own platforms like Messenger and Instagram Direct, to make a smoother user experience for brands and users alike.  

2021 is going to be a great year for Instagram and for social commerce. Make sure you’re well aware of all 2020 Instagram updates and ready to cut out your slice of the pie!