Instagram is constantly pushing the boundaries of what a photo-sharing app can be. This social network is a multi-talented queen: Sure, you can throw a cool filter on a photo, but thanks to Instagram’s many native features, you can also edit videos, buy your mom’s birthday present, start an annoying group chat, see all of the posts you’ve liked (ever), video call your coworker, start a flame war via quiz sticker, and more.
Here are the Instagram features that every marketer should know in 2023 — take notes. (Just kidding, bookmarking the page is good enough for us).
Bonus: Claim your pack of free animated Instagram Reels templates created by IXLCenter.io’s professional designers. Easily customize them in Canva, and take your Reels game to the next level today.
New Instagram features
Think of Instagram Notes like a bulletin board: you can “pin” short phrases to the top of messenger, and they’ll stay there for 24 hours. Notes are a great place to remind people about events, promotions, life updates and more.
Want to learn more about Instagram Notes (and what the heck they’re for)? Here’s a blog post for you.
Collab posts allow two separate accounts to share the same content to both of their feeds. Both of the creator’s handles appear in the post, and the comments and likes are all in one place. This is a smart feature to use when you’re partnering with an influencer or another business for an advertisement or sponsored content: It makes the partnership transparent and obvious for your audience.
IG collab posts instantly increase your reach, because both your followers and your collaborator’s followers will have access to it. To learn more about mastering the art of Instagam collab posts, here’s some reading for you.
Instagram business features
The Professional Dashboard on Instagram is for Business and Creator accounts. Here, you can measure your performance on the app (more on Instagram Insights below) and also learn more about how improve those metrics—the “Grow Your Business” section has helpful tools for great ‘gramming.
The interactive bio features make it easier for your audience to access information directly from your Instagram profile. Information like your business’s address and phone number are clickable, leading curious potential customers straight to the point.
And don’t forget about the link in bio—you can copy and paste your company website there, or craft your own linktree to maximize that space.
(Psst: if you’re looking for new IG bio ideas, we’ve got 10 hot ones).
In the days of yore (aka, pre-2021), you could only publish to Instagram via a mobile device. But in June 2021, Instagram introduced the desktop publishing feature. Now you can post from your computer’s desktop and avoid neck cramping.
To publish directly from your desktop, log in to instagram.com and click Create on the left side of your screen. From there, you can drag and drop content, use filters, add captions and more.
If you like desktop publishing, you’re going to have a major crush on IXLCenter.io. IXLCenter.io’s publishing tools are desktop-friendly and allow you to plan and schedule your content, find the optimal time to post, and more.
Instagram’s Insights allow you to track your success on the platform (they’re part of the Professional Dashboard, see above). Keep track of important metrics like your engagement rate, likes, comments, followers and more using this feature.
For a complete rundown of how to use IG analytics for your business account, we suggest taking a looksee at this blog post.
Make serious connections (in real time) using Instagram Live. This feature helps you engage your audience and can give you a major step up when it comes to brand authenticity. Using Instagram Live, you can connect with viewers, invite them to join your live video, present shoppable products and more.
For more on using Instagram live for business, check out this no-sweat, tear-free guide to IG Live.
The Instagram Guides feature allows you to curate content around a particular theme or goal. For example, you could create an IG guide to a certain product launch, sale or brand information.
To create an Instagram Guide, you don’t need to make new content: think of a guide like a batch of already-published content that you’ve gathered together for a specific purpose.
Curious about Instagram guides? Here’s 13 ways to use this feature.
Comments generally show up either sorted by time posted or whatever comment the viewer will be most interested in (thanks, algorithm!), but by pinning a comment, you can control what your audience sees first. Pinned comments show up directly below the post’s caption, directing the viewer’s attention to a particular message.
Businesses can use pinned comments to amplify positive messages, draw attention to frequently asked questions or simply put a funny comment front and centre. (Pinning a comment is easy: here’s how to do it.)
Instagram messaging features
Take it to the DMs: direct messages are a private way to interact on Instagram. You can start up a DM with any Instagram account to communicate directly. This is the best place to have a conversation that you don’t want the whole world to see.
To get the most out of your Instagram DMs, here’s an essential guide.
Group chats are just like DMs, but they include three or more accounts. Group chats are a great way to share content or talk with a small group of people (and send memes, obvs).
Instagram group chats can actually include up to 250 accounts, which feels a bit like having a turkey setting on a microwave. (Seriously, who needs that?)
Audio and video calls
Watch your back, Zoom. Via Instagram’s private messenger, you can make audio or video calls to up to eight people at once. Just select either the phone or video option in the top right corner of your DM to start a call—this works on both desktop and mobile versions of the platform.
An automatic reply is like a voicemail for Instagram—it lets the person who DM’ed you know that you received their message, and can communicate a standard message to everyone who sends you a private chat. This is particularly helpful for businesses.
An automatic reply can be used to answer frequently asked questions, present timely information or even let folks know that IG DM isn’t the best way to contact you. (If you’re looking to up your game when it comes to DMs, IXLCenter.io’s Inbox makes it easy to streamline communication).
Saved replies are an incredible IG hack when you’re dealing with a large volume of DMs. A saved reply is a shortcut to a longer message. You can set up multiple saved replies in your IG settings.
Reply to comments
Instead of replying to comments with another comment, you can reply to to comments using a direct message. This is a useful tool for transitioning a conversation from your comment section to a private message.
To reply to a comment with a direct message, just tap Message instead of Reply when you’re commenting.
Polls, quizzes, GIFs and stickers
Using Instagram messenger, you can send GIFs or stickers in any direct message. Plus, you can send interactive polls or quizzes to any group chat (any message with three or more accounts involved).
To access these features, go into the chosen chat and tap the sticker icon on the lower right side of the screen. From there you’ll be able to pick stickers and GIFs and use the poll and quiz options—if what you’re looking for doesn’t pop up right away, use the search bar.
If you’ve made a mistake in a direct message or accidentally sent a DM to the wrong account, you can unsend the message by tapping and holding it, then choosing Unsend.
Of course, if the person has already read the message, this won’t erase it from their memory (though it may make them think they’re losing it).
This feature isn’t particularly useful when it comes to business (unless you’re in the business of GOSSIP) but it is very fun. Open Instagram messenger and swipe up on the screen to turn on Vanish mode — your messenger screen will turn black, and once a message is seen on Vanish mode, it disappears.
Important note: Instagram notifies everyone in the chat if someone takes a screenshot. Better not.
Instagram Story features
Instagram Story captions
Captions are a classic way to up your Instagram Story game — they allow you to layer text, emojis and tags over the photo, Reel or post you’re sharing.
Instagram Story highlights
IG Stories disappear 24 hours after they’re posted — that is, unless they’re saved in a Story Highlight. Story Highlights allow you to keep notable or informative Stories “pinned” and easily accessible at the top of your profile.
If you’re looking to customize your highlight covers, like in the example above, here’s how to do it.
Instagram Story links
Add a link to any website on your IG Story by using the “Link” sticker. Just copy and paste the web link into the appropriate field. The sticker will automatically display the name of the website, but if you want to personalize it, just hit Customize sticker text and type in whatever you want — for example, CLICK HERE, READ MORE or SHOP NOW.
Interactive Story stickers
Besides links, there’s also Story stickers that allow users to interact with your content while staying in the Instagram app. Interactive stickers include pools, quizzes and questions: use these features to engage with your audience, source opinions or get ideas.
For more Instagram Story ideas, here’s a blog post with over 30 examples.
This is one of Instagram’s newer sticker options, and it has some very cool possibilities when it comes to sharing. The “Add yours” sticker allows anyone on Instagram to participate in a photo-sharing challenge that follows a specific prompt. For example: “Your June so far,” “Family photo” or “Design inspo please.”
These sticker prompts can blow up, with hundreds of thousands of people using them as an excuse to share photos.
Instagram Story shopping
This is another kind of clickable sticker—add links directly to products in your Instagram Shop to make it simple for viewers to learn more (and buy stuff, of course).
Instagram Reel features
Instagram’s native tools for editing Reels are quite comprehensive. You can clip videos together, crop, add text and music, put in fun transitions and more.
The Remix feature gives Instagram users the opportunity to make a Reel that includes a photo or video posted by another user. This is a great way to shoot reaction videos, make an engaging comment on another post or support another user of the app. (Also, sing duets!)
Editing Instagram Reels can be a pain (especially if you’re using IG’s in-app program — here are some free alternative solutions), and Reel templates are a user-friendly strategy for creating excellent videos. Templates will automatically clip your chosen videos into a certain time frame, usually to the beat of a particular song–providing you with a perfectly edited video in just a few seconds.
To use a Reel’s template, just hit Use template, which appears above the account name on the Reel.
Reply to a comment with a Reel
When someone comments on your Reel, you can reply with a Reel that includes that comment—it’s an awesome way to engage with your audience and to capitalize off of content that you’ve already created.
To reply to a comment with a Reel, choose the comment that you want to reply to and hit Reply. Then, instead of typing your reply as you normally would, hit the camera icon. That will bring you to the Reels creation page, and the comment you’re replying to will appear like a sticker on your Reel.
In order to make your Reel as accessible as possible, use captions. Captioning the audio on your Reels is helpful to folks who might not be able to hear (and also helpful for people who watch Reels silently, for example, for hours on end while their partner sleeps soundly next to them).
Instagram will create automatic captions for you (Hallelujah)—just tap the sticker button and choose Captions. IG won’t always transcribe the audio perfectly, but you can edit each word yourself by tapping on the text. You can also change the font of the captions using the options at the bottom of your screen.
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Instagram shopping features
Product tags are an awesome tool for retailers using the platform (and an even more awesome tool for online shopaholics). The shopping feature gives businesses the opportunity to showcase their products online, and consumers the opportunity to buy those products directly within the app.
Instagram shopping is an art — here are the top tricks of the trade.
Speaking of buying directly within the app: that’s what Instagram Checkout is all about. This in-app feature makes shopping criminally easy.
If impulse buying isn’t your thing (brag alert) you can add products to your Instagram Wishlist. To do this, just tap the little ribbon icon next to the product.
To access your saved products, tap the three horizontal lines in the top right corner of the IG shopping screen and then go to Saved Products.
Knowing about the wish list feature is also helpful if you’re a business selling products: this can be a call to action in your posts (“Save this to your summer wishlist”).
Hidden Instagram features
See archived Stories
Instagram Stories disappear 24 hours after they’re posted. It’s a blessing and a curse. Once those 24 hours are up, the post is gone forever. Or is it?
You can access your own Instagram Story archive through your profile — just hit the three horizontal lines at the top right of your screen, then Archive. This feature is especially helpful if you’ve conducted a quiz or poll and can no longer see the results: that’s all accessible via the Stories archive.
See all the posts you’ve liked on Instagram
To see all the posts you’ve liked on Instagram in one place, go to your profile page, hit the three horizontal lines in the top right corner, then hit Your activity.
From there, you’ll be able to see all the posts that you’ve liked, commented on, been tagged in, and even your sticker responses on IG Stories. You can even sort these by date — so if you want to know whether you voted “yes” or “no” to the whipped coffee trend in April 2020, this is where to check it out.
Instagram Story tags (after posting)
Have you ever posted an Instagram Story and realized you forgot to tag someone? Now, you can retroactively mention someone in your IG Story. That means that they can share it to their followers, instantly expanding the reach of your content.
To tag someone in an Instagram Story after the Story has already been posted, go into the Story, tap the three dots in the right bottom corner, then tap Add Mentions. Type in the handles of the account(s) you’d like to tag, and you’re golden.
Create, schedule, and publish Instagram posts and Stories (and all your other social content), interact with your audience, and measure your success from one dashboard using IXLCenter.io. Start your free 30-day trial today.
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