2018 has been a particularly transformative year for Instagram. The network embraced the task of integrating monetization features —all without losing its creative and genuine character. This is an exciting and transitional time in the world of Instagram marketing, and influential businesses such as Airbnb to Burberry are all jumping onboard and leveraging Instagram’s business tools to their full potential. In 2018, Instagram introduced a range of tools which are inspiring brand creators and marketers to diversify their campaigns. If you haven’t been using these features already, here are the most important Instagram updates to add to your social media marketing strategy come 2019. What You’ll Find In This Post Instagram Updates for Shopping Instagram Updates for Stories Instagram Updates for Direct Messages More Instagram Updates: IGTV & Nametag Instagram Shopping With image and story product tagging, shopping on Instagram has become more intuitive, and interactive, and allows businesses to build an immersive storefront where people can explore their products. Once you’ve linked your products to the Facebook Catalog, you can then enable product tagging in your posts and stories. Instagram Analytics allows you to track insights on how these shopping posts are performing. Product tags are linked to product description pages, which provide an image of your product, a caption describing it, the costs, and a link to the website where viewers can make a purchase. At Sked, we saw this as a tremendous opportunity for brands and implemented product tagging for feed posts and Stories as soon as we could! Try it out for yourself by starting 7-day free trial today and start generating additional revenue for your business. Instagram Product Tagging – Sked Social Late in the year, Instagram introduced video product tagging, combining the conversion power of Instagram shopping with the reach of video. Shopping Channel Another new shopping feature came in the form of Instagram’s new Shopping Channel. Located within the Explore page, the channel is a collection of all posts that feature shoppable products. All products on the page are selected by Instagram’s algorithm. Virtual Wishlist In November of 2018, Instagram introduced virtual wishlists. Users can now “save” products to their shopping collection by tapping on the bookmark, which automatically saves the item to their Shopping collection. Instagram Profile Shopping Button A new Shopping Button on Business Profiles now allows users to shop all of the shoppable posts of their favorite brands, giving brands even more reason to start tagging products within their posts. Meet Sked - The most powerful Instagram scheduling platform A place to plan & schedule your Instagram posts, Stories, videos and more. Tag locations, users and products and manage all your hashtags in one place to save 5+ hours every week. Instagram Stories With the number of daily active users reaching 400 million in June 2018, Instagram made it its mission this year to aggressively release features for the popular sub-channel. Here are the top features Instagram Stories features released this year. Repost Instagram Stories In the past, users didn’t have an easy way to repost other Stories, but now, when you tag any users in your Stories, they can easily reshare the post to their own Stories. They can do so by clicking the button that appears in their DM notification. Users have the freedom to edit the Story as they would with a normal Story post. This gives brands and businesses the ability to quickly reshare UGC or the opportunity for influencers to amplify content they’ve been featured in. Reshare Instagram Posts to Stories As the popularity of Stories grew, the ability for brands and businesses to share their Instagram feed posts to their stories allows their content to reach more users. Instagram Not only can brands share their own posts to Stories in order to alert users of an update in their feed, but fans and followers of their content can share the posts of other users to their personal Stories too. Interactive Stickers Instagram has given its users a variety of new ways to interact with followers on Stories and Live. Whether its the question, poll or emoji poll slider sticker or newer additions like the question sticker for Instagram Live, interactive stickers help you build vital trust between you and your followers, which makes it easier to convert them into buyers when it comes time to promote your products. Instagram Countdown Sticker One of Instagram’s newest features is great for brands who love counting down to upcoming events or product launches. Users can now add the new Countdown Sticker to Stories posts to create buzz and excitement surrounding an upcoming event. Instagram AR Camera Effects Instagram invited brands to create custom AR filters this year, opening up new and exciting ways for their users to interact with them on the platform. Plus, the new platform allows users to access user-designed filters depending on the accounts they follow. Music Sticker, Spotify & Shazam Sharing Instagram’s new music sticker gives users the ability to easily add music to their Stories. While not available worldwide just yet, the new feature helps businesses stand out even more amongst the crowded sub-channel. Instagram Users can also share their favorite Shazam or Spotify song discoveries on their Instagram stories, with a new share button which posts a snippet of that song to their story reel. Viewers can then tap back to the Shazam app for full music details. One final music update gives users the ability to respond to questions with songs too. Instagram Stories Ads Probably the most noteworthy marketing feature to make its way onto the Instagram platform has been Stories Ads. The popularity of Instagram Stories has grown rapidly, and Facebook quickly realized the monetization potential of tapping into users’ engagement with targeted advertisements sprinkled in among story reels. While Stories Ads were first introduced in 2017, they have really expanded in creativity and impact in 2018, and Airbnb is leading the way with its “Experiences” advertisements. Buying and launching ads on Instagram is a simple process. Once you have a clear ad objective, you are free to create your content in whatever form you choose, whether using a stream of images or putting together a short video clip. Ad performance and metrics can be monitored in the insights section of your Instagram business profile. Promote for Stories Promote for Stories is an extension feature of the Stories Ads tool, particularly aimed at smaller businesses and individuals whose marketing budget doesn’t accommodate posting full ads on stories. Instagram business profiles can now turn their regular story posts into advertisements, aimed at targeting their niche audience. This is a great way to both tell your brand story, share your business personality, and promote your products and services. Longer Stories Instagram gave Story loving brands the freedom to post videos longer than 15-seconds in length this year. Users can upload Stories up to a minute in length, however, the app will split it into 15-seconds segments that will then be stitched together. Plus! You can still customize each segment with unique stickers, tags, and filters. Close Friends List Instagram Instagram’s “Close Friends” feature gives users the chance to create segmented lists on Stories, ensuring that only a certain group of users see your content. This feature can come in handy for brands who want to deploy exclusive content to a select group of either super-engaged users, influencers, or loyal fans. You can also use the “Close Friends” feature to share Stories with, for instance, loyalty rewards users, or special users who you want to give early sales access. Easily create a “Close Friends” group under Settings >> Account >> Close Friends. Instagram Story Metrics Made Easy Grab our ebook Your Guide to Instagram Stories: Measuring What Matters to take Your Instagram Stories game up a notch! Direct Messages Quick replies If you’re a brand or business that spends a lot of their time answering repetitive questions over Direct Message, Instagram has introduced Quick Replies to simplify your customer service management. Quick Replies is available to all business accounts. You can create and save generic responses that can be used to quickly reply to recurring questions. Some questions you may use this feature for include: What are your store hours? What is your return policy? Are your products organic? Though the Quick Replies feature makes responding to requests a lot easier, we can’t stress enough the importance of customizing part of your responses. To add your Quick Replies, access your Settings >> Business Settings >> Quick Replies. To access Quick Replies in a chat, click on the speech bubble (with three dots) next to the text field. Video chat If you’re looking to create an authentic connection with your users, Instagram’s direct message video chat is another way to get some face-time with your followers. Instagram You can video chat with up to four users at the same time, however, Instagram only allows you to chat with people who you’ve already been messaging through an existing message thread. You may also like: The Ultimate Up-To-Date Social Media Image Sizes Guide How To Prove Your Influencer Marketing ROI 50 Social Media Statistics to Guide Social Media Managers Into 2019 18 Best Instagram Campaigns of 2018 IGTV After months of speculation, Instagram finally launched a long-form, vertical video platform called IGTV. Designed to make it easier to find and watch videos on your mobile phone, it gives brands and businesses yet another opportunity to share in their story in a whole new way. Instagram Everyone who has an Instagram account can create an IGTV “channel” of their own and upload vertical videos. To start with, most users will be able to upload videos up to 10 minutes in length, with larger accounts having the capability to post hour long videos. As of now, IGTV does not have ads, but it’s something the company might eventually add. If you’ve found the time to develop videos for IGTV, you’ll be glad to hear that you can now share previews of your IGTV videos to Stories. And so can your followers. Nametag Instagram’s Nametag feature gives brands an easy way to share their profile with customizable and shareable QR-Code-like images. Personalized Nametags can be scanned by other users in order to quickly follow the brand, business, influencer or friends. This reduces the need for long searches for profiles, making it easier for brands and users to connect on Instagram. Instagram Brands can easily take a screenshot of the image and post it on their website, make it visible within brick-and-mortar locations or include it in their product packages. New Ebook: Social Media Planning for professionals Grab Your Guide to Social Media Planning Success. Carve hours out of your workflow with this advanced ebook. Over To You If you’re looking to break free from cookie-cutter Instagram strategies, make sure you are reaping the full benefits of Instagram’s newest features, which will help you expand beyond your current consumer base, grow your following, bring creativity to your feed, and find new customers. If you’re looking to carve out hours in your social media workflow, sign up for Sked’s 7-day trial. Our all-in-one Instagram scheduler allows you to automatically post images, carousels, Stories, videos and more. Tag locations, users and products and manage all your hashtags in one place to save 5+ hours every week.