A Guide to Instagram Updates – What Marketers Need to Know

Social media has always been a space where updates are rolled out on a constant basis and 2019 was no different. Instagram specifically saw plenty of updates for both brands and consumers. These range from options that facilitate in-stream shopping, to hiding Likes as a means to reduce societal pressure on posting., even the testing of augmented reality for shopping.

In fact, there have been so many updates that it keeping track of them has been no simple task. To help with this, we’ve done up a list of the bigger shifts in the platform for you to explore in 2020.

Instagram Checkouts

Last March, Instagram made a strong start to the year when they introduced checkouts on Instagram. The platform makes it easier than ever to buy an item through the app, which is one small step for the platform and one giant step for eCommerce brands who are looking for more direct and provable ties between their Instagram marketing and business results. 


The buying process is far smoother now. When a user taps on a product they’re interested in, a “Checkout on Instagram” button appears, allowing the user to purchase the product without ever leaving the app. And the best part? Once a user fills out the information it’s saved for future use.

Donation Stickers

It’s no secret that Stories have exploded on Instagram, with over 500 million daily active users. To help make Stories an interactive product space, the platform launched donation stickers where users could raise money for non-profit groups on Instagram. 100% of all profits received are given to the charities, and it’s a great way for brands to raise awareness around issues and communities that matter to them.

Shopping Direct from Creators

Influencer marketing hit a peak in 2019. We saw #Ad usage increase by 33% compared to in Q2, 2018. It’s a giant leap, and it doesn’t even take into account the influencers who are required to but sometimes don’t, include #Ad on sponsored posts. See the graph below which has been excerpted from Socialbakers Q2 2019 Trends Report.


Due to the rise in influencer marketing, Instagram 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, users have the option of tapping on an item an influencer’s showcasing and see specifications in greater detail. 

Users can even buy it on the spot. This was a revolutionary update that could further help marketers more easily and precisely prove ROI from influencer collaborations. It also proves the ongoing power of influencer marketing which looks set to ride the changes and continue to be part of the ongoing conversation, so it’s important that you stay on top of influencer marketing trends or risk blowing budget on outdated practices.

@Shop Launches

The Instagram team created @shop, an Instagram page dedicated to small businesses and creators. The page features unique content and inspirational stories from business owners. It’s a great place to learn best practices from cool companies who are doing it up right. Your business may even end up becoming one of them. 

It’s really about giving brands and eCommerce businesses a way to shorten the customer journey from product research to the shopping cart. The easier it is for the customer, the more likely they are to purchase – especially if they can manage the whole process through one app, without the need to flick between screens. 

It’s great for marketers too, as they can put aside referral traffic data and manage the customer journey from start to finish right on Instagram. It’s far easier to hit all the touchpoints on the way down the funnel, leading prospects through the awareness, consideration and decision phases until they’re ready to buy.

Explore Tab Revamp

One of the best updates we saw from Instagram this year was their revamp of the Explore tab. Instagram made it easier than ever before to discover new content by expanding their navigation bar options, adding tabs like: IGTV, Shop, Food, Art, and Travel.

This is a huge win for brands as they have a better chance of capturing focused audience attention from the competitive feed. In addition, due to huge growth in Instagram advertising, Instagram have announced that marketers will be able to run ads in the Explore tab too, another way to reach people outside of their feeds, and it offers new potential at the top of the funnel.

Users also have the ability to narrow down their search when it comes to clicking on a category such as Shop. For example, they can specifically filter posts dedicated to the topic of beauty if that’s what they’re in the market for.

But the coolest update for the explore tab, is probably the redesign of the grid to feature Stories. It’s a great way for brands to get more visibility from their Stories which can help them build a really organic and engaged audience.

IGTV Supports Landscape Videos

IGTV is a valuable format and but all updates have to be complete revamps to be significant. Sometimes it’s the smallest update that can make the biggest impact. And IGTV’s launch of landscape video on IGTV is an example of that. 

IGTV made some changes to make it easier for content creators to create, and ideate. Now that creators can publish IGTV video previews to the News Feed in tandem with landscape video options, creators have a better chance of increasing video views. The update also puts the desires of the user front and center, as they are able to consume various types of content in the way that they want.

Instagram Threads

Instagram recently launched a new “camera-first” messaging app to help users better connect with their closest friends and family.

Threads is a standalone app that enables users to share photos, videos, messages, Stories and other content to a specific group of people. The app lets users control who sees their content, helping them create a more personalized communication experience for their closest circle of friends and family.

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 past feed posts they posted on that same calendar day.

It’s a great way to encourage users to share content via Stories, outside of their daily updates.

Quiz Stickers

Makes it easier than ever before to ask your audience questions. Great for quick interactive content and sparking conversations.


Enjoy quick polls to gauge your audience’s interests and taste. You can choose from pre selected polls “Sweet or savory” or “Better first date: dinner or a movie?”


Ask your audience quick questions! Again, you’ll already have a list of selected questions to choose from or you can create your own.


It’s the ultimate cherry on top when it comes to content creation. While Gifs you could always search through Stories for Gifs, Gifs in create mode can be laid as a background rather than just being laid on top.

Instagram Removes Likes

This year Instagram began to hide the Likes option, and audiences are still on the fence about it. The test initially began its test in Canada before expanding to six other countries.

Likes won’t be hidden completely,  and the poster still has access to his/her Likes. The difference is that the Like count won’t be visible to others and will remain private. The various types of reactions, along with some friend’s names, and the number of comments will remain visible.

Facebook’s main initiative is to help facilitate a safe environment for sharing and mental well-being. With that being said, the platform wants people to focus on the quality of what they share rather than posting to fish for Likes.

While it can be a huge change for marketers, we think adapting the platform to better fit the audiences’ needs is the right move.

Instagram Removes Following Tab

Instagram has removed the Following tab (also known as the stalker tab). The platform believes that there is no use for this tool, especially since many users don’t even know it exists. Instead, Instagram believes that with all of the options available in the Explore tab, people can discover new people to follow there, rather than on other people’s pages.

Instagram Launches @Creators

Instagram launched a channel @creators, specifically tailored to providing content creators with tips and tricks. Here you can see inspiration from other savvy Instagrammers along with insightful statistics and data. It’s always useful to have some inspiration when ideating content, as it’s all too easy to burn out trying to feed the content machine day after day.

Instagram Gives Users More Control Over Data Shared with Third-Party Apps

This is an update that will cross over into 2020 territory – and therefore it’s still big news. The goal of the recently announced update is to give users more control over the data that they share with third-party apps over the year. According to TechCrunch, the ability to restrict third-party apps from receiving data is pretty common place now with platforms like Google, Twitter and Facebook already offering these services.

According to Instagram you’ll now be able to “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 begin to roll out slowly and should be completed within the next 6 months.


It is a part of every marketer’s job to keep current with new features and updates across their key social platforms. Social platforms develop fast, offering new opportunities to attract and convert potential customers and it’s important to take advantage and learn best-practices each time a valuable new feature or update comes along. 

Understanding how each feature could be a part of the marketing mix you’ve created to achieve your objectives and how it can be used to enhance your marketing efforts. Marketers who do so will stay ahead of the competition and continue making the small wins that add up to take brands to the top.

Charles Tidswell

Charles Tidswell

Charles is Vice-President JAPAC at Socialbakers

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