Instagram has been growing rapidly over the past year, and now it seems every business wants to jump on board.

With more than 130 million users engaging with shopping posts on Instagram every month, the platform is a great social media marketing tool for small business owners. And with an array of eCommerce-friendly features that make promoting your products easy and convenient, it’s an excellent place to set up shop.

Here’s what to know about the platform’s new features and how they can help your small business. 

Authentic You With Instagram Candid

Candid Challenge is a new Instagram feature inspired by BeReal, a fast-growing social platform that encourages users to share unique, real-time moments with friends by sending random notifications at different times every day and giving them two minutes to post a picture of what they’re doing. 

Like BeReal, Instagram’s Candid Challenge will send users random notifications encouraging them to post a photo of what they’re doing. Users will only be able to view another user’s Candid photo after they make their first Candid. Candid photos use Instagram’s dual camera tool, and you can differentiate them from other stories with the presence of a blue ring.  

While everyone doesn’t have this feature yet, you should brace yourself for this tool as a small business owner. Authenticity is currency in the social media space, and Candid Challenge allows you to connect with your audience while showing them a human and personable side to your operations.

Another authentic feature Instagram offers up in response to BeReal is the dual camera feature. Users can take a photo with the front and back cameras on your phone at the same time. This is great for conveying authentic, real-time reactions and small businesses can get really creative with this feature. 

Reels Taking Over Videos

Reels used to be bite-sized, 15 to 90-second videos. However, Instagram Reels are changing, and all videos under 15 minutes will now be considered a Reel with access to associated editing tools. Old videos will remain the same, but any new video you upload to your page under 15 minutes moves to the Reels section of your profile. This change may be bothersome, however the overall engagement rate for posts has decreased, therefore reels are being favored and are a better way to see the engagement you’re after.

Along with this update is the consolidation of the Videos and Reels tab. Previously, your uploaded videos stayed in the Video section and Reels in the Reels section. Now, both your videos and Reels will appear in the Reels tab.

As a small business owner, you can use longer videos in Reels to tell fun stories about your brand and products, as well as to create how-tos, instructional videos, and other original video features

If your page is public, your Reels could be seen by more users, as Reels shorter than 90 seconds may appear as a recommendation in peoples’ feeds. If your page is private though, your Reels will only be seen by your followers.

Instagram Elements and How to Use Them for Your Small Business

Posts

Instagram posts, which can be a photo, carousel, or video, are a great way to showcase your brand and connect and engage with your audience. Research your target audience and create relevant content that speaks to their interests so you can be sure to grab their attention.

Users on Instagram acknowledge the presence of businesses and brands, with more than 90% of users on the platform following at least one brand. This means you have a lot of opportunities to gain visibility for your small business by posting interesting content. 

To get the most action from your Instagram posts:

  • Use compelling captions
  • Begin your captions with the most important information
  • Keep the tone on your profile consistent across all posts and content formats
  • Use simple and clear calls-to-action
  • Tag your business’s location to your profile to help prospective customers find you in your community and also to encourage in-store visits (If you have a physical store)
  • Research top-performing hashtags in your niche and use them
  • Get in on the conversation by creating quizzes, polls, and fun challenges and by responding to comments
  • Include behind-the-scenes content to offer your audience an insider’s look at your products and team

Stories

Instagram Stories allow you to post images or fun and short videos that your audience will only see for 24 hours, after which the content will disappear unless you add it to your profile as a highlight.

Due to the 24-hour time limit, Story content is considered to be more spontaneous and more in-the-moment than general posts. Your brand can experiment with different types of content and formats in Stories until you identify the ones your followers love to engage with most. 

You have access to the following types of Stories content:

  • Standard, which is just your regular photo story
  • Text-based story content for sharing quotes, experiences, or mini-blog posts 
  • Boomerang for creating short videos that play forward and back in a continuous loop
  • Layout for making photo collages
  • Photo Booth for stitching images together
  • Multi-Capture for taking multiple shots in quick succession for one Story
  • Level for horizon and landscape pictures

The Story Analytics tool lets you see how many users your Story content reached, the number of engagements and views it got, and the number of new followers it helped you gain. Also, by adding the location to your stories, you can make your small business more findable. 

Reels

Instagram users engage with Reels 22% more than standard video posts, so don’t ignore this feature if you want to boost your visibility on the platform. In total, there are more than two billion interactions with Reels on Instagram every month.

Reels get discovered by everyone on the platform, so they are not limited to only your profile followers. When users visit the Explore section of Instagram, they’ll find lots of Reels in the featured posts – including, possibly, your own. 

Unlike Stories, which disappear after 24 hours, Reels remain on your profile in a dedicated tab. And as mentioned above, the Reels tab will now also serve as a home base for all the video content on your profile.

To find success with Reels:

Even if you don’t use Instagram consistently, it’s still essential as a small business owner to understand the new features and how they could benefit your brand. These changes will impact your use of the platform and how you interact with your audience, so set yourself up for success by creating content aligned with the new features and updates.