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The Top 10 New Instagram Features of 2021 (+One to Look Out For!)

October 27, 2021

Instagram helps you to grow your business, but you still have to run it at the same time! If you've been busy doing the bajillion things you do to keep your business in shape, you may have missed out on new Instagram features that can help you grow your business even more.

what's going on with Instagram's new features

When you log into Instagram and there's a barrage of new features.

So we're covering the top 10 Instagram features released in 2021 that you can use in your Instagram marketing strategy. They include:

  1. Professional Dashboard
  2. Live Rooms
  3. Remix Reels
  4. Stories caption stickers
  5. Updates to Insights
  6. Algorithm shift
  7. Algorithm explained
  8. Black-owned category
  9. Location Stories
  10. Maps search

We'll be sharing tips and tricks on how to use each new feature to its fullest, plus an exciting soon-to-be new feature! Let's dig in.

Feature #1: Professional Dashboard

Launched in January 2021, Instagram's Professional Dashboard feature allows you to track your performance, access professional resources, and grow your business You can get insights on how your business is interacting with your followers as well as what time you may want to gear your posts based on when your audience is online. There are also branded content tools you can take advantage of along with tips and tricks to keep your business thriving on Instagram. 

instagram features: professional dashboard

Follow these Professional Dashboard tips to get the most out of this feature:

  • Stay Informed: No Seriously! That's the name of the section in the Professional Dashboard where you will find other content creators' tips on making the best and most engaging content for your audience.
  • Sell your products: There is a section where you can easily set up your products on your page, where potenial and current customers can purhase right from your social profile. After you set up your store, you can actually tag shoppable products in your posts and stories, making it that much easier to sell to your followers. (More on social shopping here!)
  • Post about 15 minutes before your peak: The "Most Active Times" section under "See All Insights" will help you capture your audience at an optimal time. For the best engagement, post about fifteen minutes before the optimal time for that day. 
instagram features: professional dashboard screenshot

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You may also be interested in our Complete Guide to Instagram Analytics.

Feature #2: Live Rooms

Launched in March 2021, Live Rooms allows more than one account to participate in the same Instagram Live session. Go live with your teammates or colleagues, influencers, other businesses, vendors, or even your customers. 

instagram features: live rooms

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Here are some helpful tips for Live Rooms:

  • Add three or more users to the live. You can invite up to three other users to join your live video. You could run a panel, get a discussion going, or even have different participants cycle through. As long as you and that account are following one another, they can join your session. 
  • Make a bite-sized podcast. A full podcast for yor business could be a major undertaking. Live Rooms could be your “bite-sized” podcast episodes where you provide tutorials, offer a Q&A session or even turn it into a talk show of sorts. Skies the limit! 
  • Join others' live videos. If it’s too much pressure to host a live yourself, you can always jump into another person’s Live Room and contribute that way. It’s actually a great way to gain more followers from their account as well as engage with a new potential audience. 

You may also be interested in these 8 Tips to Create Incredible Instagram Live Videos.

Feature #3: Remix Reels

Have you ever been perusing on Reels and thought, “Hmmm, I could do this better?” Or wished you could share your thoughts on what’s going on in a particular reel? Launched in April 2021, you now can with Remix Reels!

instagram features: remix reels

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Remix Reels tips and tricks:

  • Incorporate others' Reels into your own. Whether it’s expanding upon the already created reel, turning it into a duet, or adding funny comments to it, you can get super creative here based on what your audience wants to see. You also have the option to create the reel inside the app itself or upload an existing video, an option not offered by TikTok).
  • Expand your audience. That person gets notified if you use their content, so if they share it on their feed, you can increase your exposure to their audience. Note: if you select the three dots at the bottom and the option doesn’t show up to remix, then that person has turned that feature off. 
  • Don’t forget to adjust the audio. There are three lines at the top that you need to select before you hit next to make sure your audio will come through. 

Don't miss our 20 Instagram Reels Ideas to Build Your Brand! 

Feature #4: Stories caption stickers

Also in April 2021, caption stickers for Stories were introduced, which automatically turns what you say into text. Just tap on Stickers and search for captions!

instagram features: caption stickers for stories

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  • Capture more viewers. Did you know 40% of people aren’t watching video with the sound on? This is a great opportunity to capture that audience. Using the captions sticker, you can auto-populate what you are saying in a video so that more people will watch it.
  • Keep it short. This feature only works for videos that are 15 seconds or less, so take care on all the information you need to share in a short snippet. 
  • Double-check for accuracy. It may not get the wording 100% right, so just tap on the words to edit any of them that aren’t accurate. 

Want to be more Stories-savvy? We've got posts for that!

Feature #5: Updates to Insights 

Instagram also made some general updates to their platform that have turned into great features for content creators. Many of these recent updates are targeted for Reels and IG Live, which will help creators engage more with their audience. 

  • Check Reels and Live insights. These will come in handy after you have made your Reel or gone Live with another user. It will show you what your audience liked and what they didn’t like. Along with if Instagram pushed your reel out or not based on potential engagement and algorithm compliance. You can use these to adjust what you do next. 
  • Expand your tracking period! With the new updates, you can now expand your tracking period from 30 to 60 days. You now don’t need a third-party tool to analyze more of your data. 
  • Focus on Accounts Reached. When you are in Insights Overview, check out the Accounts Reached section. This will break down your followers and non-followers which can be helpful, but also which type of content is getting the most attention. This way you can do more of what’s working or get out of your comfort zone and try to update the type of content you may need to improve upon.
instagram features: reels insights

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Feature #6: Instagram algorithm shift

Not actually a feature, but just as important! Instagram's latest algorithm is said to favor fun and engaging video content. In June 2021, Instagram announced that it will not optimize for recycled content from other apps, such as TikTok. Before this recent update, users were missing about 70% of their posts along with 50% of their friends’ posts.

  • Write a longer caption with the video. This has actually shown to increase engagement and interaction on the platform where your audience will want to see the full video and not just keep scrolling. 
  • Branded intro and branded outro. This will keep consistency and make your videos on the professional video creation level. It needs to stay on-brand with your business so the user doesn’t get confused on what they are watching. 
  • Incroporate music. Also make sure these songs are copyright-free and you are using the right type of music for your video. Think about how you are trying to engage with your audience. If you are trying to give them an exciting update, then use upbeat music. If you are showing your audience something on the more serious side, then perhaps keep the music calm. 

For more great social media content ideas (and much more), head to our Social Media Marketing Lab!

Feature #7: Instagram explains how its algorithm works

Also not a feature, but big news. In the same month, Instagram decided to shed more light on exactly how their algorithm works. You can learn more here in these 9 Ways to Show Up in the Instagram Feed [New Info!], but some quick pointers:

  • Regularly publish Reels: Reels regularly will help boost your page outside your network and all organically! It doesn’t have to be that time-consuming either if you keep everything in a shortened format. Studies are showing that Reels are getting two times the reach than a normal post (as well as has longevity on the platform), so it only makes sense that you take advantage of how Instagram’s algorithm works. 
    shopify instagram reel example promoting a small business
  • Cut down on the hashtags. Hashtags are losing their luster. The algorithm is getting more advanced in terms of categorizing for keywords (more on Instagram SEO here) and relying less on the use of hashtags in your posts. So maybe save some time and cut the normal 30 hashtags to about half or even less. 
  • Focus on video and shopping. Yes, the CEO of Instagram is telling you, straight from the source, that Instagram is no longer a photo-sharing app. It is now more focused on shopping and video content. He’s not saying photos are going away, but they will definitely be focusing their algorithm to give more videos and products a boost over photos. It’s time to get more creative on how you are utilizing Instagram than just pushing out a photo a day. 

That said, be sure to check out:

Feature #8: Black-owned business label

From Instagram: “Last summer through fall, there were over 1.3 million Instagram posts in support of “Black-owned” or “Black-led” businesses. And the number of businesses located in the US with “Black-owned” or “Black-led” in their profile increased over 50%”.

  • Support, support, support! With this new feature you can discover and support more black-owned businesses by engaging with their accounts and buying directly from them. 
  • Designate your business (if applicable). Set your profile to display under Black-Owned Shopping. You can make these updates on your profile and check the Instagram Help Center for more info. 
  • Find partnership opportunities. Maybe you aren’t a black-owned business but you want to be a part of the 15% Pledge. This is a great resource to use when trying to find businesses to partner with that are black-owned. 
instagram features: black-owned

Feature # 9: Location Stories (once again!)

This feature was removed in October 2020 due to election precautions, and finally, a year later, it's back! With it, users can find Stories being published by accounts nearby—a great way to do some local social media marketing!

instagram features: location stories

 

Feature #10: Maps search

In September 2021, Instagram began rolling out the Map search feature. The in-app map will show nearby shops, venues, and cafes, and if a user taps on one of the map items, Instagram will then show more information about the business like hours, address, pricing, their Instagram profile, and public posts tagged at that location.

instagram features: maps search

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Bonus feature: Ads in the Shop Tab

True to its word that it will now be focusing on video and shopping, Instagram has begun testing a feature that will allow advertisers to show shoppable single image or carousel ads in the Shop Tab.

How do I stay on top of Instagram features and updates?

Instagram is constantly coming out with new features. Yes, it's a little overwhelming, but don't fret. Just take one tip a week or even a month and focus on how you can incorporate new features into your Instagram marketing strategy.  One great source for the latest updates is Embed Social's Instagram Features & Updates. Stay in the know so you can increase your audience engagement and generate more sales for your business!

lindsay paramore wordstream author bio headshot

Lindsay Paramore

Lindsay Paramore has been in digital marketing since 2011. She is a Team Lead of Digital Presence at Gannett, where she specializes in improving clients' organic performance through website, SEO, social media, and local listing optimization. She has a dog and a bearded dragon and loves to write poetry, dabble in photography, and travel with her husband and two children. You can see more of her work in her linktree!

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