Cover image shows an influencer in a trendy red jacket posing for an Instagram selfie. Article title is stated in bold with the byline: the new, the old, the upcoming.


2021 has proven to be a year of dynamic changes so far, with many social media platforms rolling out exciting new features. From super tweets to new marketplaces, there’re many things to look forward to as a digital marketer. Instagram in particular has been actively rolling out new updates over the past few months.

As it is, Instagram is a powerful image-oriented social app, but with how it’s been streamlined for the most recent visual content, it comes with its own drawbacks as well. Which social media marketer hasn’t sighed over the inability to share links properly, and the challenges of keeping up with all its new tools?

In this article, we’ll be covering the necessary new features to include in your Instagram marketing strategy, along with how to refine your current tactics to maximize results.

Content Page

Maximizing the Latest IG Tools

IG Reels

The Instagram Reels interface is showcased on 3 phones' surfaces: the sharing interface, the explore tab, and how reels appear on an Instagram profile.
Image from, Introducing Instagram Reels

This is the biggest new feature of Instagram. Instagram Reels were rolled out in over 50 countries in 2020. While not yet available for APAC accounts, it’s still essential to keep up to date with its developments, for you to know exactly what to do when the time comes.

So what exactly are Reels? It’s a tool for you to create 15 to 30-second videos on Instagram with special effects, including music, AR filters, countdown timers, alignment and speed adjustment.

Sounds familiar?

It’s basically TikTok, on Instagram. With how popular the social video app is, it’s no wonder Facebook is looking to get a slice of the pie.

Right now, Instagram is going all in to promote Reels. It’s reported that Reels have boosted reach, and accounts that do not create Reels will be punished as well, suffering a drop in performance (see our previous article: Mastering the Instagram Algorithm in 2021). Since it’s a competitor of TikTok, they discourage reposting recycled content from other platforms, limiting their reach. Low quality, blurry videos will be disadvantaged as well.

The best thing about Reels is the Explore Tab, where your content can be recommended to not just your followers, but non-followers as well. This can be a powerful means for you to extend your reach and amass new fans with great content.

Maximise your Reels Performance. 

For a non-TikToker, expanding the reach of these Reels might prove to be a steep climb. Have no worries, check out these few ways to improve your Reels performance starting with: 

  • Experiment — Start by putting out content with varying storylines to evaluate what works and doesn’t. The thrill about original content is how you can incorporate different formats like tutorials and educational skits for entertainment. You might even inspire your audience to do the same!
  • Mobile — Reels are intended for mobile usage, so do design and make use of the full vertical 9:16 space. For video editing, popular apps include InShot and Funimate.
  • Use Hashtags — Like how you would for any Instagram post, use hashtags relevant to your content. Remember you can jump onto trends using emerging hashtags but so can others. To stand out using hashtags, be wary of oversaturation.
  • Share content — As mentioned above, sharing content that has TikTok’s watermark is a strict no. Instead share your high resolution Reels to Stories and Feed for increased visibility. 

Possible Reels Content

Scratching your head over the possibilities? Here’re some types of content to explore with Reels:

  1. Showcase You and Your Brand’s Personality — Why not show the people behind the business? An introduction or interview with the founder or staff could go a long way in humanizing your brand. Alternatively, use Reels to build up a positive brand association, revealing the fun and playful side of your brand.
  2. Showcase Products and Services — Reels are a great way to show off product catalogues and collections, along with offered services. Demo to your audience the uses of your goods, or what you can bring to the table with your services.
  3. Educate — Tutorials, tips and hacks work well as Reels, and help in establishing brand credibility.
  4. Relatability — Boost relatability by showing what goes on behind the scenes, or even give your followers a sneak peek into your daily life. Once again, this boosts the human factor of an otherwise purely transactional business.

IG Guides

Notably overshadowed by the slew of other features Instagram released last year – Guides are a way for creators and brands to publish a shareable commentary-style feed. Initially released in May 2020 for wellness themes, access was lifted to include all users and topics in November 2020. What’s interesting are its 3P’s options: Place, Products and Post which allows the user to curate content according to the respective themes.

Place Guides allows curation based on locations listed on Instagram, which not only allows personal curated posts regarding the location. It also pulls up all location-tagged public content. This could be a great way to showcase appreciation to your brand community. If your business has a physical storefront (i.e. a cafe, clothing shop etc), you can highlight posts tagged with the location. This is a great way to make use of user-generated content and showcase appreciation to your audience.

Here’s an example of how Condé Nast Traveller compiled theirs, showcasing various vacation destinations:

Products Guides are a great way to feature your products. However adding them into your guide is a tedious process, with only 1 product “add” per time.

In accordance to their brand values, Lush curated a product guide to showcase different ways to spot unethical practices, which you can examine above for reference.

If you’d like to create an extensive catalogue, consider:

Post guides, which is where creators or brands can truly go wild with. Curation can be done with posts already on your profile or from saved posts, with a limit of up to 30 posts.

Compiling already published chocolate related recipes on their profile, Tasty served us with a decadent treat of 11 irresistible chocolate recipes not for the faint of heart.

Once done with your guide, spread the word by sharing it directly via Stories or DMs. Unfortunately, as of right now, guides cannot be sponsored. However, a link to it can be shared on your other social channels. As long as the recipient is logged in on Instagram, they will be able to open it up instantly.

Overwhelmed by the amount of freedom Guides bring? Start with a simple how-to/tips guide, product catalogue or brand community showcase with user generated content.

The latest fuss-free way to personify your brand starts with guides.

Refining the Fundamentals

Accounts with more than 10K+ followers are able to include shop links in their posts, but how likely are you to have that many followers while growing your brand? One possible workaround to IG’s limited links is to use link aggregator sites.

Linktree is one of the pioneers of the bio link application and undoubtedly still one of the most popular, owing to its simplicity. You can access basic analytics such as total clicks and views of each link with the free version. More in-depth metrics ranging from Click Through Rate(CTR) and traffic sources are unfortunately locked behind the paid version. At $6/month, the Pro version enables integration across a myriad of platforms from Mailchimp to Vimeo and Facebook Pixel targeting. is optimized for simple single-page websites. It is often used by individuals and nonprofits, eg. BLM. A maximum of 3 sites aka cards can be created on the free plan. Analytics, form creation and removal of the carrd branding are available upon upgrade to the Pro plan. Available at just $19/year, this is one of the most budget worthy options. 

Screenshot of the landing page can do

Linkinprofile is a literal link to a branded Instagram landing page, complete with profile and images. Using the existing layout of the Instagram profile, it adds links to the images, directing traffic off the app and improving CTR and conversions. Linkinprofile is a fully paid service at $9.90/month.

Screenshot of thebakefeed's, with the exact same layout as their Instagram profile, but with clickable images

For businesses running multiple campaigns at once, the restriction to a single profile link hinders cross platform promotions and conversions. This is especially cumbersome for affiliates, who earn by traffic to landing pages and affiliate links. 

For more links (and ultimately conversions), take advantage of aggregator sites. As a recommendation for affiliates, while Linkinprofile comes across as pricey, it is the most convenient in terms of setting up multiple different landing pages. Appearing as a near duplicate of your Instagram page, there’s less confusion compared to presenting a multitude of links segregated and aligned to each unique post.

DMs/Stories Mentions/Comments

Hand holding a phone, with speech bubbles overlaid on the image

As we’ve mentioned in our previous article about optimizing for IG’s algorithm, prompt return engagement with your followers is essential. Yet, unless you are glued to Instagram 24/7, this will be hard to achieve. Why not seek help from external applications?

MobileMonkey is an amazing tool for building chatbots anywhere. As of 2021, it has introduced a whole slew of functions for you to manage and respond to your DMs, Stories’ mentions, and comments on Instagram.

With a MobileMonkey chatbot, you’ll be able to automate a lot of customer service faq interactions happening in your DMs. You’ll also be able to manage your IG DMs on the desktop rather than the phone, which can get very restrictive.

Their Instagram Stories tool can enable your account to respond to mentions in the Stories of your fans instantaneously. A message will be sent to them in the DMs. You can use this message to thank them and prompt a response, after which you’ll be able to follow up with links and other content. This sequence is important, ensuring that your chatbot abides by Facebook’s messaging policies.

Similarly, using their Instagram Comment Autoresponder, you can automatically reach out to people who comment a specific keyword on your post. Include a CTA for commenters to respond to the DM, and an interactive sequence can be triggered.

All these tools are powerful as they increase the ways you can send Instagram traffic to your landing pages.

ManyChat is a strong chatbot builder alternative, and is powerful for customer support. However, they don’t seem to provide functions as varied as MobileMonkey, with their use being confined solely to the DMs.

Upcoming Features

Affiliate Feature | In development

Leaks have appeared for an affiliate feature on Instagram. Creators will finally be able to monetize their content without having to resort to external applications like Patreon. This information came soon after news of Clubhouse’s growth plans, which included a vague monetization plan for creators.

UPDATE: Instagram has unveiled plans for its native affiliate tool during their Creators Week Showcase event in June. It will soon begin testing the tool that allows users to discover shoppable products within Instagram. Creators will be able to earn commissions from the purchases they have driven with their content. However, details are still sparse at the moment, with no details of the brand approval process.

Preview of Instagram’s native affiliate tool

Instagram has shared that the initial testing will be restricted to a small group of US based creators and businesses. Known businesses at this point include cosmetics brands Benefit, Kopari, MAC, Pat McGrath Labs and Sephora.

Once this feature takes off, it’ll facilitate the growth of influencer and affiliate marketing on Instagram to a whole new level. Brands and creators will have an exciting new avenue to explore new partnerships.

Professional Dashboard | Released

Instagram has evolved from a basic photo-sharing app to a full blown intricate marketing tool. In a reflection of this, they’re rolling out a Professional Dashboard for creators and businesses. This dashboard consolidates all the important metrics for you to evaluate your posts’ performance.

IG Rooms | In development

Embracing the myriad of ways creators use Live, Instagram is introducing Live Rooms. They are working on expanding the capacity to a total of 4 –  a host and 3 guests. Live Rooms also feature badges amongst its newer shopping and live fundraiser counterparts. This gives creators more reach and options to interact with their audience. 

Assimilation with Facebook | In development

From what we see in 2021, a huge part of Instagram’s development is in increasing assimilation with Facebook, streamlining cross-platform interactions. Facebook Shops, accessible by both FB and IG – are expanding and have started to roll out in the UK and Canada. Cross platform messaging is going to be enhanced. There’s also ongoing testing of making IG stories accessible on Facebook.

Facebook and Instagram demographics differ most notably by age groups, and by association spending power. According to Khoros, data revealed that 30% more people aged 30 – 49 use Facebook than Instagram, with Facebook having twice the amount of 50-64-year-old users as well.

With the increased shareability of content and accessibility of shops cross platform, Instagram-based businesses will be able to reach demographics that wouldn’t normally be reached. This can give a further boost to your business.

Instagram remains a major player in the social media landscape. Facebook seems to be banking on it for future growth, pumping a lot of effort into its development, what with the constant changes being implemented.

This makes it essential to stay up to date with it, to ensure your accounts stay at peak performance. Master these tools, and optimize your IG marketing with the tactics we recommended.

We hope you found this useful!

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