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2021 Instagram Trends and Updates You Should Know About

by Kavya Sebastian

Stepping into a new post-COVID era of social media

One year in, here is how COVID-19 has changed everything, including how creators and businesses should be using Instagram.

It’s time to face the music: the complexities of the real world affect the way we run, and more importantly, market our businesses. And we have to keep
up.

From COVID-19 to human rights protests, we and the very customers we sell to have been bearing the weight of more than what goes on during the 9-5. As
exhausted as we are talking about the coronavirus (and trust us, we know you’re exhausted too), there is no denying that the aftermath of a global
pandemic touches every aspect of our lives: online and off.

We saw businesses go bankrupt, shut down temporarily, completely pivot, and go virtual. And while many longstanding businesses closed their doors, we also
saw more businesses launching than ever before.

In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,
4.3 million new business applications were filed in 2020, almost 1 million more than 2019. And the boom is not stopping anytime soon. As of June 2021,
more than 3 million businesses have already been formed.

At the same time, real-world events like wildfires, Black Lives Matter protests, anti-Asian hate, and more burdened society with a heavy, emotional toll.
So, what happens? From non-profits and organized grassroots movements to corporate campaigns and new social media platforms, people step in to serve.

Take social media for example. At a time when people were craving personal connection and entertainment, new platforms like TikTok and Clubhouse entered
the landscape, giving users exactly what they wanted – and needed.

TikTok food creator @mxriyum

You know, learning how to bake bread, coping with home-schooling, getting an oddly specific tarot card reading, and supporting small businesses. The usual.

But with all this happening so quickly, existing platforms like Facebook/Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and YouTube had to keep up. Nearly all the platforms
launched their own copycat version of TikTok: Instagram Reels, Snapchat Spotlights, Idea Pins, YouTube Shorts, etc.

While the changes might be exciting for the average user, online businesses face additional challenges to keep up with the ever-changing updates and stay
relevant on the platform. Instagram especially has been coming out with update after update, making the lives of business owners that much harder.

Because, seriously, who wants to spend 24/7 on an app that could be gone one day when you have customers to serve?

Regardless, with brand new features, a whole lot of experimentation, a shift in their focus and approach, and more changes than ever before, our friends
over at the ‘gram are really shaking things up big time this year.

We’re breaking down all the new Instagram updates for you and what you can realistically do to keep up in a post-COVID digital world – without being overwhelmed.

Video Marketing for the Win

Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, recently made massive waves by saying, “We’re no longer a square photo-sharing app,” in an Instagram post. He later
took to Twitter to give a breakdown of the new changes and test features that Instagram will be focusing on in the near future.

Although this does not mean that the app is completely de-prioritizing still photos, it does mean that content posted to IGTV, Reels, and Stories will
be more valuable on the platform.

In particular, the app has placed a high value on its Reels features. Accounts posting 4-7 Reels a week have seen incredible growth in short periods
of time as the algorithm continues to push video content out to a larger audience.

Although platforms like TikTok have pushed video content further into the limelight, it’s no secret that customers have always loved video.

The takeaway? If you’re not already on the video marketing train, it’s time to hop on. Embrace full-screen video experiences and create,
create, create to see more significant account growth on Instagram.

Content for EVERYONE

This is the only time you’ll hear this from a marketer’s mouth: you need to make your content for every single person out there.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t niche down or try to target every type of customer (please, don’t do that). But, we are saying that your content should
be accessible to everyone: alt text for those with screen readers, inclusive content and copy for your BIPOC audience members, closed captioning
on videos for followers with different accessibility levels.

| Related: ADA Compliance for Websites: What You Need to Know

The golden rule in marketing is to meet your audience where they are and accessible content is key to finding success online (and avoiding #cancelculture).

It is with this in mind that Instagram has rolled out a slew of new features to make the platform more safe and inclusive, such as:

  • Auto-generated captions on Stories
  • Pronouns for Personal and Creator accounts
  • Business accounts can now be marked as Black-owned
  • New Sensitive Content Controls in the app settings
    • *These controls have the right idea but the wrong execution. Rather than detecting hate speech or bullying, these controls mark content
      centered around social justice as inflammatory and not user-friendly. This effectively excludes content from or about LGBTQ+, BIPOC,
      and other minority/oppressed communities. So, fingers crossed for another update on this one.

The takeaway? Be thoughtful in how inclusive and accessible your content is online. Check out this article from Hootsuite with actionable tips on how you can create more inclusive content.

Less Perfection, More Creation

Instagram has evolved significantly from its early days of heavy filters, perfect Feeds, and buying followers. The pandemic has normalized the messy,
sloppy, raw parts of life. The loud, working from home with no makeup, groutfit galore, playroom mess, and kids in the back parts of life.

And people love it.

Everything from mental health to social justice dominated Instagram and TikTok during the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns. People swarmed to take
action online and feel less alone by commenting and engaging in communities that just got it.

Now, the Instagram algorithm does not care about how many followers you have. Instead, it promotes accounts and content with high engagement,
content that resonates with the followers you do have. It’s all about community and creativity.

In fact, the app is incentivizing meaningful creation by investing over $1 billion in programs that give creators new ways to earn money for the content they create on Facebook and Instagram. Their announcement states that their
new programs will be “Designed to reward creators who are creating original and high-quality content that people enjoy.”

The takeaway? Focus on creating engaging content and meaningful relationships within your online Instagram community. We recommend
commenting on and liking posts and watching/replying to Stories 15 minutes before and after you post on Instagram to get on the algorithm’s good
side (you’re welcome).

What Comes Next on Social

COVID-19 has dramatically changed consumer behavior and online activity in ways we did not foresee. Video marketing, inclusive content, and community building are aspects of social media that have come to stay and we don’t see them going away anytime soon.

Remaining relevant online and building communities on social media require businesses like yours to keep up with the trends and shift your social media marketing strategies along the way. You have to:

  • Lean into video marketing and produce more video content for your brand.
  • Create inclusive, accessible content – no matter the platform.
  • Post engaging content and build communities on Instagram.

Don’t get left behind as Instagram steps into a new post-COVID era of social media. Partner with our digital experts at Champ to create a savvy social strategy that sets your brand up for long term success. Learn more about our social media services today.

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