These 5 New Features on Instagram Can Help Your Business in July 2020

As a growing platform, Instagram continues to innovate and add new features that help promote interaction between users — and recently, with a particular focus on those that support small businesses and creators. Below we’ll tell you everything you need to know about 5 new features Instagram has recently introduced, and explain how you can use them to boost your business.

1. The DM Me sticker

What it is

Stickers have always been where the fun stuff happens on Instagram Stories. The new DM Me sticker is yet another way you can use stickers to engage with your audience in your Stories. (You can learn more about using Stories to engage with your audience in our post, 4 Ways to Get More Engagement on Your Instagram Stories — Today.)

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When you place a DM Me sticker in a story, your followers can tap it and type a message that is sent straight to your DM (direct message) inbox.

How to use it

You’ll find the DM sticker in your sticker tray when you create a new Story on Instagram. If you don’t see it there yet, make sure to update your Instagram app to the latest version.

When you select the DM sticker, you’ll be prompted to write a question that will appear above it. Asking a specific question is a classic and effective tactic for increasing engagement. Your followers are more likely to send you a DM if you give them an idea of what they’d like to say first.

Not sure what to ask? Tap the dice below the sticker and the app will suggest a general question for you. You can also tap the color wheel to choose different colors for the text. When you’re done, tap the checkmark button. You’ll then be able to move the sticker around and pinch and drag it to change its size and orientation, just like with other stickers.

What it can do for your business

The greatest thing about the DM Me sticker is that it provides a perfect solution for the “sliding into the DMs” dilemma.

The dilemma is this: on the one hand, messaging someone directly is a very personal approach and makes them more likely to engage with you and feel connected to you — and that can translate into becoming a loyal follower and customer. On the other hand, direct messages might feel a little too invasive, even creepy, because unlike the comment section or the feed, the direct message inbox is a more private space.

Sliding into ] DMs is sort of like leading someone into a side room at a party. It needs to be done gently, sensitively, and with tact — otherwise you just come off as overly aggressive. But if you get the timing and the tone just right, it can really help you build meaningful relationships with your followers.

The DM Me sticker solves this dilemma by placing the ball in the other person’s court. It creates an open invitation to enter a private conversation, and they get to choose whether or not to respond. So if someone sends you a DM through the DM Me sticker, there’s no awkwardness involved. You know they are interested in having a more private conversation with you, and you can just carry on from there.

2. The Challenge Sticker

What it is

Instagram challenges are a fun new trend — likely influenced by the popularity of hashtag challenges on TikTok. A challenge is a sort of game where a user challenges others to post certain content. It could be as simple as a photo contest, where you ask all your loyal customers to post photos of themselves with your product, or as complex as challenging them to post a video of themselves performing a certain dance, workout, or difficult task. A challenge could even include multiple tasks or a full calendar of tasks!

People who take up the challenge then post their content with the challenge hashtag, and invite or nominate their own followers to join the fun. That way, the challenge spreads organically through networks of followers.

The new Challenge sticker helps formalize this trend and make it easier to participate. When you add a Challenge sticker to your story, users can tap it to instantly join. Tapping the sticker will take them to the Instagram Stories camera, where they can record their own challenge content. They can then add the same Challenge sticker to their own Story and nominate their own followers to join.

How to use it

Joining an existing challenge:

There are two ways to join an existing challenge.

1. Tap that challenge’s sticker on someone else’s Story. This will take you directly to your Instagram Stories camera where you can record or upload your own content. When you’re done recording or selecting your content, the Challenge sticker will already appear on your Story stating that you were nominated by the user whose sticker you tapped. You’ll be prompted to nominate your own followers to join the challenge.

2. Open the Instagram Story camera, record or upload your content, and then open the sticker tray and find the Challenge sticker. It may appear with a trophy or a hashtag icon. Begin typing in the hashtag for the challenge: suggestions will pop up, and you’ll be able to tap the right one to select it. Then choose your nominees.

Creating your own challenge:

You can also create your own challenge by typing in an original hashtag. Keep in mind that you’ll need to explain the rules to your followers so they know what to do to join your challenge. You can incorporate other media to help explain your challenge and encourage people to join: for example, you can create a Feed post outlining the rules with the challenge hashtag in the caption. You can also post instructions on your blog, or send them out in your email newsletter.

Nominating users:

When you’re prompted to nominate other users on the Challenge sticker, you can choose as many or as few as you like — you’re allowed to tag up to 10 people in an Instagram Story, and that probably applies to this too. Anyone you nominate will receive a DM informing them that they’ve been nominated.

What it can do for your business

Challenges have a ton of potential for increasing engagement and brand awareness.

Joining existing challenges is a great way to interact with other users and take an active part in the Instagram community. When your followers join the challenge through your sticker or nomination, your user name will appear on their own sticker.

Creating your own challenge is a really fun way to spread the word about your business and help people get to know you. You can choose a theme that has something to do with your products or services. Some ideas:

  • Fitness instructor: Create a unique workout challenge. This could be a one-time challenge to perform a certain exercise, or a multiple-day or even 30-day challenge with set tasks for each day.
  • Nutritionist: Create a 30-day healthy eating challenge, or challenge your followers to incorporate a certain superfood in their diets in creative ways.
  • Fashion industry: Challenge followers to incorporate selected items (your product, for example) or elements (perhaps a certain color or shape) into an original look.
  • Cleaners and home organizers: Challenge followers to post innovative cleaning or organizing methods, or to tackle the biggest “problem spot” in their home and show you a before and after.

Get creative and have fun with it!

3. Co-Watching

What it is

Co-watching is another new feature that was probably born from quarantine necessity. It’s a nifty new way to create a shared viewing experience that’s incorporated into Instagram video chat.

Using this feature, you can watch videos together with other Instagram users while you’re on live video chat.

How to use it

To co-watch a video, you’ll first need to make sure you’ve “liked” or “saved” it. Then, enter your DM inbox by tapping the paper airplane icon on the upper right corner of your screen. Tap the video camera icon on the upper right side, and choose who you’d like to invite to watch the video with you. You’ll see a list of followers you interact with most, but you can also search for other users — they don’t even need to be your followers. You can select up to 6 people to join you on your video chat. Then tap “Start” on the upper right corner to start the chat.

When your co-viewers have connected to your chat, find the “Media” button on the lower right side of your screen and tap it. This will pull up a menu of posts you’ve liked. You can also tap the ribbon icon on the bottom center to view posts you’ve saved, or the compass icon on the lower right to receive suggestions from Instagram for media you might like to watch together.

The video you chose will then play, with sound, on the screen, and you and the other people in your chat will appear as thumbnails on the bottom of the screen. To return to the regular video chat, tap “Remove” on the upper right corner of the video.

What it can do for your business

Since you can only co-watch with up to 6 people at a time, this feature may not be the best tool for spreading the word about your business. What it can do, though, is make it possible for you to chat with a potential client, perhaps walking them through a tutorial or other video you’ve posted. It could also be a useful tool when you’re just chatting with someone and want to show them something you saw and enjoyed without having to send them a link.

The great thing about co-watching on Instagram is that it’s video chat, not text, which means you can see and hear the other people reacting live. This is pretty much as close as you can get to sitting in a room and watching a video together.

4. Instagram Live Badges

What it is

Live Badges are a brand-new feature that is still being rolled out, so you may not have access to them yet. However, Instagram has promised that they’re coming to Instagram creators very soon.

What do they do? Instagram Live Badges will appear next to a user’s name during an Instagram Live session and will allow viewers to contribute small donations to the user. They will be able to “purchase” either one, two, or three hearts: one for $0.99, two for $1.99, or three for $4.99. The money from the purchase will go to the creator, and the donations will appear in the live feed so the creator can see them and give a shout-out to people who are supporting them.

How to use it

This feature is still being tested and only a select few have access. You can apply to be considered for early access by filling out this form.

What it can do for your business

The main purpose of Live Badges is to allow people to show support for their favorite creators and influencers during this challenging time. This can go both ways: if your business is struggling, you could use them to ask for support. But you can also use them to show your support for other businesses and creators who are struggling. It’s a great way to give back to the community and strengthen connections and relationships.

On a larger scale, Live Badges are the first step toward the integration of online sales with livestream feeds. That’s an exciting development that will be a huge boost for businesses. Livestreams are great for launching new products or showcasing old ones, and someday in the near future, customers will be able to purchase the product right from the livestream feed, without needing to follow any other links.

At the moment, the “purchases” people can make are simply donations, but businesses might already be able to use them to offer simple, inexpensive product purchases at prices that match the donation badges.

5. IGTV monetization

What it is

IGTV monetization goes hand in hand with Live Badges: both are steps towards supporting creators on Instagram and helping them make money with the content they produce.

IGTV monetization is under ongoing development, but Instagram recently began launching IGTV ads: ads you can allow to appear alongside your IGTV content in exchange for a percentage of the revenue.

How to use it

Like Live Badges, this feature is still not widely available and is currently through invite only. Stay tuned for updates!

What it can do for your business

IGTV monetization will help create new revenue streams for creators on Instagram. Using this feature, you’ll be able to make more money simply by putting out high-quality, popular content that lots of people want to view.

This type of monetization already exists on other platforms, such as YouTube. Until now, Instagram has been primarily a platform for building an audience, spreading brand awareness, and bringing potential clients into the sales funnel. With the introduction of monetization, it will become another source of income, too.

The future of small businesses on Instagram is bright

It’s great to see that Instagram has been joining other social media platforms in focusing on new features that support small businesses, many of which are struggling now in light of the pandemic. (If yours is struggling too, you’re not alone, and there is hope: see our post on Facebook’s Small Business Report on COVID-19.)

Take advantage of these new offerings and stay tuned for new developments, because it looks like there are lots of exciting things in store for small businesses on Instagram.

Action Items:

  • Try out the DM Me sticker on your next Instagram Story! Ask your followers a question that relates to the content you’re posting and chat with the followers who DM you.
  • Find an Instagram challenge that looks fun and on-brand and join it. Don’t forget to use the Challenge sticker.
  • Develop your own Instagram challenge!
  • Apply for early access to Live Badges — or just keep an eye out for more developments on Instagram monetization.

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