For anybody that feels like each new week seems to bring a new Instagram update, 2021 has been a busy year. True to the fast-paced nature of social media, Instagram has undergone more than a few changes in the last several months.
And whether you use Instagram for business or personal use (or, more than likely, both), it can be challenging to keep up. Luckily, you don’t have to – because we’ve rounded up all of the Instagram updates of 2021 so far, putting together a quick-reference guide that covers new policies, features, account updates, and even changes to the algorithm.
2021 Instagram Update Guide: A Month-by-Month Breakdown
October 2021 Instagram Updates
A new video format is born
Whereas IGTV content and feed videos used to stand independently, they will now co-exist in a single format known as Instagram Video. In your profile, a Video tab will replace the IGTV tab so that users can have one-click access to all of your video content.
In another major upgrade, videos shared to the Feed can be up to 60 minutes in length. Longer videos will include post-editing options, such as filters, location tags, account tags, and trimming footage. When you create a long-form video, you will also be able to craft a 60-second preview.
September 2021 Instagram Updates
Instagram says goodbye to the “swipe-up” option
Until recently, an upwards swipe opened linked webpages within Instagram Stories – in fact, “swiping up” was such a staple of the social media experience that it essentially became a part of the Internet lexicon.
But now, the “swipe-up” link option has been replaced by link stickers. Creators can access a variety of sticker styles and sizes and have the option to place the sticker anywhere on the Story page. The change also allows Instagram users to send reactions to an Instagram Story with a link sticker, which was not an available option with “swipe-ups.”
Linking is still only provided to certain Instagram creators (those with at least 10,000 followers).
August 2021 Instagram Updates
New protective features added for users under 18
In an effort to make Instagram safer for teens, the social media app has rolled out a series of new safety features. According to Instagram, new policy rules/features include:
- Every new user under 16 years of age will receive a private account by default
- Adult Instagram users won’t be able to get in contact with teens that don’t want to participate in a conversation
- Advertisers will be limited in the ways they are allowed to reach younger users on both Instagram and Facebook
Ultimately, the goal is two-fold: to better protect the identities and online safety of minors on Instagram and to prevent potential misuse of their accounts.
The “Limits” feature and other measures aim to put a stop to abusive interactions
Cyberbullying has long been a major issue in social media, but Instagram’s new “Limits” feature is taking aim at online abuse. Users can use the feature to hide (or limit) comments and direct messages from users that are not followers, or those who have only recently become a follower.
This feature will particularly be useful for public figures on Instagram, including celebrities and online influencers. The catalyst for the implementation of “Limits” was the offensive comments and messages directed towards English football players before the Euro 2020 final, which demonstrated a deeply disturbing trend in online interactions.
But even though the new protective measure may have been inspired by the online experience of public figures, it’s available to all Instagram users across the globe. Whether you prefer to use Instagram on your smartphone, tablet, computer, or any other device, you can activate the feature by:
- In the Settings menu, select Privacy.
- Select Limits, then specify which group you want to limit and the length of time you want the limit to apply.
- Click “Turn On.”
In addition to “Limits,” Instagram has begun displaying a reminder to users that comments with offensive content are not acceptable.
Instagram has also created a third method for users that want to protect themselves from potentially negative interactions. The “hidden words” feature allows users to customize a list of words, phrases, and emojis they find offensive, then set content containing those words to be directed to a “hidden folder.”
You can set up your own selection of “hidden words” with just a few quick clicks:
- Go to the Privacy section of the Settings menu.
- Select “Hidden words.”
- Choose the words, phrases, and/or emojis you want to be filtered.
- Note: Instagram provides a list of suggested words they consider offensive, but you can also add your own words to that list.
Find music in new ways using the Audio tab
When you search on Instagram, you can now tap the Audio tab to search for songs and reels according to song/audio. Simple swipe to/click the Audio tab and enter the name of a song.
Instagram will return a list of songs matching your entry, and you will click on the correct one. Then, the app provides you with a 30-second section of the song and a variety of recent Reels that feature it.
Users also have the option to save a specific song for later use or use it immediately to create a Reel of their own.
Advertising gets its chance in the Shop tab
The Shop tab is still a fairly recent arrival to Instagram, but it’s already getting an upgrade. Instagram is in the progress of testing a feature that would let brands/businesses display shoppable ads within the Shop tab.
Each advertisement can be shown as a single image or a carousel, and when clicked, will redirect users to the product page. There, additional product details will be made available.
Advertisers can now use Reels ads
For those that use Instagram for marketing, a new ad format has been made available. Reels ads allow a full-screen, 30-second video to be placed in the Reels tab. Users can also be presented with a Reels ad in the Reels viewer, which is accessed when they click to view a Reel on the Explore tab or their feed.
Similar to standard Reels, Reels ads can receive likes, comments, and interactions. They also include a call-to-action (CTA) button in the lower left-hand corner, which is customized based on the selected ad objective (Shop Now, Sign Up, Click Here, and Read More are currently available options).
To create a Reels ad, you’ll need to utilize Facebook Ad Manager.
July 2021 Instagram Updates
Text translation available in Instagram stories
Instagram is a global app, so it makes sense that its developers would continue to expand accessibility for all users – including making it easier to engage with users creating content in languages different than your own. It’s also a welcome update for Instagram business accounts, especially those that operate in global markets.
When you view a Story that contains (overlaid) text in a language that differs from the default language for your account, a “See Translation” prompt will be displayed. Tapping the prompt will bring up a translation panel.
At present, the feature is compatible with 90 different languages but only works for the translation of written text. It joins a comparable translation option for users’ news feeds, comments, and profiles.
Instagram for Business users can access expanded tracking data in Insights
For any user with an Instagram business profile, analytics is a major asset of the social media platform. Instagram Insights was originally limited to a 30-day timeframe, but it has now been expanded to a full 60 days.
Whereas many businesses used to rely on third-party apps to get a “zoomed out” view of their data, users will now be able to access it all within the Instagram app.
Within Insights, simply set a custom date range for the tracking/display of your account metrics.
Black-owned businesses can enhance their profile with a new “label”
To make it easier for users to discover and shop Black-owned businesses on Instagram, the app has added a “Black-owned business” label that Business account holders can add to their profile page.
You can activate the option/label on your Business account by:
- Click “Edit Profile” (on your main profile page).
- Select “Business Diversity Info,” then “Get Started.”
- Select “Show Black-owned business label.”
Instagram tests new ways to collaborate on Reels and Feed Posts
A new feature called “Collab” is being tested on Instagram, with developers hoping to make it easier for users to collaborate on Posts and Reels. Here’s how it’s expected to work:
- A user will invite another user to collaborate on a Post or Reel.
- Once the invitation is accepted, both accounts will be named in the header of the Post or Reel.
- The content will be available to both users’ followers and will also have shared likes, comments, and view counts.
June 2021 Instagram Updates
Users can protect their Instagram account with new options
In a continuing effort to help users safeguard their accounts, Instagram launched the Security Checkup feature. It’s intended to be used by individuals who believe their accounts may have been hacked and walks the user through the various steps to rescue the account.
Security Checkup includes these key steps:
- Reviewing login activity
- Confirming all accounts that share login information
- Reviewing profile information
- Updating the contact information for account recovery, including phone number and/or email address
Creators and businesses get an answer to an age-old question: How does the Instagram algorithm work?
Delivered via video content, Instagram provided creators and businesses with a more detailed explanation of the Instagram algorithm. In other words, the video explained how Instagram ranks content for user viewing, including content in Feed, Stories, IGTV, and Reels. It also covered some much-needed clarification about “shadowbanning.”
The key takeaway from the video is that Instagram employs a set of algorithms to accurately predict what users will be most interested in and likely to engage with.
Video on Instagram is getting a boost
With popular video apps like TikTok and YouTube as a model, Instagram will recommend video content to users that match what the app believes you’ll be interested in. It’s very similar to the curated feel of video apps’ feeds, though there’s still time needed to see exactly how it plays out.
This could be an exciting breakthrough for creators and businesses on Instagram because it unlocks a slew of opportunities to connect with brand-new followers – some of whom may have never heard of your brand until your video showed up in their recommendations.
May 2021 Instagram Updates
Reels and Lives can be evaluated using Insights, and Reach gets new details
The Insights feature gained two new sources of data when Reels and Lives were added as an option for tracking and analytics.
For Reels, you can view the data for Likes, Comments, Shares, Saves, and Plays, as well as Accounts Reached. View the Insights for a Live to check the number of Accounts Reached, Shares, Comments, and Peak Concurrent. This information will be built into the Account Insights to see how Reels and Lives are impacting your overall performance.
With Reach being a staple feature for businesses and creators, Instagram expanded the level of information available for Reach. It’s now easier to pinpoint the types of Instagram accounts you’re reaching, as well as which ones are specifically propelling your Reach.
Testing continues on the option to turn off like counts
In late 2019, Instagram announced its plans to begin testing an option to make the number of likes invisible to the user. After the project was temporarily put on hold, it was picked back up.
The feature would provide users with an option to “turn off” the like counts, so they would not see the number of likes on their own posts and/or others’ posts.
Or, users could opt to keep like counts visible on all posts. By offering the option to customize the user experience, Instagram appears to be seeking out new ways to improve and personalize the platform as a whole.
April 2021 Instagram Updates
A new Stories sticker lets users add captioning for audio
Caption stickers are up and running for use in Instagram Stories, making it possible to caption verbal speech to be displayed for viewers. This is a big step forward for the app’s accessibility, as it provides a more well-rounded user experience for individuals with hearing difficulties.
It also is an ideal addition for users who prefer to turn off their device sound while viewing video content.
The sticker is currently only available in English-speaking countries, but there are plans to expand it very soon.
Audio and video can be turned off in Instagram Live
Both brands and individuals use Instagram Live for a variety of purposes, but not all necessarily want to broadcast using visuals and sound every time. Instagram has now made it possible to mute your microphone and/or turn off your video functionality during Instagram Live.
Like many other video chat apps, turning off our camera will display a profile picture instead. The experience shifts from a live video stream to something more like an audio chat room, with the options viewable during a live broadcast.
Instagram Reels get a “Remix” option
Similar to the remix feature on TikTok, Instagram’s Remix option allows a user to create a Reel that incorporates both another user’s content and theirs. Particularly for brands, creators, and influencers, this expands the opportunity for engagement and collaboration in an exciting new way.
The remix option is enabled on public accounts by default, but you can also turn it off if you prefer.
If another user “remixes” your Reel to create their own, you’ll receive a notification (and any user whose content you remix will also receive one). Here’s how to try out this new option:
- Select the Reel you want to remix.
- Look for the three dots in the upper right corner of the screen (or, if you are viewing the Reel from the dedicated Reels tab, find them on the bottom right corner).
- Then, select “Remix this Reel.” (Note: if the option is not available, the user has probably deactivated it for their account).
- A new screen will open with the Reel on the left side of your screen. You’ll see your content on the right side, and you can start filming by clicking the Reels button at the bottom.
Instagram launches the Instagram Insider digital magazine
If you’re always searching for new ways to learn more about Instagram, you’ll be pleased to hear that the app has now debuted its own digital magazine. Instagram Insider features trending topics, FAQs, and more, giving you an insider perspective on the social media platform.
March 2021 Instagram Updates
Go live with up to three other users in Live Rooms
Instagram Live is getting a major upgrade with the addition of Live Rooms, which users have been requesting for quite some time. Now, you can go live with as many as three other Instagram users at a time.
For brands, influencers, and content creators, this opens the door to new forms of content and engagement; and for individual users, it offers a way to “hang out” with Instagram friends.
Start a Live Room with a few easy steps:
- Swipe left in the Instagram app, then tap the Live option.
- Create a title.
- Tap the Rooms icon to search for and add guests, or allow people to join via request.
When brands go live, they can also earn money when viewers purchase badges to demonstrate their support during a Live chat. Look for the addition of more tools for Live Rooms in the near future.
February 2021 Instagram Updates
Cross-app messaging is now available
It’s now simpler than ever to unify your Facebook and Instagram experiences because cross-app messaging is finally available. This means that users on one app can locate you on the other, then send you a message.
In addition to that convenience feature, you can host video chats and reshare posts, both across platforms. Users on both platforms can also see your Active Status, so they’ll know when you’re online (if you have it enabled).
You do have the option to filter who can send you messages via a setting in the Message Delivery Settings on Facebook.
Restore recently deleted content with a single click
If you’ve ever accidentally deleted content on Instagram, you’ll understand just how useful this new feature will be. The Recently Deleted feature makes it easier to restore deleted photos and videos, whether you unintentionally wiped a post or your account was accessed by hackers.
Here’s how it works:
- Any stories you delete (that aren’t in your Archive) are accessible in the Recently Deleted folder for up to 24 hours. Photos, videos, IGTV videos, and Reels are available for 30 days.
- Access your deleted content by going to Settings, then selecting “Account.”
- Tap the “Recently Deleted” folder, where you can restore posts or permanently delete them.
When you request to delete or restore content, Instagram will require you to verify that you are the actual account holder.
January 2021 Instagram Updates
Track performance on the Professional Dashboard
For anyone who uses Instagram for business, the Professional Dashboard was easily one of the year’s biggest announcements. All Business and Creator accounts can (and should!) utilize the feature.
With the Professional Dashboard, you have access to a wealth of options, including:
- Explore insights and trends based on the performance data of your account.
- Use new Instagram tools to build your Business account more effectively and check your eligibility for and status of monetization.
- Access an array of educational resources to find tips, guidance, and other ways to maximize your potential on Instagram.
Mastering the Instagram Algorithm in 2021
Now, you’re up to speed on all the newest Instagram updates for 2021. And if figuring out the algorithm on Instagram is one of your 2021 goals, we have you covered too.
This year, Instagram has continued to share useful information about how to use the algorithm to maximize your marketing efforts. It’s the competitive edge you need to ramp up your social media marketing to a new level.
Tips for using hashtags on Instagram
In late September, the Instagram @creators account shared a list of top tips for Instagram hashtags, and there were more than a few gems on the list.
The overall theme of the post was that engagement and high-quality content should always be a top priority because the algorithm values those far more than hashtags. For business owners that find themselves struggling with hashtags, this is a welcome reminder – resist the urge to start hashtag keyword stuffing because it’s not going to work.
Instagram also shared that their best practices say a post should have about three to five hashtags; after that, more hashtags don’t equate to additional distribution.
How to rank for SEO on Instagram Search
In September 2021, we also learned a lot about the Instagram search algorithm. The company blog published a post that outlined some of the key aspects that they consider when it comes to search results rankings:
- Text entered in Search: Above all, Instagram remains focused on matching the user-entered text in the Search bar with usernames, bios, captions, places, and hashtags that are relevant. This remains the most important signal for Instagram Search.
- Activity: Instagram also assesses the accounts a user follows, posts they have views, and how they’ve engaged with accounts in the past. Then, the accounts and hashtags that the user has previously interacted with will be ranked higher in Search results.
- Popularity signals: When there is a high volume of results for a specific Search, Instagram evaluates popularity signals to determine ranking. These signals can include likes, number of likes, shares, follows, place, and/or hashtags.
So, what does this mean if you want to optimize your Instagram account for Search results? Three suggestions were provided:
- Make sure your Instagram handle, profile name, and bio contain relevant keywords.
- If your business has a physical location, include those details in your bio.
- Use relevant keywords in the captions and hashtags of your posts, not the comments.
Stay Ahead of the Social Media Marketing Curve with V Digital Services
Even though 2021 isn’t over yet, it’s been a huge year for Instagram and anyone that uses it for social media marketing purposes. And as exciting as it is to be a part of a platform that’s constantly innovating, it can be tricky – how do you keep up with it all?
For many businesses and brands, the answer is to partner with an experienced team of social media professionals to maximize cost-effectiveness and success while minimizing stress and effort.
At V Digital Services, our social media marketing team will navigate the full plethora of platforms on your behalf, creating and implementing a personalized strategy that achieves your specific goals. No matter where you are in your social media marketing journey, we’re ready to jump right in and get you on track to measurable results.
Whether it’s Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, or any other platform you want to master, V Digital Services is the team you want on your side. And even better, we’re a full-service marketing agency, so we can tackle all of your marketing needs with a comprehensive approach that works for you.
Learn more about how to leverage Instagram to grow your business when you connect with the V Digital Services team today!
Featured Images: Ink Drop, Oleksandra Naumenko, metamorworks, PopTika, Sammby, and livertoon/Shutterstock