The Top Instagram Updates You Need to Know: September 2020

The Top Instagram Updates You Need to Know: September 2020

Keep informed with this rundown of Instagram’s latest updates.

From new ad formats to Instagram Shop upgrades, Instagram is constantly introducing new features for marketers. But if you don’t know about them, you can’t take advantage of them.

Stay in the know so you get ahead of Instagram trends and give your marketing that extra edge.

Here are the new Instagram updates for August 2020. Jump back to previous months:

Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a lifestyle photographer used to grow from 0 to 600,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.

Top Instagram updates you need to know in 2020

September 2020 Instagram updates

These are the new Instagram updates as of September 2020.

Equity update adds transparency to Instagram’s algorithm

In an update on the racial justice commitments the company made in June, Instagram provided details on the formation of an equity team, new company-wide policies, and updated verification and distribution guidelines.

The update offered insight behind Instagram’s recommendations engine, which sorts the content people see in the Explore, Accounts You May Like, and IGTV Discover sections. Within the recommendation guidelines >are five broad categories that may not be eligible for recommendations. These include “sensitive or low-quality content about Health or Finance,” content that includes clickbait or engagement bait, and “unoriginal content that is largely repurposed from another source without adding material value.” When content is featured, accounts will receive notifications. Learn more about the Instagram algorithm.

In a review of the platform’s verification process, which determines who receives blue checkmarks, the company added more Black, LGBTQ+, and Latinx media it considers when measuring the “notability” of accounts. Automated systems that prioritized follower count have been removed from the application process.

Comment warnings, which prompt users to reconsider offensive remarks, will be expanded to Instagram Live. Business and creator accounts can also better manage who can slide into their DMs.

Reels and Shops tabs tested on the home screen 

Instagram is now testing three versions of the home screen that add shortcuts for the Reels and Shop tabs.

“These changes reflect shifts we’re seeing from people, both in how they use the product but also how they push culture forward on Instagram: rise of creators, explosion of video, acceleration of online shopping,” said Adam Mosseri, Instagram head, in a post.

Source: Instagram

Learn more about Instagram trends.

Checkout and Live shopping available across the U.S.

Over the next few weeks, all eligible U.S. business and creator accounts with Instagram Shops will have access to Instagram Checkout and Live shopping. Facebook has also added a Shop section to its platform. For now, the company is waiving selling fees for vendors.

New features were also introduced for shops. Businesses can now tailor their social storefronts with new layouts and see real-time previews of collections while they set them up. Commerce Manager also got a slight upgrade so businesses can better track sales efforts.

The expansion supports a shift to online retail in response to the global pandemic. According to the company’s latest Global State of Small Business Report, a number of small businesses are making a significant percentage of sales online.

Users paid by Facebook to deactivate accounts

Select Facebook and Instagram users have been given the option to participate in a study that requires them to deactivate their accounts and complete a survey. Announced August 31, the study will be conducted by Facebook researchers and independent external academics as a part of the company’s effort to probe election interference.

“Anyone who chooses to opt in – whether it’s completing surveys or deactivating FB or IG for a period of time – will be compensated,” said Facebook spokesperson Liz Bourgeois in a tweet.

The study contributes to the company’s latest push to “protect the election,” including the addition of mail-in ballot info to Instagram home feeds and the removal of more than 70 Instagram accounts for coordinated in authentic behaviour. Critics argue these steps are too little too late, with early voting underway and misinformation continuing to run rampant.

August 2020 Instagram updates

Here’s the lowdown on the latest Instagram updates from August 2020.

Reels rolls out to more than 50 countries, including the U.S.

As U.S. officials threaten TikTok restrictions, Instagram has seized the opportunity to release Reels in more than 50 countries including the U.S., Australia, Canada, and Japan. The feature was released in India in July on the heels of a nationwide-ban of TikTok.

The TikTok copycat allows people to record and edit 15-second videos with a full gamut of special effects. Once created, they can be shared to the feed, Stories, and Direct, while public Reels also appear in a dedicated part of the Explore tab. In some countries, Reels has replaced the Explore tab altogether.

View this post on Instagram

?Introducing Reels ? A new way to create short entertaining videos, reach new audiences and be part of cultural moments on Instagram. ✨ With Reels, you can record and edit multi-clip videos with music, effects, and new creative tools. Share reels with friends on Feed or with the larger Instagram community in Explore. Reels is rolling out today to more than 50 countries around the world. ? Stay tuned to @creators all week long to hear tips & tricks on how to create ? Reels. Featured creators: @cyrilschr, @ghettotwins__ @morimura, @oskar.artem, @artusweichert @jenybsg, @leethe4th, @sarahgama_, @gabriellasaraivah, @pablotoneti, @briann @luara, @gabby.morr, @parkerkithill, @justin.prince, @iamkandireign and @leaelui

A post shared by Instagram’s @Creators (@creators) on

Many influencers and creators have jumped on board, thanks in part to lucrative financial incentives. In response, TikTok dropped $200 million into its Creator Fund. Expect competition for creators to intensify as companies like Twitter and Microsoft vie for TikTok ownership, and competitors like YouTube make moves of their own.

Several brands have gotten in on the action as well, including Louis Vuitton, Sephora, Guess, and The Score. But as Digiday reporter Lara O’Reilly points out, there are notable absentees, including The Washington Post, an early TikTok adopter. Ad placement and options are not yet available, but Instagram does plan to make branded content tools available in the future.

New fonts for Instagram Stories

After announcing in April that it was testing fonts, Instagram has made four new type styles available for Instagram Stories, bringing the total up to nine. The inclusion of Comic Sans-like lettering revived the love-to-hate debate on Twitter, and also prompted reminders that the font is among the few that are disability friendly.

Messenger and Instagram Direct merge begins

The paper airplane icon in the upper right corner will soon be replaced with the Messenger lightning bolt and speech bubble. On August 14, several Instagram users received a pop-up message informing them of the update.

The update brings more colors and emoji reactions to Instagram inboxes, as well as the option to swipe-to-reply. Eventually people will be able to chat with their Messenger contacts on Instagram, and even host Messenger Rooms with up to 50 people.

Voting Information Center added ahead of U.S. election

In anticipation of the upcoming U.S. presidential election, Facebook and Instagram have launched a Voting Information Center. The center, which can be accessed from profile menus, provides links for voter registration, vote by mail information, the option to sign up for poll work, and facts about voting.

July 2020 Instagram updates

Here are Instagram’s latest updates as of July 2020.

Instagram releases Reels in India, following TikTok ban

On the heels of the Indian government’s decision to ban TikTok and several other Chinese apps, Instagram released Reels, a 15-second video and audio clip feature, to a broad user group in the country. India is the fourth country to test the TikTok-inspired feature, following Germany, France, and Brazil, where Reels was introduced last November.

Instagram TikTok video and audio clip feature

Source: Instagram

TikTok’s departure from the Indian market leaves ripe opportunity for Instagram. India was TikTok’s largest user base outside China, with more than 120 million monthly active users. Part of the reason for the app’s success is that it allows creators to parlay popularity into viable income streams. For now, Reels does not support direct monetization.

Videos already account for one third of all Instagram posts in India. According to Instagram’s VP of Product, Vishal Shah, 45% of all videos posted on the platform are 15 seconds or shorter. The in-app tool lets users record, edit, add audio effects, and share the clips in the feed, stories, and explore tab.

An Instagram story posted by fashion influencer Danielle Bernstein (@weworewhat) on July 20 suggests Reels may soon come to the American market, too. In the U.S., which has supplanted India as TikTok’s second largest market, officials have also publicly mulled a ban. Facebook, meanwhile, shuttered its TikTok clone, Lasso, on July 10.

Instagram tests a central Shop tab

Some users may see the heart icon in the app’s navigation bar swapped for a shopping bag in the near future. As TechCrunch reports, on July 7, Instagram started a small global test that replaces the Activity tab with an Instagram Shop tab.

The shortcut makes shopping on Instagram one tap away, versus the two taps currently required to reach Shops from the Explore tab. Activity stays one tap away, too. It just moves up near the Instagram Direct paper airplane icon.

Pin comments option now available to everyone

All users on Instagram can now pin up to three comments to the top of their posts. The feature is intended to help users set and manage the tone of responses to their posts. Comments can be pinned by swiping left and tapping the pin icon. When an account pins someone else’s comment they receive a notification.

Looking for more Instagram hacks? Find our top tips and tricks here.

Facebook considers ban on political ads

Ahead of the U.S. election, sources tell Bloomberg that Facebook is exploring a political ad blackout. The ban would mark a reversal from Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg’s previous stance on the matter.

Facebook and Instagram currently allows political advertising on its platforms with limited checks against false claims and misinformation. In June, both platforms gave users the option to “turn off” political ads.

A ban on political ads would partially address the recommendations put forward by the Stop Hate For Profit campaign. Close to 400 companies have boycotted advertising on Facebook and Instagram to protest the spread of online hate.

Learn more about Instagram advertising.

Wear a Mask reminder added to top of the feed

In response to the rise of COVID-19 cases in the United States, Instagram added an alert to the top of the feed that reminds people to wear masks. The reminder includes a link to the Centers for Disease Control website.

Here’s how to use social media for crisis communications.

Facebook and Instagram launch a Voting Information Center

On July 3, voting age residents of the United States received a message at the top of their Instagram and Facebook apps about voter registration. The message links to the state’s registration website, polling locations, early voting options, and more. Instagram now has election day countdown stickers that link to voting information as well. With additional pushes planned before November, Facebook expects to reach 160 million people in the U.S.

Instagram and Facebook voting information message

Source: Facebook

June 2020 Instagram updates

These are the Instagram updates for June 2020 you should know about.

Instagram vows to address racial inequality

With momentum building behind Black Lives Matter, Instagram has pledged to reexamine how its policies, tools, and processes impact Black communities on Instagram. The reexamination will focus on harassment, account verification, distribution, and algorithmic bias. The company also committed to increase the amount of people of color employed in leadership positions to 30% over the next five years.

Instagram also added an “Act for Racial Justice” section to its Donation Sticker options in an effort to make it easier for people to support related organizations.

Read our guide on genuine social media activism.

Access to Instagram Shopping expands to more businesses

In June, Instagram introduced Commerce Eligibility Requirements to expand access to Instagram Shopping to more businesses. Under the new requirements, which took effect July 9, any eligible business or creator account in supported markets with a minimum of one eligible product can use Instagram’s shopping tags. To be eligible, product listings need to be available for direct purchase from a verifiable website or Instagram Checkout.

Instagram tests a “See All stories” grid

More than 500 million people use Instagram stories every day. The popularity of the format is likely the reason Instagram is exploring ways to bring more visibility to them. Most recently the platform tested a “see all stories” option that takes people to a full grid of stories. Previously the app tested showing two rows of stories at the top of the feed instead of one.

Shoppable product tags spotted in captions

Select Instagram business accounts have been able to add product tags to the captions of their posts. When tapped, the tag opens onto a shoppable product page. The beta eCommerce feature was spotted by tech reporters Oriol Salvador and Matt Navara.

Instagram Direct and Messenger integration under development

Instagram and Facebook developers are working to integrate the platforms’ private messaging channels across apps. Early prototypes have shown the option to “Get Messenger on Instagram.” The integration could allow Facebook contacts to connect through Messenger on Instagram. Features from Messenger, including chat colour customization and video chat, will likely carry over as well.

May 2020 Instagram updates

Learn about the new Instagram updates for May.

Instagram opens up Shops

Brands and creators now have the ability to open Instagram storefronts showcasing collections and products that can be purchased in-app. People can visit shops from a tab in Instagram profiles, or find them through the feed, explore tab, and stories. The new native shopping experience aims to boost social commerce returns by eliminating the taps between discovery and checkout.

Learn how to set up an Instagram Shop for your business.

Live ads and badges add direct revenue streams for creators

In late May Instagram announced plans to begin testing a new badges feature. Fans will be able to purchase badges during Instagram Live videos to stand out in the comments, nab a spot on a list of the creator’s badge holders, and earn “a special heart.” Costs for badges range between 99 cents and $4.99. During the test phase, influencers will receive 100% of the revenue they earn.

IGTV ads offer another revenue stream for creators. These ads appear when people click to see the full video after watching the preview. A small group of creators and advertisers will have access to the ad format as Instagram tests different experiences, including on with a skip option. Instagram also expanded access to the Brand Collabs Manager platform so more creators can connect with brands.

Shopping comes to Instagram Live

Between February and March, as stay at home orders were issued worldwide, Instagram Live viewership rose by 70%. To help brands and creators capitalize on larger audiences, Instagram has made it possible to tag and display products in Live videos. The test will begin with businesses and roll out more broadly over the next few months.

Instagram Live shopping and product display update

Source: Facebook

Live videos can now be saved to IGTV

Instagram Live hosts now have the option to save their live videos to IGTV. Before this option was made available, the live streams expired 24 hours after the initial broadcast.

Discover how to use Instagram Live to grow your followers.

Instagram rolls out Guides

A new Guides tab has cropped up on the Instagram profiles of select accounts. The format features a collection of curated posts and videos along with headlines and tips that can be added. Each guide can be shared in stories or via direct message and they appear in a devoted section of the explore tab.

For now guides are tailored around the theme of wellbeing, though Instagram also launched a guide on racial justice. According to Instagram’s head Adam Mosseri, travel guides were planned as the initial use case prior to the pandemic.

Anti-bullying comment and tag controls added

In a bid to address bullying on the platform, Instagram has made it easier for people to remove negative comments and control who can tag them. Accounts now have the option to delete comments in bulk—a feature most useful for high engagement profiles or accounts targeted by trolls. To combat the malicious use of tags and mentions, account holders can limit tagging permissions to everyone, people they follow, or no one.

Giphy joins the Instagram family

In a deal worth a reported $400 million, Facebook has acquired GIF website Giphy with plans to further integrate the site across its apps. The acquisition was motivated, in large part, by the popularity of GIFs on Instagram. According to Facebook, Instagram accounts for 25% of Giphy’s traffic. “By bringing Instagram and Giphy together, we can make it easier for people to find the perfect GIFs and stickers in Stories and Direct,” reads the press release.

Creators can now build AR effects with music

The effects gallery for Instagram stories is about to get more musical. The latest upgrade to Spark AR, Instagram’s augmented reality platform, streamlines the AR creation process and now includes the option to add audio effects. Beyond sound, another new capability makes it possible to create AR effects that alter photos and videos from the camera roll.

Instagram updates Spark AR augmented reality platform

Source: Instagram

April 2020 Instagram updates

Instagram story updates and more from April 2020.

Gift card, food order, and donation tools added for small businesses

To help small businesses shoulder the economic impact of the pandemic, Instagram released a series of features for business and creator accounts. After setting-up their accounts with select partners, businesses can add “Gift Card” and “Food Order” stickers to Instagram stories. Businesses can also add these options as buttons to their profiles, in addition to a “Donate” button.

Learn how to use Instagram Stories to build your audience.

Live fundraisers launch with donation button

Instagram Live hosts can now add a donate button to the bottom of their video to raise money for nonprofits. Hosts can keep track of donations and virtually “wave” at supporters to offer thanks. When someone donates, they receive special access to an “I Donated” sticker for a limited period. All of the proceeds earned by Live fundraisers go directly to the chosen nonprofit.

Steps taken to improve transparency of high-reach accounts

Facebook and Instagram are now piloting a feature that shows the location of high-reach pages and accounts. For now, the pilot will focus on accounts located outside of the U.S. but reach a large U.S. audience. The company is also looking at bringing transparency to more places, including Instagram profiles.

IGTV app gets a redesign

The homepage of Instagram’s standalone IGTV app has been redesigned to put creators in the spotlight, the company told The Verge. Among the changes, the app will also have a new Discover tab that takes a page from TikTok’s playbook by serving content from a variety of creators (whether or not you follow them). On Instagram, IGTV videos shared to Instagram Stories now play a 15-second preview instead of displaying a static thumbnail.

Check out our complete guide for IGTV.

Instagram Direct comes to desktop

Instagram users can now read and reply to direct messages from desktop browsers.

Instagram Direct desktop update

Source: Instagram

March 2020 Instagram updates

Most of the new Instagram updates in March were released in response to the global pandemic.

COVID-19 Information Centre launched to halt misinformation

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads worldwide, Instagram and Facebook have announced the steps they are taking to prevent the spread of misinformation.

In addition to the information centre, which contains updates and tips from global and local health organizations, the company plans to remove “known harmful misinformation” related to COVID-19. Misleading content will be reviewed by partners, and exploitative ads will be banned.

When someone searches or taps related keywords or hashtags, they are connected to accounts and resources of global and local health authorities. Some hashtags and COVID-related AI effects will be blocked and restricted altogether.

Learn how to use hashtags on Instagram to get results.

Stay Home and Thanks Health Heroes stickers added

To show gratitude to healthcare workers and promote physical distancing, Instagram added a Stay Home and Thanks Health Hero sticker to the stories gallery. When the sticker is used, the story is added to a shared Instagram story as well.

Instagram pilots IGTV ads and monetization for creators

Instagram has confirmed that it started testing in-stream ads on IGTV, its long-form video channel, with a small group of creators. As Bloomberg reports, creators will earn 55% of ad revenue, which matches YouTube’s rates. These ads introduce a direct monetization stream for Instagram creators as competition between platforms heats up. Instagram continues to actively encourage IGTV video creation on its @creators account.

February 2020 Instagram updates

Here are the key updates on Instagram in February.

New Following categories introduced

Following and follower lists now organizing accounts into different categories. Under the Following list, people can now see the 50 accounts that are most shown in their feed and the 50 accounts they interact with least. The full list of followers can also be sorted by latest or earliest. Categories in the Follower tab now include “Accounts you don’t follow back” and the 50 “Least interacted with” accounts.

Support and appeals tools added to stem harassment

On Safer Internet Day, Instagram introduced new tools to make it easier for people to track and appeal issues. People who report content and accounts will have access to Support Requests, where they can monitor the status of reports and request additional reviews. Accounts that have been disabled will be now able to appeal the decision in the app, rather than through the Help Centre.

Instagram updates Help Centre Support Requests

Source: Instagram

Instagram launches @InstagramComms on Twitter

Instagram has launched a new Twitter account (@InstagramComms) for news, product updates, and more. The company’s primary Twitter account will remain focussed on community stories, content, partnerships, and events.

January 2020 Instagram updates

Instagram updates in January included several new business tools.

Growth metrics added to Instagram Insights

Business and creator accounts can now better track follower growth from the Instagram Insights dashboard. The new section displays audience growth over seven days in a bar chart and tallies follows and unfollows over selected time frames. This update also lets accounts can also see which posts and stories are generating the most followers. Another feature added to the Activity tab aggregates the stories that have mentioned your account over the past 24 hours.

Want more followers on Instagram? Here are a few tips that actually work.

Age gating options now available

Instagram has introduced age-gating features to allow business and creator accounts to control who can see their profiles. Accounts can elect to set a default minimum age, or vary age limits by country. In December, Instagram started asking people to submit their birthday when creating accounts, and pledged to provide age-appropriate experiences on the app.

Secondary inbox tab created for businesses

Direct messages businesses receive on Instagram can now be organized with primary and general tabs. The two-tab system is designed to separate low and high priority messages. All messages initially appear in the primary tab, but less urgent messages can be moved to general. Message requests from accounts you do not follow will also appear in the inbox, and can be sorted by All Requests or Top Requests.

Just getting started on Instagram? Learn how to use Instagram for business.

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