Instagram reels are currently the hottest Instagram feature, but it’s just one content format you can use to reach your ideal clients. So while reels are being pushed the most widely at the moment, as creators, Instagram encourages us to use all its features to grow our Instagram accounts in 2021.   

This article breaks down each of the eight Instagram content-sharing formats and how to use each feature to reach your audience.

A Guide to Different Instagram Features

Different Instagram Features to Grow Your Business

There are eight main Instagram content formats. Single Feed Posts, Stories, Carousel Posts, Lives, IGTVs, Highlights, Reels, and Guides are the top ways we can share content with our readers. All have their benefits, which is why it’s important to use all of them in your content marketing strategy.

Instagram Feature: Single Feed Posts

Single Feed Posts are the traditional stand-alone photos (of gifs) that appear in your feed.

When you open Instagram or refresh your feed, the photos and videos that Instagram thinks you care about most based on your previous engagement will appear towards the top of your feed. In addition to seeing content from businesses, people, and hashtags you follow, you may also see suggested accounts that are relevant to your interests.

People use the feed to discover new things so this feature will always be relevant for businesses as it is an ideal way to reach new audiences, showcase your brand values, and share details about your offerings. Single Feed Posts appear on your profile until you delete or archive them so they tend to get more views over a longer period of time. Feed Posts are also more likely to reach new audiences compared to Instagram Stories. 

Content Ideas for Single Feed Posts: 

  • Evergreen – Content that you want people to be able to see forever.
  • Educational – Aim for high-value content on your Instagram feed.
  • Storytelling – Use antidotal stories in your caption to connect and engage your readers
  • Quotes – Share a quote that is relevant to your business. Random popular quotes won’t help. Choose one that speaks to you and tailor the caption to match your why.
  • Pictures of You – Your audience wants to get to know you. Don’t be shy about posting your photos. This can be a behind-the-scenes of what’s going on in your life and business.

Instagram Feature: Stories

Do you scroll through feed posts or stories more? I am personally all about checking out people’s stories. I love getting to know people in their less curated moments. 

I am not alone — 60% of Instagram’s 500 million daily active users use Insta stories. That’s a lot of opportunity for engagement!

Stories on Instagram are 15 seconds long. However, there’s an easy workaround to this limitation: videos longer than 15 seconds will automatically be split up into separate segments, and all can be uploaded at once.

When you post a photo or video to your story, a colorful ring will appear around your profile picture, and people can tap it to see your story. Photos and videos from your story don’t appear on your profile grid. Instead, they appear in a row at the top of your followers’ Feeds.

Business owners can use Stories to express the creativity of their brand as well as inspire interest from customers. According to Instagram, 50% of people surveyed say they have visited a website to buy a product/service as a result of seeing it in Stories. In contrast to Feed Posts, most users watch Instagram Stories with their sound on. 

Benefits of Stories:

  • Builds relationships with viewers
  • Showcases your personality
  • Transparency/ Less curated than feed posts
  • Increases engagement

Content Ideas for Stories: 

  • Announcements
  • Flash sales or short-term discounts
  • Polls and Q&A with interactive stickers 
  • Behind the scenes videos  

Instagram Feature: Highlights

While Stories are a great feature, they disappear after 24 hours.  According to influencemarketinghub.com, Instagram created the Stories Highlight feature because users expressed a need to keep some of their best stories to use later. 

This feature allows you to save your best stories on your account for as long as you want. Highlights are pinned to your profile page below your profile picture, which is prime real estate for showcasing all the elements that comprise your brand. 

Must-Have Highlights for Business: 

  • About/Mission Statement
  • Services
  • Testimonials/Credentials 
  • Tips & Tricks   

Instagram Feature: IG Lives

News that Instagram is no longer a photo-sharing app caused a shockwave, but in reality, Instagram hasn’t been *just* a photo-sharing app for quite some time. Following in the footsteps of Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter’s live-streaming app Periscope, Instagram launched its Live Video feature in November 2016 alongside direct story messaging.

Aside from the benefit of connecting with other users in real-time, this feature allows businesses to create hype and excitement around their services and products or share insights on a topic.

You can go live solo or with other creators to reach new audiences. To add someone to your Live, tap the white circle next to the username of the person you want to invite or search for their username at the top, then tap Send Request.

Lives have a built-in sense of urgency among their users encouraging them to watch it before it disappears. Once a live broadcast has ended, you can share a replay to IGTV or access it in your Live Archive. Be sure to promote your IG Live ahead of time and encourage followers to watch.  Another pro tip is to outline your talking points ahead of going live to keep the streaming session streamlined and on-topic.

Benefits of IG Lives:

  • Connect in real-time with viewers
  • Build a stronger connection between your brand and potential customer
  • Helps boost your discoverability on Instagram

Content Ideas for IG Lives: 

  • Answer frequently asked questions
  • Announcements

Instagram Feature: IGTV

Instagram’s first standalone video platform, IGTV, is a channel where business owners can share longer videos. IGTV videos must be at least one minute long. The maximum length that your video can be is 15 minutes when uploading from a mobile device, or 60 minutes when uploading from the web.

Once you post a video, you can see insights such as likes, comments, view count, the average percent of video watched, and an audience retention graph.

Benefits of IGTV: 

  • Having a long-form video outlet without having to use channels like YouTube
  • Can be pre-recorded and uploaded
  • Easy to repurpose into small video clips for stories or transcripted for additional posts

Content Ideas for IGTV:

  • Product promotion
  • Product tutorials or how-tos 
  • Sharing news about your business or products  

Instagram Feature: Carousel Posts

If you’re going to post one photo to Instagram, you might as well post two…or ten. This is the beauty of an Instagram carousel post. The popular feature was rolled out in 2017 and allows you to combine up to 10 photos, videos, or text graphics into a single post.

And when I say popular. I mean POPULAR!

According to Search Engine Journal, a study of over 22 million Instagram posts finds carousels are the most engaging type of post. (Though I have a feeling reels will undoubtedly take the top spot soon). So if you want to boost your Instagram engagement don’t neglect carousel posts in your content marketing efforts.

The Instagram carousel post format has an average of 1.92% engagement per post. The engagement rate per post goes over 2% when all ten carousel slides are used. However, most carousels have between 2 to 4 slides. I’d suggest at least three.

Instagram Carousels allow businesses to showcase multiple products or services in one place.  Carousels can be an effective way to promote blog content.  Send traffic to your blog by first teasing the content in a Carousel post. 

Paired with a strong content strategy, you can boost engagement levels, increase brand loyalty, and drive sales.

Benefits of Carousel Posts:

  • Share more in-depth content without overwhelming your followers’ Instagram feeds with multiple posts.
  • High Impression rate.
  • Create content targeted to a range of audiences—for example, showcasing multiple products or services in one place.
  • Instagram carousel posts can be an extremely effective way to promote blog content. The best way to send traffic to your blog articles from Instagram is to tease your blog content in a carousel post.

Read more about How to Create an Engaging Instagram Carousel

Instagram Feature: Guides 

Instagram introduced Guides in May 2020, allowing experts and creators to create Guides focused on well-being tips in the wake of Covid-19. It has since expanded the feature for everyone to use to share related posts in one place. 

Guides are a way to share recommendations and tips. Guides are a thread of Instagram posts that offer scrollable, easy-to-understand content. You can find Guides on your profile, and share them across Stories and in DMs. Once created, Guides can be easily shared to  Stories by tapping the paper plane icon at the top right-hand corner of the screen.   

Product Guides may be featured in Instagram Shop, Instagram’s new shopping destination within the app.

Three types of Guides:

  • Places: Perfect for sharing your location-based recommendations.
  • Products:  Recommend your favorite products in an Instagram Shop.
  • Posts: Share posts you have created or saved, providing inspiration or product advice.

Benefits of Guides:

  • The ability to group related posts into one place
  • Guides can easily be repurposed into a blog post
  • Links easily to an Instagram shopping page

Instagram Feature: Reels 

It’s 2021 and as a blogger, business owner, or content creator, you probably know by now how powerful and essential video content is to grow your brand online. But not just any type of video content.

It is all about fast-paced, short-form video content that is entertaining, educational, and gets straight to the point. Instagram Reels are short (up to 60 seconds) videos.

The Reels creation option allows users to add fun, popular songs, and unique effects to their videos. The Reels feature offers more editing and tools options than Stories.  You can overlay music, record audio over the video,  change the speed of the video, add special effects, and more.  Reels also allows you to group together clips that you create.

Benefits of Reels:

  • Discoverability and reach
  • Allows creators to show more of their personality
  • Easy to repurpose
  • Great Source of Traffic

Content Ideas for Reels:

  • Making a video of yourself giving tips.
  • Sharing customer testimonials.
  • Creating before-and-after Reels.
  • Providing product highlights or tutorials.        

Read more about How to Start Using Instagram Reels to Grow Your Business.

Now that you have walked through Instagram’s content-sharing features, it’s time to get creative and have fun! Instagram is the second most used social media channel, having more than 1 billion active users, utilizing it is a great way to connect with your audience.   

Creating exciting Instagram content can be tough, but I’m here to help with plenty of tips and tricks. These 50 free post prompts helped me grow an engaged Instagram following of more than 5K people, fast!

Happy Creating! 

Cyndi, Owner of Ascent StoryCraft

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