2021 Instagram Changes: What you need to know for eCommerce Marketing

What’s Going On With Instagram in 2021?

The Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, announced in summer 2021 that big changes are coming to the platform sometime soon.  He let users know that Instagram is no longer just a photo-sharing app — instead, the platform is focusing on becoming an all-around video entertainment hub.  They’re going to prioritize immersive, full-screen experiences; new and trending formats (like Reels); and show viewers content based on their interests rather than just the accounts they follow. 

These changes also imply that content that doesn’t utilize these formats will be pushed to the back of the line, and it will be much harder to get that content out to the people you want to reach even if they’re following you. The standard SALE! graphic and branded hashtag you’ve been relying on for so long just aren’t going to cut it anymore.

For many companies — especially brands that have been slow to embrace video – this might sound pretty intimidating. Downright terrifying, perhaps.  But if you want your eCommerce business to thrive on the Gram, it’s a leap of faith you’re going to have to take. So take a deep breath, and let’s jump together.


It’s time to get creative!

If you’re running an eCommerce business (and you’re reading this post), chances are you’re not currently prioritizing “entertainment” content on your social media accounts. You’re focused on reaching new customers, highlighting your products, and driving traffic to your website!  After all, we know that’s what drives business growth, right? But now the powers that be are telling you that you need to be more entertaining instead of focusing on the tried and true strategy you know?! Don’t worry — there’s good news here … Creating entertaining content can also help you reach new customers, highlight your products, and drive traffic to your website! 

Here’s why it works: Most social media users are getting really tired of the usual marketing and sales tactics. They’ve seen a million ads, thanks to new privacy options, many of them have already changed their ad targeting settings, and they don’t want to be sold to as they scroll through Instagram.  They want to engage with content that reflects their interests, they want to laugh, they even want to learn! By creating videos your audience members enjoy watching, you can bypass their marketing fatigue and create strong positive engagement for your brand. You just have to think creatively about how you can create content that A) users want to watch, and 2) connects them to your product, service, or brand. 

If you’ve got a highly visual product or service, you’re already halfway there! You’re probably used to communicating about your product using engaging images — you just have to transition that to video content. If your brand is less visual, it may take some practice to get in the habit of thinking about your content in (moving) pictures. But once you get started, the ideas will start to come faster and easier. We promise. 


Doing What Works

When it comes to content creation for Instagram, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. You don’t even need to build a better mousetrap.  You just need to find the wheels and mouse traps that your audience likes, and make them relevant to your brand!  In other words, there are certain things that work really well on Instagram and it’s okay to take those ideas and run with them! You don’t always have to create brand new ideas, you just have to find a way to make popular ideas relevant to your product. 

As we begin this part of the process, there’s something you need to know: The key to this part of the process is volume.  We want to get the creativity flowing, and get you used to thinking about your brand in terms of engaging and entertaining content. Write down every idea that comes to mind as you’re working through our suggestions – you can sort through them later. There are no bad ideas here*. The more ideas you can come up with, the better off you will be when you start trying to bring these ideas to life. 

Ready to brainstorm? Here are our best suggestions for finding inspiration, plus dos and don’ts for using each one.

Inspiration: Social Media Trends.

In 2014, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge became the first social media trend.  2019 brought us Renegade, and The Whoa. In 2020, we all compared How It Started vs How It’s Going.  Social media trends like these bring people from different communities, with different interests and different perspectives, together over one shared – and shareable – idea. And, new trends pop up all the time, so there is always a new stream of potential video content ideas. As you’re brainstorming video ideas for your company, look at trends first to see what’s getting a lot of attention and how you can get some of that attention for yourself.

Note: Even though we’re talking about posting video content on Instagram, you’re not limited to Instagram for your trend inspiration.  Sharing TikToks on Instagram is it’s own trend! So, look everywhere for trends you can hop on, and then figure out how to get that content onto Instagram.

Do: Give them what they want to see!

If you decide to hop on an Instagram (or other social media) trend, make sure you incorporate the essence of what makes the trend engaging. Let’s use the Ice Bucket Challenge as an example here: if you want to recreate the trend, you can’t just put whatever you want in the bucket. It has to be ice. If you’re trying to sell Kool-Aid, and you fill your bucket with Kool-Aid, it just won’t work. Your version of the trend has to be close enough to the original to be recognizable as part of the trend, and have the same entertainment value. But…

Don’t: Just do what everyone else is doing. 

If you want viewers to connect the entertainment content to you, you have to find a way to make the trend reflective of your company or product. There needs to be some key element that helps them connect the dots between what they’re watching and what you’re selling. And, it needs to be memorable. Going back to our Kool-Aid example: It wouldn’t be an Ice Bucket Challenge if you just used Kool-Aid in your bucket. But, it would count as an Ice Bucket Challenge if you made your ice cubes out of Kool-Aid. Eating the ice cubes that were dumped out of the bucket would make it memorable. 

Inspiration: Online communities.

Ever heard the term Bookstagram?  It’s a shorthand term for the community of book-focused content creators on Instagram. Dogstagram? You guessed it — dog content. InstaFoodies are foodies that share their discoveries on Instagram.  Chances are, if people are interested in it there’s an Instagram community for it. These communities hold a wealth of engaging ideas that you can bring into your own Instagram strategy — you just have to determine which ones are relevant to your audience.  

To do that, start by looking at your own product or service. What groups of people are most likely to buy it, and how are they likely to use it? If you sell kitchen knives, chefs might use them in their knife kits or home cooks may use them to improve their knife skills.  If you sell car parts, you could be selling to professional mechanics who stock your parts in their shops, hobbyists restoring a prized classic, or even the average DIYer looking to save some money.  Chances are, there are many options for you to choose from.  

Then, start looking for hashtags.  You can go straight to Instagram to do this, no need for fancy tools at this point. Just plug in # + a relevant keyword, like #chef or #classiccars.  See what hashtags pop up and follow the rabbit hole.  When you find a tag that seems like a good fit, explore the content related to find ideas that might work for you.

Do:  Think outside the box

Look for new communities that your product or service might appeal to, and creative ways that members of these communities might interact with your company (even if they’re just for entertainment).  If you sell diapers, for example, show a parent that they can use a diaper to clean up a spill in a pinch. It’s that kind of attention-getting thinking that will help earn you attention on the Gram. But …

Don’t: Forget to make the connection

Once you get on the creative thinking train, it can be easy to get carried away. Make sure that every content idea you have clearly connects your viewer to your business in an actionable way. 

Inspiration: The Elusive “Viral Video”

As cliche as that term is, a viral video – a video that is so entertaining or engaging that it’s spread from person to person like a virus — is the epitome of entertaining content. While some folks do set out to create a “viral” trend, most often these happen by accident when someone creates something they think is funny, or shares something meaningful to them, or films something outrageous happening and then shares it with the world.  These videos strike a chord with the viewer and make them feel compelled to see if others share that perspective.  

When you look at these videos to create ideas for your company, look for the core feeling that resonated with you and others — was it humor, or vulnerability? (Don’t opt for outrage as a marketing tool. It rarely ends well.) Identify the characteristics that made this video something “everyone needs to see.” And then think of ways in which you can create content that shares those same characteristics. It’s probably not reasonable to bank on your content “going viral,” but those elements are at the core of all engaging content.  


Do: Make it shareable

As you’re generating video content ideas, focus on shareability.  Look to create content that is bite-sized (15 seconds to about 2 minutes), that works without sound (bonus points for closed captions), and that can be understood and enjoyed by a broad group of people (if your target audience is all chefs, don’t make the video full of jargon that’s only used by pastry chefs).  But …

Don’t: Make clickbait

Anyone who has watched video content on the internet has encountered clickbait – videos with dramatic titles that end with phrases like, “you’ll never believe what happened next,” videos with thumbnails showing some impossible outcome, or even videos that start with significant conflict only to end before the issue is resolved. Don’t be those guys.  You want your viewers to be interested and engaged because your content is GOOD, not because they got tricked into watching it. 


The Wrap Up

Okay, we’ve covered a lot of ground here. We’ve talked about the changes coming to Instagram, we’ve talked about why you should start thinking about entertaining video content for your eCommerce business NOW, and we’ve talked about how you can come up with ideas that connect your business with content that’s already working on the Gram. But we know that there’s much more to this conversation. If you need help figuring out how to keep moving forward with your social media strategy as these platforms keep growing and changing, we’d love to hear from you.  Our Digital Marketing team is ready and waiting to help you maximize your presence and grow your business online.

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