Instagram for PR: Make the Most of the Platform Updates

We’ve previously covered how Instagram is quickly becoming the darling social media channel for the PR set. That’s why keeping up with the best way to create content for an engaged and savvy audience on this channel is more important than ever. Although this post is a roundup of Instagram for PR updates in 2018, we thought it would be useful to highlight some of the new content types from the past few years with tips on how to use these features. Read on to keep your Instagram strategy current.

Instagram Algorithm

In May 2018, Instagram announced they were once again changing the algorithm. This time they are prioritizing newer posts. They’re using the following criteria to determine the post order on a given user’s feed.

  1. Timeliness: Newer posts are given priority on a feed.
  2. Interest: Instagram predicts how much a user is likely to care about a post based on past behavior. For example, if a user regularly engages with makeup tutorials, these kinds of posts will be bumped up.
  3. Relationship: Like Facebook, Instagram wants to prioritize content from our close friends and family. Beyond Facebook connections, those who users interact a lot with through comments and image tags will be shown first.

Instagram for PR: What does this mean for PR Pros?

Choosing the right time to post is more important than before. Older posts may not show up at the top of a user’s feed. Therefore, knowing when your audience is active on the platform is essential.

Additionally, the relationship aspect of the Instagram algorithm means that we should work hard to build bridges with our social media community to encourage engagement. If our audience isn’t interacting with our content, it won’t be prioritized on their feeds.

Instagram Shopping

2018 also saw Instagram launch an in-app shopping feature for business accounts. As we're sure you've now seen, brands can now direct shoppers to their e-commerce storefronts without compromising on the time users spend on the app itself.

According to Instagram, when someone taps a tag on your post, they’ll see:

  1. An image of the product from your post
  2. A description of the product
  3. The product’s price
  4. A link that takes them directly to your website, where they can purchase the product

Use it by

  1. Choosing a photo of your product(s)
  2. Tagging up to 5 products in an image
  3. Adding hashtags and captions

One caveat, your account needs to be approved for shopping to use this feature.

Instagram for PR: What does this mean for PR pros?

This is part of a larger strategy to keep business actions on the platform. It’s move from a platform strategy that initially relied on discovery to one that supports actions. Beyond the shopping buttons, consumers can now Reserve, Get Tickets, Start Order, or Book through third-party partners without having to leave Instagram. You’re now able to get those leggings you’ve been eyeing to wear to that yoga class you’ve booked that is next to that juice bar where you’ve ordered a to-go acai bowl. You’ll need to consider a posting strategy that highlights specific actions you’d like yMake sure to coordinate strategies with them so your brand messaging and look remains consistent and your timing syncs up.

When launched, Istagram's carousel ads got all the brand excited - and for good reasons. These ads allow companies to utilize the carousel feature within Instagram Story ads. This 'new' look gives brands the ability to better blend into a user’s feed when they’re looking at Stories rather than a seeming “commercial” interruption.

Why should you use carousel ads?

Carousel Ads are one of the most engaging ad formats. According to the AdRoll group, AdRoll advertisers running carousel ads on Facebook saw an average of 20 percent increase in click-through conversion (CTC) rates and a 40 percent decrease in cost per acquisition (CPA) compared to those who ran single image ads on Facebook. 250 million users now engage with Instagram Stories every day.

Carousel Ads + Instagram Stories … you could be on to a winner!

Instagram for PR: What does this mean for PR pros?

Paid social is an important part of the media mix for any brand trying to get noticed on social platforms. Combining brand storytelling and advertising together requires working across teams to ensure messaging is in synch, well time, and continually monitored to optimize engagement and spend.

Instagram Questions

On July 22nd 2018, Instagram launched interactive questions stickers within Stories. This was the first time audiences could submit questions for an account owner to answer. For brands, this feature can be used to encourage additional engagement from your audience!

Use it by

  1. Going to Story Camera
  2. Take a photo/video or select the picture or video you want to use as a backdrop.
  3. Press the sticker icon on the top right
  4. Add the questions sticker, customize the text and background.
  5. Click ‘add to story’
  6. Await questions and respond when they come in

Instagram for PR: What does this mean for PR pros?

Beyond the general “ask us a question” prompt, why not profile an employee or have an influencer come in and have a live ‘Q&A’ story session?

One of the best things about social media is having two-way conversations, so regularly using this feature to more explicitly encourage your audience’s input on your features or products can show them how much you value them.

Beyond making Instagram better for comms pros to engage with our community, Instagram is making the platform increasingly delightful for users with features like music stickers. Add a soundtrack to your post by searching for music within the platform, then layer that over your images or video, and include a ready badge of the artist and song.

Instagram GIF Stickers and Music Stickers

Instagram Stories surpassed Snapchat in 2017 with 250 million daily users in comparison to Snapchats 166 million. The likely reason for this is that Instagram keeps rolling out new features.

Beyond business-oriented features, they’ve added enhancements that compete with Snapchat’s signature playful stance. This includes the ability to add GIF stickers or a song with a Music Sticker to any Instagram Story. To provide a large library of GIFs, Instagram has teamed up with Giphy.

Why should you use GIF or Music Stickers in Stories?

GIFs and Music Stickers are a great way to engage with our communities since they’re fun and expressive. The novelty factor of this latest update is likely to increase the engagement of posts in the short run. In the long run, GIFs are likely to appeal to Millennials and Gen Z, as is pairing music with a great Story. Similar to emojis, this casual communication style will bleed over to use in a business context and you’ll soon see brands adopting their use to connect with audiences.

Use it by

  1. Going to Story Camera
  2. Taking a photo/video or select the picture or video you want to upload.
  3. Swipe up in Stories
  4. Select the GIF or Music icon. Both GIFs and Music have an in-feature search function.
  5. Add the GIF or Music Sticker to your Story.
  6. After you add them, you’ll be able to move, rotate, and resize the GIFs or the Music Sticker on top of your Story.
  7. If you want to pin GIF stickers, tap and hold them. This will pin the sticker to a fixed space in a video.

Instagram for PR: What does this mean for PR pros?

Making brand messages resonate on social involves visuals. Instagram is providing tools to create dynamic videos that are ripe for experimentation. By mixing content types and showing us how layered, colorful, and–dare we say–delightful their new content types are, Instagram is sending PR folks a clear message. They are putting in the work for brands to create dynamic and actionable content. Think of creative ways to add discreet GIFs and tasteful, on brand music, to your Stories to see how your audience reacts. Don’t be afraid layer other features at the same time as your GIFs and Music Badges, include a location, hashtags, and @mentions. Maybe the sky isn’t the limit, but the “cloud” might be.


One of the reasons Instagram is-by far-one the fastest growing social media platforms is because the mobile platform is invested in supporting business functionality for brands and are consistently iterating on the platform and adding features that keep users coming back.

If you want a robust social media strategy that includes Instagram, (not to mention Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit,) then we can help.