The Marketer’s Guide to Instagram Features

For many of us, Instagram is already a part of daily life. But that doesn’t mean we’ve given a lot of thought to the hottest new Instagram features or that we’ve properly analyzed our Instagram statistics. 

We scroll when we’re waiting in line or need a break from work. We laugh at memes and type “Congratulations! 🥳” in the comment sections under our friends’ posts when they get engaged or have a baby or get promoted. We DM our friends and stalk our exes.

colorful illustration of Instagram features

But how much do we really know about this platform we use every day? As users and as marketers, are we using the app to its fullest potential? After researching this post, I’m willing to bet you aren’t. Because I sure as heck wasn’t, and this is my literal job. So get ready to be surprised as you learn the ins and outs of this popular platform. 

Think of this post as the beginner’s guide to Instagram. We’re here to shed light on everything you need to know about Instagram such as user experience, content creation, and how brands can make the most of the app.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is Instagram?

Right? Because even though for many of us, that question is like asking, “what is water?” it’s still worth laying down some Instagram basics. So, what is Instagram?

According to Meta, Instagram’s parent company, Instagram is a free photo- and video-sharing app available to anyone 13 years of age or older. The app allows you to share images and videos with your followers, a small group of friends, or a larger audience. 

In 2022, there’s way more to Instagram than just pretty pictures (not to say we don’t love a perfectly-curated flatlay). This wouldn’t be much of a guide to Instagram if we didn’t include all the Instagram statistics and features. Today, Instagram features include In-Feed (or Grid) Posts, Reels, Stories, Story Highlights, Live, IGTV (which isn’t technically a thing anymore, but if you had IGTV content, it’s now considered an IG Reel), Filters, Stickers, Quizzes, Interactive Bios, Professional Dashboards, Shops, the Creator Marketplace, a content scheduler, and more.  

Instagram is a social media site and eCommerce platform all at once. It has the ability to connect people all over the world with content, brands, products, and perhaps most importantly, each other. 

Instagram Statistics You Should Know 

We’ll let the numbers speak for themselves. 

Instagram Features for Business: 2022 Update

Instagram is constantly evolving. It feels like there’s a new update every week, and it can be hard to keep up. Here are some of the most exciting new Instagram features for business for now. Surely there will be more to come, and we’ll make sure to help you stay updated.

A Whole New Aesthetic

One Instagram feature is stirring up controversy. They’re rolling out a new full-screen vertical format, very similar to that of TikTok. It’s being marketed as an “immersive viewing experience on the Home feed.” The new 9:16 ratio is set to replace the old square format and is currently being tested with select users.

It makes sense that Instagram is trying to chase the success of TikTok. While TikTok users spend an average of 45 minutes per day on the app, Instagram users only scroll the app for an average of 28 minutes per day. The aesthetic change also suggests a further push toward video content, as the format is optimal for reels, but Meta CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, took to his own Instagram Story to assure users that is not the case. 

Instagram post from Mark Zuckerberg
Story post from @zuck on Instagram.

Overall, it seems users are not happy about the new format. Of course, change takes time and any major pivot on your favorite social network is bound to stir up mixed feelings. But,is the discomfort here to stay? 

The new format hides comments and captions. And when captions are displayed, they overlay the images themselves. This causes accessibility concerns for the readability of the text. 

Design-driven creators like Kaye Huett, a brand designer, are outraged at the new format as you can tell from this tweet. It’s easy to imagine what comes next if this new format rolls out to all users — we’ll simply have to start posting full-length images that adhere to the new 9:16 ratio. But what about all the highly curated content already in our grids? Designer @kayedoeslogos has already run into this issue.

Here’s a screenshot of one of her original design posts in the classic square format. 

Classic Square picture format on Instagram

And here is the same post auto-edited to fit the new full-screen format.

New full-screen format on Instagram

Those auto-generated borders don’t feel very immersive to me, but what do you think? 

Creator Marketplace

As of June, Instagram is testing its new Creator Marketplace, a feature that will allow brands and creators to connect for branded content partnerships directly in the app. 

The lowdown is this: Creators will define their interests and niches within the marketplace. Brands will be able to select creators who align with their campaign goals and send them a message with all the project info (scope, usage, content details, payment, etc). The selected creators will receive proposals in their partnerships folder. And if they accept, Instagram will process the payments through the app, so brands will pay creators on the same platform. 

Basically, it’s a one-stop shop for brands and influencers to work together on Instagram. If you’re brand new to the influencer marketing space, this could be a huge win. The Creator Marketplace will make it easier to see which creators in your niche are available for partnerships and it will keep all your proposals, negotiations, and payments in one place for seamless brand-creator relationships. 

Remember, as of now, the Instagram Creator Marketplace is still in the testing phase, so it may not be available on your account yet. Don’t fret. With the success of TikTok’s Creator Marketplace, we’re fairly certain Instagram will roll out this feature soon.

Product Tagging

As of April, product tagging is now available to all users in the U.S. Previously, only brands and creators had this capability. You might be asking yourself, why should I care that the average user can now tag products? Great question!

This new capability could do wonders for user-generated content (UGC). For example, you could run a contest or campaign calling all users (not just influencers or creators) to share how they love to use your product. Because they’ll have the ability to tag your brand and products directly, and not just enter the contest or campaign through a hashtag, your product will be seen by the audiences of all who participate. 

Products that are tagged can also be purchased directly through the Instagram app. So this new feature isn’t just going to increase the number of eyeballs on your products. It could also boost sales!

An Actionable Guide to Instagram Influencer Marketing

What’s the Deal with Reels?

We’ve talked a lot about the most recent Instagram updates, but what about Reels? If you still haven’t gotten the hang of the Instagram Reels feature, don’t fret. We’re going to break down everything you need to know. 

Instagram Reels are short-form videos in Instagram’s full-screen 9:16 format. They can range from 3 to 90 seconds on the average user’s page. And Reels ads can be as long as 60 seconds. The videos can be clipped, remixed, and edited together with licensed music available in the Instagram library. Reels can be shared on Stories, the Explore Feed, the Home Feed, and of course, the Reels tab.

The benefit of Reels being featured on the Explore Feed is that each video can be shared to an audience wider than your following. Like TikTok, the Reels algorithm pushes out videos based on mutual followers, content you interact with, and location. Which means more reach for your Reels. Yay!

It makes sense that Reels are the fastest-growing Instagram feature worldwide. Instagram Reels reach nearly 11 percent of the global population over 13 years old. That makes Instagram Reels ad reach net out at just over half Instagram’s total 1.45B users. Short-form videos are all the rage on social media right now as they deliver informal content that is visually appealing, engaging, and lasts more than 24 hours. 

Which has the Edge? Instagram Reels vs. TikTok

It’s no secret that Instagram Reels are basically a TikTok copycat, but there are some differences and advantages between the two platforms. Let’s break it down.



TikTok is king when it comes to Gen Z. This is the hot new social that all the kids are talking about, so if you’re marketing to a younger demographic, prioritize TikTok over Instagram Reels. TikTok’s largest age group is 10-19, while Instagram’s is 25-34. So market to the millennials on Instagram and the youngsters on TikTok.


Instagram Reels take the cake when marketing to men. While only 43 percent of TikTok users identify as male, 45 percent of Instagram users are men. That may not seem like a big difference, but when it comes to using the Reels feature, men engage much more with video content on Instagram than women do. (Perhaps because women are getting more of their short-form video content on TikTok.) According to Meta, nearly 54 percent of the Instagram Reels ad reach is male.


As we know, Instagram Reels can range from 3 to 90 seconds. And Reels ads can have a playtime of up to 60 seconds. TikToks, on the other hand, can now be up to 10 minutes for certain users. The longer 3 and 10-minute features do differentiate the two video-sharing platforms, but all in all, short-form content still performs better across the board.


Because TikTok evolved from, music has always been at the forefront of the app. That’s probably why it has such an expansive audio library when compared to Instagram Reels. Chances are if you’re looking for a particular song to soundtrack your video, you’ll have more luck finding it on TikTok than on Instagram Reels. Instagram business accounts are also not permitted to use copyrighted music in their Reels, so that is one downside of using Reels for brand ads.


You know at The Shelf we love our analytics. Show me the numbers! When it comes down to it, TikTok has better analytics for short-form video content. Your TikTok dashboard includes big-picture metrics like geolocation, total playtime, and average watch time so you can get right into the nitty gritty on how each video is performing. Instagram Reels analytics provide helpful insights as well, but they’re limited to total plays, likes, comments, reach, etc. You know, the basics.


Instagram Reels are widely available around the world, already streaming in more than 50 countries. Meanwhile, TikTok is banned in some regions due to privacy concerns and censorship laws. If you’re looking to go global with your video content, Reels is the safer bet. 

Instagram Marketing: The Why and How

You’ve already learned a lot in the beginner’s guide to Instagram. Now, it’s time for the beginner’s guide to Instagram influencer marketing. Because here at The Shelf, that’s what we do best. 

First, let’s dig into why you should be marketing on Instagram. 

A whopping 79 percent of brands use Instagram for influencer (or word-of-mouth) marketing. And it makes sense why – Instagram is the 7th most visited site in the world. 59 percent of American adults use Instagram daily. And brands are benefitting. 

  • 44 percent of Instagrammers use the app to shop weekly
  • Instagram’s ad reach grew by 20.5 percent last year
  • 50 percent of Instagram users have discovered a new brand on the app
  • Brand Stories have an average 86 percent completion rate
  • 90 percent of users follow at least one business account

When it comes to the how of Instagram marketing, you’re in the right place. Influencer marketing on Instagram is our bread and butter. We’ve got plenty of resources to get you started.

Whether you want to increase your brand awareness, launch a product or promote a sale, Instagram is the perfect app for influencer marketing. Learn how to:

Instagram Marketing Examples

Now that you’ve got the basic guide to Instagram statistics, let’s take a look at brands and users that are already making the most of the platform. Check out these Instagram marketing examples and get inspired to create your own.


One of our clients, evolution of smooth (eos), is ch-ch-chugging along on the Reels train. They know how to get creative, capitalize on trends, and engage wider audiences using the Instagram Reels feature. 

For example, this Reel transforms their eos lip balm products into Stranger Things characters. This engages the Stranger Things fandom, which overlaps with their target demographic. And they were able to garner even more engagement on the post because they used the viral song “Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)” by Kate Bush. The start of the fourth season of the show kept this post going strong with engagement and visibiity, too.  

Instagram Reel from @eosproducts.

Remember, Reels are a place to get reel creative!


The best Instagram features aren’t just for brands. Remember creators, influencers, and regular users can all use these capabilities as well. Influencer Elyse Meyers is a TikTok and Instagram Reel queen, but she also utilizes Instagram features like Product Tags, and she has her own Instagram Shop to sell her merch.

Instagram Post and Shop from @elyse_meyers.

Clicking the Product Tag in her feed post takes you directly to her Instagram Shop where you can buy the t-shirt directly in the app. Talk about seamless!

Wrapping Up

I hope this post helped you get a little more familiar with the ins and outs of Instagram. We’ve got supercomputers in our pockets all day, and they have the ability to make our lives and jobs easier. You might as well know what you’re working with.

 If you’d like some guidance in wielding the power of Instagram to achieve your highest marketing potential, schedule a strategy call below. Our experts will help you get on the right track, boost likes, and maybe even go viral.

Happy scrolling!

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