The latest update to the Instagram platform is here and will likely benefit both browsers and businesses. Instagram has now enabled users to peruse for keywords and phrases in the search bar, a space previously reserved for hashtags and usernames.
The ability to search for keywords or phrases means users will likely spend longer browsing the app and we should expect to see an increase in consumers using the platform for research and inspiration, not dissimilar to Pinterest, for example.
How Does It Work?
Previously, the search functionality was limited to profiles, hashtags and locations only. For instance, if you were to search for ‘autumn walks’ before now, you would only see results for accounts with #autmnwalks in their posts or as part of their name or bio.
Now, however, the search bar at the top of your screen will show a reel of suggested search terms to encourage users to browse a range of topics. It’s safe to assume the suggested search terms will be tailored to show the most topical or relevant phrases for each individual user, most likely based on posts they have recently engaged with or their own updates.
You can type in your desired keyword or phrase into the search bar and choose from a variety of suggested results from Instagram.
When you select the term you’re looking for, you will now see the latest and most relevant posts shown in a grid, similar to the explore format we’re used to. Users can then click on the image that piqued their interest and like, comment, share to their story or follow the account as normal.
Unfortunately, it’s still unclear exactly how the feature will work and how sophisticated the algorithm will be. For example, will the search results bring back an exact match, or is it able to take into consideration spelling mistakes and abbreviations?
An Instagram spokesperson tells The Verge that the team looks at “a number of factors,” including the “type of content, captions and when it was posted”.
Another factor to consider is how this feature could expose users, some as young as 13, which is Instagram’s minimum age requirement, to a much wider range of content than ever before. Apparently, the search is “limited to general interest topics and keywords that are within Instagram’s community guidelines,” so hopefully any negative effects can be avoided.
How Will This Benefit Businesses?
The longer potential customers spend on the Instagram platform, the more opportunity businesses will have to reach them through Organic posts and Paid-for Ads. If a user is now turning to the platform for research and inspiration, their active hours will increase. What’s more, when a Social Media platform releases new features, it can help reengage users who have previously been spending less time on the app, which will open up businesses potential audiences.
Businesses have previously relied heavily on hashtags to increase their organic reach and exposure, often including several hashtags per post. However, the updated search feature will mean posts, both video and image, that include the keyword in the caption will also be shown to users. This doesn’t mean brands should stop using hashtags altogether, but it allows for more opportunities to get in front of your audience.
Businesses may see an increase in followers now that accounts will be shown in the search results of users even if they don’t actively follow them. If this is the case, more followers will lead to an increase in reach and results and a better return on the time businesses invest in their Social Media.
Finally, it’s worth considering whether this update will lead to a form of Instagram SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and the need to construct your copy with keywords in mind. The threat here is Instagram becoming a harder tool for businesses to utilise, with even more best practices. However, for now, businesses just need to focus on producing high-quality content, including hashtags and tagging locations as well as sharing interactive stories to keep their followers engaged. Focus can then move towards incorporating keywords that are relevant to their products or services in their captions.
The big question will be how do users adapt to the new feature and will it be utilised to the same extend hashtags have been historically. The answer to this will likely influence how Instagram develop and improve their search results rankings and businesses will need to adapt to stay competitive. Although the information is currently limited, it’s looking to be a positive addition to the platform for all involved.
If you still can’t get your head around the new feature or how Instagram in general works we can help. I am a social media consultant based in Carlow and I love to chat all things social. Get in touch 🙂