One of the things we love about social media is how quickly it evolves.

Products change fast, new features are added regularly, and before you know it, there are dozens — hundreds maybe — of different ways to express yourself online.

This becomes particularly exciting for marketers because we have an opportunity to express our brands in new and unique ways and to reach more customers.

The only hard part is keeping up.

It’s hard to stay on top of the latest news for everything that’s coming to social media. We’d love to help you. This post takes a dive into Instagram marketing with a look at eight little-known features that you can try today.

We want to ensure you get maximum exposure for your brand on Insta. These tips may be just the thing to help you stand out.

We’re going to focus today on some under-the-radar Instagram features. You might have heard of some of these already. We’re hopeful that one or two will be new to you.

Let us know any of your personal favorites or picks in the comments!

8 Fresh Instagram Tips You Might Not Have Tried Before
1. Experiment with the Instagram Stories countdown sticker

When you add the countdown sticker to your Stories, you can set a future date and time, and the sticker will count down for you. We’ve seen some really cool use cases with the countdown timer already. Things like

Using it for the countdown to a new product release that’s happening soon
Using it for a countdown before a live video
Or, using it as a countdown to tease an announcement or piece of content on Instagram

The countdown sticker follows a trend that has really paid off for marketers. Interactive elements in Instagram Stories are highly effective. 60% of businesses on Instagram Stories use an interactive element in their story. This could be stickers, hashtags, @mentions polls – you name it.

So that leads us right into our second fun thing to try on Instagram …

2. Try an Instagram Stories poll sticker on your next ad

The polling sticker was one of the first interactive elements to get added to Instagram’s ad studio. If you’re not familiar with the sticker, it’s a simple two-option poll that shows its results as soon as someone picks one of the options. As of March, you are able to add this sticker to the Stories ads that you create for Instagram.

And the early results have been really positive. In the beta launch for this new ad functionality, some advertisers had as much as 20% lower cost-per-view and up to 40% more app installs.

Further proof that these interactive elements are working!

3. Create a custom, branded AR filter
Image courtesy of Bustle

If you’re not familiar with AR filters, the AR stands for Augmented Reality. These filters add layers and masks to the world around you. For instance, if you’ve ever seen the filters that put a dog nose and ears on your face — that’s an AR filter.

And now it’s possible to make some of these for your brand!

It will take a bit of heavy lifting to create, but the team at Facebook and Instagram have provided the tools. If you want to get started, you can check out all the resources at their Spark AR website.

We can’t wait to see what you might build.

There’ve already been some intrepid brands trying out these AR features. The Later blog did a great job rounding up some top examples. They include:

Kylie Cosmetics made a filter to try on different shades of lipsticks
Adidas made one that turns the screen into grainy, VHS footage in order to promote its vintage sneakers
The NBA created a filter that adds a player dunking a basketball onto any of your videos

4. Add alt text to your Instagram photos

Alt text is metadata that helps computers recognize what an image is all about. This might seem like a smaller feature, but we believe it has a huge impact.

It’s particularly useful for accessibility as it tells the screen reader what to say when it comes across an image. Without alt text, it’s as if the image isn’t even there — which doesn’t prove very useful on an image-rich medium like Instagram!

Fortunately, Instagram bakes alt text right into the publishing flow. When you’re posting an image to Instagram, you can tap on Advanced Settings and choose Write Alt Text. You can also caption Stories and video content on Instagram.

In Buffer, we’ve added an alt text option to Twitter content planning, and we’re keen to bring this to other networks as the APIs allow.

For the time being, the native Instagram setting works great. Adding alt text is a great step for marketers to add to their flow. It’s vital for accessibility … and it could one day play a role in the discoverability of Instagram content through search.

5. Try out the “close friend” list
Image courtesy of Wired

These lists might go unnoticed by a lot of marketers. The lists are definitely a useful tool for everyday users of the Instagram app … but for brands and businesses?

It requires a bit of creativity, but yes, we think the lists can be handy.

For instance, lists can be used to share and communicate with a group of VIP customers or a special community of users.

If you have specific content that you want to share with early adopters, say, you could consider using a list to keep the content private but easily viewed by those who need to know.
If you have a store in a physical location, you can add local customers to make them aware of in-store deals.

The close friend list is available on any Instagram Stories content. You can create your friend list and add/remove people at any time. No notifications are sent when you add or remove.

We’d love to hear how you end up using this feature and any other creative ideas you have.

6. Explore branded content (and influencer marketing)

Branded content has new functionality with Instagram — now businesses can take content posted by their brand influencers and use it as part of the business’s ad mix.

So, let’s say that Kiera Knightly posts to Instagram about some fab new Allbirds shoes. Then Allbirds could take that post and put advertising dollars behind it, paying to help it reach new audiences. There’re only two steps to get set up:

The creators enable the promotion via the creator’s advanced settings, and
The business sees the post in their Ads Manager and can run campaigns with the post as an ad in the feed or Stories.

We covered influencers back in October on the podcast, and the strategy might be going even stronger today. Instagram reports that 68% of people say they come to Instagram to see and talk to the so-called“creators” on the platform.

7. Hide your hashtags in the feed and in Stories

This next tip is a two-pack: advice for hashtags on your posts and in your Stories.

So, you’re probably well aware of the power of hashtags for discoverability. Hashtags are the way that content is categorized on Instagram and other social networks, and it is one of the key ways that new content gets found. You want to be using hashtags … and lots of‘em!

But it might be the case that you also strive to keep a clean and tidy caption on your posts. This is where the“first comment” trick comes in.

If you’ve spent much time on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed this: Instead of posting hashtags in the caption itself, savvy Instagrammers will put a block of hashtags in the first comment.

That way, you get a clean caption that speaks to your message and only your message. Yet the post is still categorized with all the hashtags you want. Win-win!

We’ve seen this strategy used so often with brands and businesses that we built this first comment functionality into Buffer. When you plan your Instagram content with Buffer, you can plan your hashtags, too, and set them to post as a first comment along with the post itself.

Similar to the feed, hashtags in your Stories will help your content get found. You can add hashtags by using the hashtags sticker — right alongside all those other great stickers we mentioned earlier in the post.

Many creators and brands like to maintain a certain aesthetic with their Stories content. Sometimes, hashtags don’t work with the vibe.

In these cases, people have taken to hiding their hashtags behind other stickers or behind color swipes or story elements. Basically, if you start with the hashtags, you can layer everything else on top so that the hashtags are not even visible.

This way, you get all the power of hashtags in Stories without sacrificing on the look you’re going for.

8. Give back with the donation sticker

Instagram is serious about its stickers. We’ve talked about countdown timers and polls and hashtags. There are also stickers for adding a quiz to your Stories, for adding background music and lyrics, as well as selfies, time, and weather.

But did you know? There is a nonprofit donation sticker?

When you choose the donation sticker, Instagram will give you a list of nonprofits to choose from. There are options like the St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the American Cancer Society, and Autism Speaks, and many more.

Once you select a nonprofit, you can customize the name of your fundraiser, and then the people viewing your story will be able to tap the Donate button to give.

How to say hello to us

We would all love to say hello to you on social media – especially Twitter!

Heather-Mae on Twitter
Dave on Twitter

Thanks for listening! Feel free to connect with our team at Buffer on TwitterBuffer on Facebook, our Podcast homepage, or with the hashtag #bufferpodcast.

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About The Science of Social Media podcast

The Science of Social Media is your weekly sandbox for social media stories, insights, experimentation, and inspiration. Every Monday (and sometimes more) we share the most cutting-edge social media marketing tactics from brands and influencers in every industry. If you’re a social media team of one, business owner, marketer, or someone simply interested in social media marketing, you’re sure to find something useful in each and every episode.  It’s our hope that you’ll join our 27,000+ weekly iTunes listeners and rock your social media channels as a result!

The Science of Social Media is proudly made by the Buffer team. Feel free to get in touch with us for any thoughts, ideas, or feedback.

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