At the moment, it's hard to think of a social media platform on the market hotter than Instagram. With the app being within reach of growing to 1 billion monthly users by the end of 2018, it's becoming more apparent by the day why Mark Zuckerberg pulled the trigger and acquired the photo sharing app back in 2012.

Recently, Instagram has continued its upward trajectory through a number of new updates and features. Just a handful of these updates include: 

  1. Updating the Discover tab to be hyper-personalized to each individual user.
  2. Creating a "guided search" which closely mirrors that of Pinterest.
  3. Rolling out native payments on the platform to allow for seamless discovery and purchase. This feature will, more than likely, exist to keep users in-app and strengthen Instagram's click-to-buy feature called "Shoppable Tags".
  4. Reservations to some restaurants are now being accepted on the platform through a partnership with the fast-growing app, Resy.

Why You Should Care

When it comes to social media, it can be tough to differentiate between trends and the countless amount of semi-useless updates and features these platforms seem to release every single day. That being said, take this one from a guy whose job it is to keep up with social media: this is certainly a social media trend every entrepreneur should be paying attention to.

The main reason for this is all these updates mentioned above point to one conclusion: Instagram is tripling down on eCommerce. With each change, Instagram is getting closer than ever before to reaching the "eCommerce promiseland", which consists of entertaining, relevant discovery coupled with a seamless checkout process all in one app.

Instagram is also in a better position than any other social media platform to become the king of e-commerce thanks to their parent company being Facebook. The robust data Facebook has on their user's consumer behavior is unprecedented, and Instagram will be able to capitalize on this information for years through targeted advertising. 

Caveats and Cons

As with all major trends, there do exist some caveats to consider prior to jumping on the bandwagon:

  1. Facebook's screw-ups will inevitably effect Instagram. Because Facebook owns Instagram, any scandal that occurs (like Cambridge Analytica) will effect how the company conducts business on Instagram. 
  2. Pay-to-play. Due to the growing popularity of Instagram, the volume of content on the platform will only continue to increase, making the feed more cluttered than ever before. Because of this, if the history of Facebook holds true, it's only a matter of time before Instagram becomes just as much a pay-to-play social media platform as Facebook has become.
  3. Best for physical products. At the moment, many of the Instagram updates mentioned in this article apply primarily to physical products, like merchandise, as opposed to all brands. If you're a B2B brand, such as a consultant or IT specialist, all the features may not benefit you as much as a B2C brand at this point in time.

What You Can Do to Capitalize on the Opportunity

Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the most effective. The best way to capitalize on this opportunity is to become more active and effective on Instagram as soon as you can. This will position you be able to sell to your engaged followers on the platform. Here are the best ways to get started..

  1. Bolster your sales on Instagram by integrating your profile with Shopify. You can get started on that process here.
  2. Experiment with influencer marketing on Instagram. For example, consider having an Instagram influencer wear your merch or use your product in their posts. This will enable you to see whether or not influencers are your best option versus selling directly from your own profile.
  3. Take advantage of Instagram Insights to see your audience's behavior. Like anything else in business, data is king when it comes to knowing what your Instagram followers prefer. With Instagram Insights, you'll be able to see recommended publishing times, your highest engaged posts, characteristics of your followers, and much more.
  4. Take advantage of links in Instagram Stories. Leverage links in your Stories by showcasing your product, then include a link where your most engaged viewers can purchase that product if they'd like to.

With the barrage of recent updates coming from Instagram, it's apparent the social media powerhouse is doubling down on eCommerce. If you're an entrepreneur, be sure and take advantage of this opportunity with these new features before everybody is doing it. Best of luck.