What Instagram Guides could mean for digital marketers

Roughly a 6 minute read by Kate

Instagram Guides Blog Header 02

Last week Instagram have unveiled their new ‘Guides’ feature with an ultra-relevant campaign, collaborating with key mental health accounts to promote Mental Health Awareness Week.

The move feels particularly fitting in the current climate, with social distancing measures and general uncertainty caused by Covid-19 having a dramatic impact on many people’s mental health.

Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri commented on the launch day that Guides were originally envisaged for travel content, but were changed to a wellness focus in light of the pandemic. One look at the format is enough to imagine that the feature could be adapted for almost any industry or brand, so marketers should get busy planning!

How do Guides work?

Instagram Guides are essentially collections of existing content, curated in one place with the option of adding additional commentary to each post.

Potentially the most interesting feature is that you can add posts from any account to your Guide, not just your own, with the image automatically featuring the OP’s handle in the corner and linking to the original post.

Who can use them?

Guides have been made available initally just to a selection of mental health awareness organisations, such as Heads Together and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and influencers, most notably Zoe Suggs who is an ambassador for UK mental heath charity Mind.

Although Instagram have yet to disclose a roll-out plan for the feature, it seems likely that it will gradually be opened up to more users.

How can I find them?

Guides can currently be accessed via a new tab on the profile of the affected accounts (bringing the total possible number of profile tabs to six - Grid, IGTV, Shopping, Effects, Tagged and Guides).

Guides can also be shared to Stories and via DM by not only their creators but other viewers, increasing their potential for reaching new audiences. Instagram have also confirmed that they plan to add guides to the Explore page in the coming days.

For now Guides are only accessible via profiles in the Instagram app, not on mobile or desktop websites (although you can view them via web if you have a link).

Instagram Guides Blog Screen

So, what could guides mean for social media and content marketing?

A return to long-form content

While Instagram’s most recent developments have centred primarily around video and increased interactivity (IGTV, Story Stickers and Effects), Guides are more reminiscent of blog posts or e-newsletters.

The move fits with other changes we already know are happening in social. Even just a few years ago, social media often acted as a referrer for longer content, offering teasers that linked out to blogs or videos with more detail.

But as the platforms moved to keep people in their eco-systems by incentivising brands posting in-platform content, we’ve seen a new surge of long-form existing directly on social media.

Instagram could also be reacting to a perceived hunger for more in-depth content from their users; over the last 2 years Instagram posts with longer captions (up to 1,000 characters) have seen a noticeable increase in engagement rate.

Search no longer has the monopoly on the importance of long-form content, and there could be tactics social media marketers can steal from SEO to maximise visibility of their Guides over time.

With the Explore page likely to become a key way that users find Guides, keyword research and implementation in the accompanying post copy will likely be rewarded in visibility.

Importance of saveable posts

Saves have always been a trackable Instagram metric, but not one that social media marketers have ever particularly focused on, especially for reporting to clients.

They factor in Instagram’s ranking algorithm and have huge benefit as an indicator that your content is resonating (a user liking your post enough to want to go back to it later is high praise indeed!), but have historically been de-prioritised in favour of public metrics such as likes and comments.

In addition to this, there has never been an easy way to use Saved content - people might repost, but it was an extra effort with no native functionality enabling it, and credit to the original poster could be omitted all too easily.

Guides offers a whole new way for your content to be easily shared by others, with credit guaranteed. As users will undoubtedly use the Saved tool as a way to bookmark content for Guides, the incentive to create content that isn’t just likeable but saveable has never been clearer.

If you can get your content featured in Guides regularly and by popular creators, your brand will be exposed to new, relevant users who can be directed to your profile in a matter of clicks.

An alternative to Pinterest?

With the curated content format and even a slightly board-like appearance, comparisons to Pinterest are inevitable. While this will undoubtedly step on Pinterest’s toes a little in terms of where creators may choose to collate content, it feels like Pinterest probably still has the edge, both in its search functionality and ability to link to websites.

It’s a key point to keep in mind that Guides offer no opportunity to link out to external websites; they only link to the original posts. So while Guides could be a useful way to drive new audiences to your Instagram profile, they don’t rival Pinterest as a powerful web traffic referrer.

At time of writing Guides were not ranking in Google SERPs, but it’s possible that search engines could start to rank them over time. This could be a pertinent point for the platforms, as Pinterest regularly ranks on page 1 for relevant industry searches like fashion or interiors.

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