- Josh Graham
Introduction to Instagram Guides
Instagram Guides are a great way to share content in a fresh and exciting way…but many are missing out on their potential. We take a look at what they are and how you can use them.
What are Instagram Guides?
Let’s start with the basics. In the summer of May 2020, Instagram soft-launched a new feature called Guides, and it felt like not a lot changed. Maybe it was the stepped nature of the launch, or maybe it was the advent of a two(+) year-long, world-altering series of events that caused it to fly under the radar. One of the two.
Ironically, the feature was originally meant to be launched with a travel-based theme, but given the aforementioned existence-altering events this was shunned in favour of a more applicable mental health/wellness theme. In essence, Instagram Guides are a straightforward way to share and consume content on Instagram. Sounds simple enough right? Which begs the question…
Why are they worth their own blog post?
Well, it’s because of that seeming lack of uptake that they’re worth talking more about. Launch circumstances aside, it feels like very few business accounts are using Guides as a part of their strategy almost two years on. Granted, Instagram Reels didn’t take off straight away either, but they’re picking up steam, and that’s perhaps because their value is more immediately apparent. If you’ve used Reels as part of a business account, chances are you’ve noticed the incredible potential they have for increasing your page’s reach, more than any other method of posting content on the platform. Beyond that, their existence is a clear response to TikTok, just as the now-ubiquitous Stories was a response to the same feature on Snapchat, the popularity of both of these bringing clear justification for the introduction of its Instagram cousin. However, Guides is a little different, as it speaks to a social media lynchpin that depending on who you ask is now deemed to be a little old school - blogging.
While I won’t go too deep into a meta-analysis on the alleged death of the blog, we can all agree that it isn’t what it once was, but what’s also important to take into account that the desire for blog-style content has never actually gone away, there’s just less desire for the kind that’s often found buried at the back of a business’s website, or on a homemade site with someone’s personal tribulations scrawled across it.
Now, blogs are in Instagram posts, on Twitter, or in problem-solving articles (like this one, for anyone who raised an eyebrow at the sentence previous). Instagram and Twitter of course are focussed on the content creator themselves, being the obvious parallel to the personal blog of yore, while the latter is anything from a fashion article, to a recipe, to a Buzzfeed listicle or how-to guide, and is focussed on the reader.
Guides are essentially an amalgamation of the two depending on the creator’s positioning and the aim of the post itself, taking the best parts to make a service that speaks even more directly to the needs of the reader, whether it’s their interest in the creator’s personal brand, or a solution to a question or problem they may have. Now that we’ve justified their existence (and this blog), let’s discuss…
How can we as social media professionals harness their power?
There are tonnes of ways to use Guides as part of your strategy, whether your social presence is more public-facing, B2B or somewhere in between, the potential is huge. But we can break it down into the three styles of post currently permitted on Guides…
Posts allow for the curation of existing content on your Instagram, and this is particularly suitable for content that doesn’t date, or if it does, for showing progress on a certain aspect of your business.
For the former, this could be generically FAQs-based, connecting certain aspects of the services you offer, while for the latter, this could be a retrospective on your year, or it could be to illustrate the progress your business has made in sustainability or equality. It might not seem like much, but as mentioned earlier, this fairly straightforward bit of housekeeping increases the lifespan of your content and ensures that the people who need it can find it without having to scroll too far. The beauty of this is that it doesn’t take much to get started, simply look at your existing content pillars and take it from there!
The purpose of this one is a bit more straightforward, as it’s a way of taking products you have in your Shop tab and building a theme. This could be a good way of building packages for holidays, or for pairing together certain products that go well together such as for gift guides.
Think Christmas must-have lists, or even ‘the essential equipment list for coffee beginners/aficionados’. This pillar is a must for businesses that primarily aim their socials at their customers, but could also be picked upon by journalists looking for some listicle inspo. With Guides, although captions are optional, this is a great place to link your products together and really take customers through things step by step.
With the Guides feature originally being planned for travel, this one also has a lot of potential. If you’ve got a hotel, you might not just want to have a Guide that talks about your own services, but also things to do in the local areas, which could lead to you cherry-picking posts from other successful accounts without changing your own brand voice.
Once again, this is a great way to really sell the idea of a place or area, and if you’re low on direct UGC, it’s a great way to pinch some from other places. Once again, for businesses that are relying on travel, listicles go up all the time on ‘top 5 places drink in place x’ or ‘things you need to do while visiting place x’ so be sure to use these for inspiration.
So that’s the basics on Instagram Guides. Uptake is still fairly low at this stage, but there is growth to be seen, so it’s the perfect time to start experimenting and seeing how it can work for your business. It’s worth remembering that Instagram wants you to take full advantage of the app and as we’ve seen in the past, those who took the plunge with Reels were rewarded, so start with what you know, and what your customers want to know. As with all social media, the only limit to its potential is you.