4 min read

Changes to Instagram search function

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Instagram recently announced that it plans to feature photos and videos more prominently in search results on the app. The update could show a grid of photos and videos related to the keyword search with results from accounts and hashtags, like how TikTok displays its content.

So, what does this mean for eCommerce brands? If you’re an eCommerce marketer, you likely rely on Instagram heavily to make people aware of your product, and this means you need to be across any changes – big or small to how people might discover your product.

But, if you haven’t had time to get across the changes yet, don’t worry, because we’ve got you sorted. Here’s everything eCommerce marketers need to know about the new Instagram search changes.

 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

To recap, Instagram announced on August 26th that they plan to more prominently feature photos and videos in search results, so how is this a change?

If you’re not aware, Instagram search has primarily always been a way to navigate the app, to find an account, or go to a hashtag, but not to really “browse”. Instead, you’ve mainly browsed and discovered content organically through your discover page.

However, Instagram wants to make browsing easier. To do this, they plan to allow photos and videos to populate search results’ grid alongside results for accounts and hashtags – so if you search “cats” for example, you’ll be able to browse a whole page full of cat content from different creators, allowing you to discover content more easily.

 

WHY ARE THESE CHANGES HAPPENING?

As mentioned, Instagram wants to make it easier to discover new content. Part of this is likely spurred on by TikTok, who already displays results in the same way.

According to Instagram’s head, Adam Mosseri, the app is transitioning away from being a photo-sharing app and into an entertainment and video platform. In a short video posted on his Instagram account, Mosseri said that competitors like TikTok have been successful in this arena; therefore, they're looking to rebrand themselves as well.

Interestingly, according to TechJury, Instagram users spend on average 28 minutes a day on the app while TikTok users spending 45 minutes – that's nearly 50% more time spent scrolling. So, the changes are likely to encourage people to spend more time on the app too.

Instagram currently relies on hashtags to find content, and that means you need to know the right hashtags (or be specific with them) before Instagram will do any of the work for you. It's likely that Instagram's forthcoming search changes will make Instagram a more intuitive and a better user experience.

These changes to Instagram likely won't affect their search algorithms, but they will change the user interface and how Instagram handles app-generated content. Instagram users may start to see more activity from accounts and hashtags in their Instagram feeds. It's also possible that Instagram will group similar content together, such as photos of shoes all appearing in a row with the hashtag #cats written in the caption.

 

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR ECOMMERCE MARKETERS

ECommerce marketers should take note because this change does have the potential to change how their audience uses the platform.

This update could mean that your grid of Instagram posts will show up alongside Instagram accounts and hashtags when people are searching for things like products or fashion or home decor.

You likely don’t need to change your strategy just yet, but this is a good moment for brands to think about what kind of content they’re putting out. Photos and videos are a great way to show your product and now Instagram looks to make that easier for people to discover.

Even without these changes taking effect yet, Mosseri has shared a few things about Instagram search which are worth considering, because they indicate what makes something more likely to pop up in a search on Instagram:

What text do your customers use when searching? Do they type your brand name specifically? Or the type of product you offer, like “shoes”, for example. The text your customers enter in the search bar is by far the most important signal for Search. Instagram then matches your customer types with relevant usernames, bios, captions, hashtags, and places, which is worth keeping in mind when editing each of these.

Who do your customers follow? This includes accounts they follow, posts they’ve viewed, and how they’ve interacted with accounts in the past. Instagram usually shows accounts and hashtags users follow or visit higher than those they don’t. So, if your customers don’t follow you right now, how can you encourage them to? Or is there an account you know they might follow that you could collaborate with?

How do people interact with your content? If a search result is broad and there are lots of potential results, Instagram also looks at popularity signals. These include the number of clicks, likes, shares and follows for a particular account, hashtag, or place. So again, to be maximizing how “searchable” you are, you want to make sure that you’re creating scroll-stopping content with high engagement.

So, if you know your audience is on Instagram, it might be time to refine and hone in on the content that you’re putting on there. If you’re unsure that your content is scroll-stopping, then it might be time to start question how you’re going to be creating scroll-stopping content for your audience that’s optimized to be discovered easily.

 

WHAT IS NEXT?

Instagram will take things one step at a time, testing out these changes with select accounts before deciding on the next steps. Ecommerce marketers should stay tuned for further Instagram updates and how they may impact Instagram search results. For now, brands must stay on top of Instagram's existing search algorithm and Instagram hashtags.

 

THE TAKE HOME

Instagram's recent changes to its search feature may have implications for your eCommerce marketing. With the updated keyword search, pictures and videos will now be more prominent in results. This change could make it easier for consumers to find products they are looking for on social media. As always, this is an important consideration when developing a successful strategy that speaks to your eCommerce customers. Do you think Instagram's recent update will affect how you use Instagram to market your eCommerce business? Let us know in the comments. Or, if you’re worried your content isn’t scroll-stopping, get in touch. We’d love to help you make sure you’re able to grow your eCommerce business with scroll-stopping, intelligent content on Instagram.