SofaSessions May 2021: Taking advantage of Instagram's newest features.

SofaSessions May 2021: Taking advantage of Instagram's newest features.

Engine welcomes you back for 2021’s first episode of Sofa Sessions, our social and influencer industry series bringing expertise from the sofa to your screen.

Kicking us off last Thursday, ENGINE’s Head of Influencer Strategy, Gemma Glover, was joined by Georgia Kelly, Instagram’s Strategic Partner Manager, content creators Connie Simmonds and Samio Renelda, and Ben Jeffries, CEO & Cofounder of Influencer, to take a fresh look at the world of Instagram in a post-pandemic era.

From Reels to lives, rooms to creator dashboards; our panel discussed how brands and influencers are using Instagram’s newest features to their full advantage.

Change of habits

Ben explained that the past year has seen significant shifts in social media habits as a result of the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, around 70% of people said their daily average screen time had increased, with two-thirds agreeing that this consumption level had become their ‘new norm’. More interestingly though, the last year has taught us that people are craving fun, relatable and positive content leading to the rise of informative tutorials, light-hearted portrayals of life experiences and brands expressing more ‘personality’.

As content creators themselves, both Connie and Samio agreed with this. Connie found her audience have recently connected with her on a much deeper level with viewers often identifying with the similarities in their situations. “There is a demand for more relatable content. I want the people following me to see my life isn’t perfect and that I’m going through similar experiences to them.”

New features/how are brands and influencers using them?

As a result of changing user behaviour, lockdown has been a busy one for the Instagram team who are always looking for more effective ways to connect influencers with their audiences. Here are some of the latest features to dig your teeth into:


Reels were the star player of the day, with the panel universally agreeing the feature has transformed the way content creators and brands can reach consumers. Georgia explained that they’ve seen content creators adopt Instagram features in different ways. “Whereas IGTV might be used for more long form, informative content and their feed might be slicker with curated content from themselves and the brands they work with, Reels are for entertaining and having fun with your audience.” If staying on brand is key to you, Georgia recommended using Reels as a space to step out of your comfort zone. Unlike your community space, Reels work as key drivers in reaching new audiences and growing organic followings.

Samio believes her video content is her strongest point and has seen a transformation in engagement since shifting to Reels. The snappy, yet flexible format ensures she gets to the point quickly, clearly and with creative personality – this resulted in her first ever Reel going viral. The proof is in the pudding.

Instagram guides

Launched at the beginning of 2021, Instagram Guides are curated playlists of content which act as a way for individuals and brands to share content between one another. Whether that’s the products they’re most in love with, or to communicate causes closest to their hearts, or simply to spread the love by building themed playlists around their passions like cooking, fitness or fashion – the guides are a great place to build pinboards of content that you want to share with an audience.

Let's go live

Going Live boomed in the pandemic. Live Badges came up for purchase as a result, allowing you to show support to creators during live videos and replenish revenue lost from cancelled live events.

Live is known to be a quick easy win for engaging consumers with fast-paced content. Recently Connie hosted a Live video with three friends to discuss various set topics, not only to provide interesting and purposeful content for viewers, but also to do it authentically and ‘in conversation’ so their true personalities shone through. Ben explained recent research stated 49% of online shoppers would buy products directly from Live videos where brands, celebrities, or content creators are talking about them.

No likey, no lighty

If numbers aren’t your thing, last week Instagram released for the very first time the ability to turn off likes. They’ve given the power back to the people.

How to work with the influencers on Instagram to produce results

We asked our viewers at the start of the event, “What’s most important for brands when choosing to work with an influencer on Instagram?” Our panel were pleased to see it was ‘the relatability of the influencer with the target audience’.

With 68% of internet users coming to Instagram to interact with creators, it’s clear that brands must listen to content creators; they know their audience, they know what they like, and at what time of day they like to hear from them, and therefore they’ll be best placed to know how to authentically share your product or services with them to generate genuine interest.

Samio has seen a recent shift with brands asking her to create content for their page rather than sharing their content via her profile – she’s been given artistic licence to act as a storyteller for their brand. Connie agreed that the most important thing as an influencer is to stay true to the community you’ve built, recognising their needs and looking after those most loyal to you rather than focusing purely on growth. She too feels brands are providing her with creative freedom to communicate their message in ways she believes will engage with her audience.

Georgia rounded up nicely with her insider Instagram knowledge stating that the brands doing really well are the ones not viewing their audience as customers, but as a community. Brands with their content creator hats on, that trust their influencers and use them for insights will be the ones to hit the sweet spot.

What's next?

With 71% of marketers looking to increase their influencer marketing budget in the year ahead, Ben shed some light on what we should expect to see more of…

Ambassadors – shaping long-term relationships will be where the magic is; it allows consumers to build trust with content creators, becomes a much more authentic collaboration and allows brands to have more exclusive partnerships with influencers. It can also be much more cost effective for the brand as well.

Emotion – emotion is huge in influencer marketing; it creates value and it creates preference. What will be big in the upcoming months is using data to measure the link between emotion and brand uplift.

Paid media – 90% of influencer campaigns now include an element of paid media. Whilst creators are an authentic generator for initial brand building awareness, paid media is a key way of reaching target audiences and retargeting to drive sales.

Cross vertical creators – content creators will no longer be sitting in silos, expect to see cooking pros wearing killer outfits and fashionistas posting about plastic – influencers are standing for more than one passion point these days.

From new tools on Reel, to big things coming in shopping, there is a whole new world of opportunities available to the Instagram community.

If you missed our discussion about Instagram, you can watch it below.

The next of our ‘SofaSessions’ will take place on Thursday 22nd July at 11am where we will be joined by an expert panel to discuss all things Tik Tok. Register here to secure a seat.