A Brief History of How Instagram’s Business Features Have Evolved

A Brief History of How Instagram’s Business Features Have Evolved

A Brief History of Instagram
March 13, 2019

Ah, Instagram. The social media platform that’s integrating its way into every part of our lives. From its inception in 2006 to now, let’s take a look at how they have optimized the platform with businesses in mind, some ways they can improve, and a sneak peek to what could be in store for the near future.

It’s no secret that Instagram is vital to online presence, especially considering that brands see 10x higher engagement rates on Instagram than on Facebook. Initially launching as a platform to share pictures of cats and tacos, the social media giant incorporated business accounts along the way. Since 60% of people discover new products through Instagram, clearly it’s an incredibly engaging platform for businesses.

It’s time for a walk down memory lane.


An Instagram timeline

October 2006: Where it all started. Instagram launches, sparking a new era of content creation and acquires 100,000 users in one week. Instagram continues to grow, incorporates hashtags, and hits a benchmark of 5 million monthly active users in June 2011.

April 2012: Facebook acquires Instagram. This is big news and contributes significantly to Instagram’s growth.

July 2013: Instagram allows other sites to link back to videos on their platform. These embedded links help brands boost their engagement.  

November 2013: Instagram introduced sponsored post advertising and Michael Kors becomes the first official user, gaining 34,000 new followers in 18 hours. These sponsored posts are placed in the feed of users based on demographic and user targeting. The trick is to make it look like organic content to guarantee the user doesn’t annoyingly scroll past it.

August 2014: Thanks to the momentum of sponsored posts, Instagram launches business profile. This new feature was limited, but with the tools provided by Facebook, they incorporated a dashboard interface for analyzing impressions, reach, and frequency related to ad campaigns and individual ads.

June 2015: CTA’s are introduced! Instagram introduced new conversion types like app installs, newsletter sign-ups, and linking to retail sites in anticipation of purchases. Additionally, they tease new targeting capabilities based on Facebook’s granular user data.

May 2016: Instagram rolls out audience demographics, post impressions, reach, and the ability to turn well-performing posts into ads. Finally!

August 2016: Instagram Stories is released, which was totally not inspired by Snapchat. Stories allow for photo and video updates to be posted for 24 hours. This is vital for business engagement, allowing companies to take their users behind the scenes in an intimate way. Since then, businesses have received 37% of their total impressions from Instagram Stories.

November 2016: Phew, Instagram’s had a busy year. Live videos are launched. Now you can engage with your audience in real time.

March 2017: Get ready, March was a busy month. Instagram launches immersive, full-screen story ads paired with new analytics insights on multi-image posts and stories. These features brought a double-digit point increase in ad recall for Airbnb following their exclusive trial with story ads. Instagram also introduces a new shopping experience, making it easier for users to discover and shop products within the app. But wait, there’s more. New buttons on business profiles allow for appointment bookings directly from the app.

December 2017: Story highlights are introduced to permanently post curated clips on profiles. It’s an easy way to show off your business and showcase new products without spamming your followers.

May 2018: Business accounts can now see new messages in their direct inbox. Additionally, they incorporate quick replies to take some of the stress off.

June 2018: IGTV is born. Instagram hopes to drive traffic from YouTube with capabilities of publishing 60-minute-long videos.

August 2018: It’s now possible to add links in Instagram Stories. Utilizing this feature has become a must since users can directly click to a particular product page.

September 2018: One-third of the most viewed Stories are from businesses. Businesses can now add product stickers in Stories, making it easier for users to seamlessly click through to the e-commerce site or an Instagram shopping page.

January 2019: Instagram teases Creator Accounts. You heard that right. Soon influencers, celebrities, and other high-profile accounts will have a better way to track their analytics and growth. Instagram says the new feature will include new follower insights, direct message tools, and flexible labels.


Remember, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows

Instagram has been busy over the past few years, but as Hannah Montana told my middle school self, nobody’s perfect. While Instagram has been continually updating its platform, there are still some roadblocks for businesses.

One major improvement many people want to see is the ability to group organic content by tags and keywords to keep accounts organized. A similar feature is used for ad building by creating multiple ads per campaign. Why not let the account internally group the posts such as by product launch, follower engagement, and weekly updates? These tags would make it easier for business accounts to easily sort photos and gather insights.


What this means for your business

According to Instagram. 72% of users have bought a product they saw on Instagram. If you’re not on Instagram, your business could be losing out on the 200+ million Instagrammers that visit at least one business profile a day

Junior Analyst
Stella Khaimova is a DePaul Senior who has a penchant for Russian black tea, Chinese food, and eating whole tubs of ice cream. She once rode halfway across Israel on the back of a motorcycle.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Our digital marketing services will take your business to the next level.

Start your journey with a comprehensive site audit.

Stay in touch with digital marketing & those who know it best.
Sign up for the Perfect Search newsletter.