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

Stella Khaimova
March 13, 2019

Updated 4/29/2021

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 developed and optimized the platform with businesses in mind.

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 for businesses 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.

March 2019: Instagram launches an in-app payment feature that allows users to purchase products directly in the Instagram app rather than going to a third-party site. This feature opened the floodgates for a series of shopping updates that has made Instagram a major player in e-commerce.

May 2019: Similar to the Business Accounts that launched on Instagram in 2014, Creator Accounts are Instagram’s attempt at catering to the growing number of influencers that use the platform for personal brand promotion, artwork, and product endorsements. Creator accounts offer metrics on growth data, follower insights, and streamlined messaging.

January 2020: A secondary inbox tab is introduced on Instagram for business profiles. The updated inbox allows businesses to sort their direct messages into low priority and high priority inboxes to help streamline communication.

March 2020: Instagram launches advertisements on its IGTV long-form video platform, allowing creators to collect ad revenue by monetizing their videos.

April 2020: With the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Instagram rolls out a series of story and profile features to help small businesses. Business pages can now add ‘stickers’ to their stories with options for users to purchase gift cards, order food, or make a donation within the Instagram app. These buttons can also be added directly to the business’s profile.

May 2020: With Instagram Live’s viewership rising 70% during the first month of the pandemic, Instagram rolls out a feature where creators can tag and display products within their Live videos.

June 2020: Rather than being embedded in the Explore page, Instagram’s shopping tab now lives at the bottom of the screen between the post button and your profile tab.

August 2020: Jealous of the success of TikTok, Instagram launches Reels in over 50 countries.

October 2020: Formerly called Pages Manager App, Facebook launches the Facebook Business Suite app that allows small businesses to manage their content, messages, and analytics for Facebook and Instagram in one place.

November 2020: Product tags officially arrive for ads. Users can now click on tags on Instagram ads to view product details, prices, and purchase the product.

December 2020: Product tagging is added to Reels, making products featured in Reels posts shoppable within the Instagram app.

February 2021: Providing analytics, insights, and resources right in the Instagram app, Instagram launches a Professional Dashboard for business and creators.



What this means for your business

According to the app, 81% of people use Instagram to help research products and services. 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, and 130 million users clicking on a shopping post each month. 


When it comes to managing your business’s social media advertising, leave it to the experts. The Perfect Search team offers in-house design services, customized strategy, campaigns, and exhaustive reporting. Learn more here.


Stella Khaimova
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.

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