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A Guide to Instagram Guides

What are they and how do they work?

A Guide to Instagram Guides What are they and how do they work?

Last May, Instagram introduced Guides between sections of the app. Their purpose is to « discover recommendations, tips and other content from your favourite creators, public figures, organizations and publishers on Instagram» through the publication of long-form posts similar to those of ancient blogs. Initially, only one round of eight profiles was able to experience the new media, with a focus on mental well-being and self-care. Today, social media has announced that all Instagram users will be able to create their Own Guides, whose content will also expand to marked content such as Products, Places and Posts, with formats dedicated to travel or endorsement of a particular product. At the same time, the app is experimenting in English-speaking countries with a new search algorithm that works by keywords and not by tags.


How Instagram Guides work

With the new app update, Guides appear in a separate tab between IGTV videos and tagged posts. Their symbol is that of an open book and they are currently visible in the profiles of @afspnational, @heads_together, @vitaalere, @klicksafe, @headspace_aus, @deepikapadukone, @sudahdong and @eenfance. However, they will soon also be visible in the Explore section of the app and all users will be given the ability to publish one. 

To create a Guide just click on the "+" symbol at the top right of your profile. At this point a drop-down menu will appear that will include different types of content to be published, among which there will be guides available in three formats dedicated to Products, Places (which also includes real travel guides) and Posts, which organize and show posts created or saved by the user. You can enter content captions and links to the Shopping feature.


Why were they introduced?

The main purpose of introducing guides is to create business-oriented content for the app. Guides will become an important tool for brands that want to add context and storytelling for their products. For example, a fashion brand could create a guide to delve into the details of a new collection or tell a new product as well as an influencer could publish lists of recommended products and businesses and a travel/lifestyle blogger create sponsored travel guides to leave available to their followers recommending restaurants, bars and shops or Wiki-How styled guides for virtually every circumstance of daily life. The update can also serve as a creative showcase and diary for individual users by giving individual private bloggers the ability to present their content on a single platform instead of dispersing it into a network of different social media and online communities.


Does Instagram want to become the new shopping frontier?

Rather than becoming the new online shopping platform, Instagram is trying to expand, reorganize and better capitalize its commercial and creative potential. Given its central role in the business world at all levels and its ability to combine marketing with pop culture, it would perhaps be fairer to say that Instagram facilitates a change actually determined by the brands, companies and individual users operating within it. 

It would be to say that the new function of the Guides responds to needs already present within the social network and, rather than creating new experiences, fluidizes and optimizes those that already existed: instead of redirecting users to pages outside the app, the new function (as well as the Shopping function and the Reels) want to centralize in a single platform all the possible implications and declinations that can take on an Instagram content, also on the commercial level.


The battle with TikTok

Instagram's main rival today is TikTok, a type of social platform that literally overwhelmed Gen Z and almost alone created an entire subculture and a real ecosystem of young stars. TikTok's only problem, from a celebrity creator's point of view, is that for example, it doesn't give users the ability to create an in-app marketplace and thus making merch sales impossible. In fact, TikTok is already regaining ground thanks to a partnership with Teespring that should soon make it possible to sell products within the app while not opening up to the wide range of commercial possibilities that the Shopping function on Instagram has.

On the other hand, what TikTok lacks in structure and internal organization, Instagram lacks in fluidity and spontaneity of content. The recent introduction of the Reels is in fact a response to TikTok's extraordinary success, although for now, it has not been able to supplant it as it would have liked. However, it is still too early to make judgments: Instagram Stories were also born as an emulation of Vine in August 2016, a sort of proto-TikTok that was forced to close just three months later, in October of the same year.