December 7, 2020 Last updated on July 1st, 2021
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With a new year just around the corner, we thought now was a great time to share our hottest Instagram tips for 2021.

If you’ve visited the Iconosquare blog before, you’ll know we’re no stranger to sharing the latest and greatest Instagram tips and tricks.

We love nothing more than helping you apply the most effective tactics to grow your community and successfully market your business through Instagram.

But let’s be real for a moment: 2020 has been a year of big change for Instagram…

… probably the biggest one yet!

Not only did Instagram celebrate its 10th birthday, but it also introduced a major new feature: Instagram Reels.

Then, shortly afterwards, it unveiled a layout change that’s shaken up the way we use and consume content on the platform.

So to stay ahead of these changes and ensure you’re focusing on the right things, we’ve compiled a handy list of priorities for next year.

Keep reading to discover our 11 hottest Instagram tips for 2021.


Create Reels

Now that Instagram has changed the layout of the app to make the Reels feed accessible from your profile, it’s undeniable:

Instagram is prioritizing video content – and, more specifically, Reels.

The recent update moves the notifications tab and the “new post” (+ icon) function to the top right corner, where direct messages are located.

And at the bottom of the screen you can find shortcuts to Instagram Reels and Instagram Shopping.

This is a major update that comes mere months (and for some regions, weeks) after Instagram Reels was officially launched, which goes to show how serious Instagram is about this new feature.

If we look back at the launch of Instagram Stories, Live, and IGTV, no major layouts were rolled out to accommodate these platforms.

So if Instagram is hyper focused on Reels, what does that tell us as content creators, social media managers and business owners using Instagram to sell our products and services?

Well, it’s probably a smart idea to hop on the bandwagon and create some Reels.

Many accounts are benefiting from being Reels early adopters, experiencing unprecedented levels of growth and engagement thanks to Instagram’s efforts to encourage mass adoption.

So, why not benefit from this too?

Once you get the hang of how the Reels platform works, they’re relatively easy to create.

But to give you a helping hand, we put together a simple step-by-step guide to make Instagram Reels as stress-free as possible.

Set up Instagram shopping

As mentioned in Tip #1, the layout of Instagram has changed to prioritize Instagram Reels and Instagram shopping.

Instagram has been shoppable since 2018, but placing a shortcut to Shopping in the main tab indicates an emphasis on ecommerce.

Ecommerce platform BigCommerce recently shared an article citing multiple examples of brands successfully using Instagram Shopping.

For example, technology company Native Union saw a 2,666% increase in traffic and clothing brand Magnolia Boutique saw a 20% increase in revenue week-on-week thanks to Instagram Shopping.


To set up Instagram Shopping for your account, first make sure you’re eligible. Once you’ve done that, the process is fairly quick and easy.

It goes without saying that setting up Instagram Shopping alone is going to guarantee lots more sales and revenue for your business.

Indeed, your account shouldn’t be a billboard just advertising your products. Instead, the Shopping feature should work hand-in-hand with your content marketing strategy.

The more engaged your followers are, the more likely they will turn into customers.

As clothing brand Grace And Lace said:

“Instagram is a powerhouse for you to visually tell that story and showcase that  experience. It’s not about marketing your product; it’s about marketing the experience that comes with owning your product.”

Live Shopping: The future of Instagram Shopping

Brands have been able to share products via Instagram Stories since 2019, but in August 2020 a new feature was rolled out in the US: Live Shopping.

While the rest of the world waits to try out Live Shopping, it’s a good time to think about how you could factor this into your Instagram strategy.

One huge benefit of Live Shopping is that business owners and content creators will be able to elevate their “how to” / tutorial content to show how products look and work in real life.

When promotion doesn’t feel forced, engagement – and more importantly, sales – will come much more easily.

Update your Highlights

Did you know that your Instagram Story Highlights can act as your mini website?

Yes, it’s true and that’s why Highlights are included in our hottest Instagram tips for 2021. If you haven’t updated your Instagram Highlights in a while, now would be a great time to do so.

When organized strategically, your Highlights can tell the story of your brand, share glowing reviews or testimonials, and explain how people can buy from you/work with you.

And in this way, they’re a great way of accelerating the know, like and trust factor with your followers.

So consider the order of your Highlights. Think about what journey you want to take your followers on so that they learn more about what you do and move one big step closer to becoming a customer or client.

That order could look something like:

  1. About us / My story
  2. Services / Products
  3. Testimonials
  4. How to buy
  5. Press

The exact names and topics of each Highlight will differ from account to account, but use the example above as a template to guide you.

Remember to add specific covers to your Highlights (these can be simple covers in your brand colours) so that they fit with your overall aesthetic and reinforce your branding.

And since Highlights are past Instagram Stories saved permanently on your profile, you may want to recreate new Stories so you can update and tweak your existing Highlights.

In that case, outline new Story content you need to share over the next couple of weeks and start creating!

Make the most of DMs

Instagram direct messages (DMs) are the best way to build relationships with followers and start warming up leads.

That’s why, if you haven’t been already, you need to make this activity a part of your weekly marketing efforts.

The best way to do this in a way that’s natural – and never feels like you’re awkwardly sliding into the DMs – is by making the most of Instagram Story stickers (more on this in the next tip).

Once you start getting people in the DMs, you want to keep a track of people’s handles and the conversations you’re having, so you can nurture these relationships and move people closer to becoming a customer.

The single easiest way to do that is with a tracker of some kind. You can use a CRM system from Hubspot or Dubsado, or you can create a simple spreadsheet in Google Sheets or Excel.

Keep a note of conversations you’re having with people and when you last corresponded so you don’t let opportunities slip through the net.

Instagram’s DM inbox isn’t the easiest of places to keep everything organized, which is why your own spreadsheet is going to become your new secret weapon for relationship-building.

Utilize Story stickers

If you were reading Tip #4, nodding your head with excitement but wondering: how do I actually get people into my DMs?

Here is your answer: Utilize Story stickers!

You’re going to get super familiar with the poll, quiz and question stickers – as well as the emoji slider – and use these throughout your Stories as much as possible.

Why? Because Story stickers are a fantastic way of breaking down the barrier between “follower” and “account” and encouraging interactivity with your target audience – to give you a little guidance, take a look at the most popular stickers on Instagram Stories.

Here’s an example of how to use stickers strategically.

  • First, outline a Story that enables you to give your audience something to vote on, whether that’s your coffee order, the color of your next product or which training you should share
  • Share your Story and include the poll sticker early on
  • A few hours later, send a message to everybody that interacted with your poll. Follow up with something that relates to the topic you polled about and ask a question to encourage more than a one-word answer

If you share this kind of Story at least once a week, you will notice a dramatic increase in your DMs.

No slimy-sliding-into-the-DMs-with-a-forced-intro necessary!

Remember: Most people don’t feel comfortable sliding into the DMs…

… so it’s up to you to find opportunities to break down the barrier between your account and your ideal customer, and show a genuine interest in them/their life/their day/their habits.

☝️This is why Stories are so powerful. And once that barrier is broken, people will feel so much more comfortable popping into your DMs in the future.

Post more video

I might sound like a broken article in this piece, referencing Reels, Instagram Live and Stories, but it’s for good reason.

In case it wasn’t already super obvious: video should be a big part of your Instagram strategy in 2021.

That doesn’t mean you have to create Instagram Reels, but it does mean you should think about factoring in other kinds of video (if you haven’t already).

Video is the best way to forge deeper connections with your followers. It allows your audience to see your mannerisms, hear how you sound, and place you in your surroundings – all of which help to build trust and likeability.

Plus, it’s much easier to tell stories and demonstrate tutorials using video. And you don’t need fancy equipment or a studio to create compelling video content.

Natural light, a stand and the right framing go a long way.

To start weaving more video into your content strategy, I suggest looking at your upcoming content and see which pieces could be turned into an Instagram Live, IGTV or Reel.

Each platform serves a different purpose. Lives are great for Q&As and guest interviews, IGTVs are ideal for diving into a particular topic more deeply, and Reels are an opportunity for fun, and short value-packed content.

The benefit of swapping out some of your static posts for video is increased engagement and stronger relationships with your followers.

Go Live

If Instagram Live is your preferred mode of video, you’re on track for great engagement in 2021.

Data shows that 82% of people would rather watch a live video than view a social media post, and this figure is unlikely to change in 2021.

In fact, with the growth of Reels and new features like Live Shopping, demand for video will be higher than ever.

The beauty of going live is the instant connection it builds with your community. It’s the quickest and easiest way to share education, demonstrate a tutorial, or answer a Q&A solo or with a guest expert.

We’ve got lots more advice about going Live on Instagram in the guide: Creating Instagram Live Videos Your Audience Will Love.

So for now, all I’ll say is definitely consider going Live more in 2021. It’s one of our hottest Instagram tips for 2021 because it allows you to jump to the front of your followers’ Story feeds and remind them that you’re Live with a push notification.

Then, once you’re Live, you’ve got a captive audience right there with you that you can engage with 1:1. It’s a level of intimacy and connection that’s hard to beat, and a fantastic way to accelerate the know, like and trust factor with your followers.

Bonus Instagram tip for 2021: Prepare some slides in advance of going Live. This will set you apart from everybody else going Live, help keep viewers engaged and illustrate your talking points more effectively.

Audit your followers

It might sound obvious, but there’s no point having tens of thousands of followers if lots of them are spam or fake accounts.

Now that’s not to say you’ve engaged in any questionable growth tactics, not at all. In fact, it’s common for almost every account to accumulate some #fakers over time thanks to other people’s shady growth tactics.

That’s why I recommend you perform an audit, so that you can get rid of fake followers in your community, improve your engagement levels and enhance your reputation.

The simplest (if a little time consuming) way to audit your followers is to manually look through the Instagram profiles of the people following you.

As you do so, keep an eye out for the following warning signs:

  • No profile picture

This is the biggest sign of a fake account. If you see an empty grey profile picture, remove this follower from your account.

  • Minimal/spammy content on their Instagram profile

Not everyone is super active on Instagram, however if you find someone that has no content or only spammy content, this probably isn’t someone you want on your follower list.

  • Poor username (made up of a variety of letters/numbers)

If you come across an unusual username made up of random numbers or letters, assess the rest of the profile (is there a profile image? Relevant content?) before deciding whether to remove the follower.

  • Unusual follower/following ratio

When an account is following a huge number of people (in the hundreds or thousands) and they only have a handful of people following them, it’s usually a sign of a spammy/fake account.

While it might feel a bit uncomfortable removing followers from your account (nobody loves seeing their follower number go down!), you’ll notice your engagement rate increase once you’ve gotten rid of the dead weight your account is carrying.

Plus, it will allow you to set and measure realistic goals – rather than basing your numbers on a number of fake/inactive followers.

Make engagement a weekly priority

While great content will help you grow, engaging regularly with your followers will be the difference between how quickly and easily you convert those followers into customers/clients.

But with so many other things on your plate, spending time sending messages, leaving comments and interacting with people’s Stories often gets pushed to the bottom of the to do list…

… right?

I understand. And that’s why it’s crucial to make engagement a habit.

Set aside time in your diary every week for engagement. This could be 20 minutes a day or 1.5 hours once a week.

Choose a day(s) and time that suits your schedule and dedicate that time to connecting with

your community, engaging with their content and getting to know them better.

If you read hottest Instagram tip #4, you’ll already know the value of using a tracker to keep on top of conversations you’re having. This is what you can use to make your engagement sessions as productive as possible.

The benefit of regular engagement is that you’ll be nurturing your community and staying front of mind for them.

All good relationships take time to develop, but if you’re making the effort to stay in touch with your followers on a regular basis, it won’t be long before you’re converting them to customers and clients.

Track your Instagram Insights

There’s no better way to streamline your content creation efforts and know exactly what your target audience wants than by looking at your Insights regularly.

Your Instagram insights – or analytics, as you may know them – are your secret weapon to Instagram success.


Without checking these at least once a month (and every two weeks for Stories), you’ll waste unnecessary time thinking up new content ideas and wondering why some posts on Instagram just don’t seem to be working.

Let’s avoid that by keeping a close eye on these metrics:

  1. Saves
  4. Reach
  5. Follows
  6. Website taps

These metrics are a great indication of:

  • How engaging your content is (1, 2, 3)
  • How well your hashtag strategy is working (4)
  • Which content types are encouraging people to want to stick around for the long haul (5)
  • What content is encouraging people to leave Instagram to find out more about you (this is a big deal!) (6)

So start 2021 off strong by analyzing your Insights regularly and always bringing them with you into your content planning sessions.

Learn more about the importance of Instagram metrics and where to find them.

Use keywords across your profile

In November 2020, Instagram search had an update. Previously, an Instagram user could only search for specific hashtags or accounts.

Now, Instagram lets people search keywords themselves (bedroom inspiration versus #bedroominspiration), which means that posts featuring bedrooms should surface even if they’re not using the specific #bedroominspiration tag.

While it’s unclear exactly how Instagram determines what a post is about (if it’s not using a specific hashtag), one thing is clear: it’s worth including keywords across your profile as much as possible.

Not only is this a good way of reinforcing your messaging, but it looks like it’s going to be a great opportunity to improve your Instagram SEO and increase your chances of being surfaced for industry-related search terms.

While I don’t recommend keyword stuffing, to give yourself the best shot at ranking for relevant keywords, include (relevant) keywords in the following places:

  • Instagram bio (in the bold “Name” section, as this is the only discoverable section of your bio)
  • In your captions
  • Within your Guides
  • In the “alt text” of your content


There’s no doubt 2021 will be an exciting year for business owners, social media managers and content creators on Instagram.

What new features will be added to Instagram Reels?

How will Instagram Shopping evolve?

Will we see any new layout updates?

Whatever happens, Iconosquare will continue to be your best source of the latest and greatest Instagram strategy and advice.

I’m excited to see how you implement these 11 hottest Instagram tips for 2021!


About the author
Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell is a door obsessive and Instagram educator, teaching small businesses, solopreneurs and content creators how to build engaged communities on Instagram in less time. Read more from Bella on her website:

More posts by Bella Foxwell

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