Instagram influencers share what it's like to use the app's expanded shopping features and the changes they still want to see

  • Instagram introduced a new set of eligibility requirements for Instagram Shopping that went into effect on July 9. 
  • The biggest change is that for the first time, creators are able to enroll their personal accounts and use Instagram Shopping features to promote products they own the rights to, such as merch, cosmetics, cooking ware, and other physical goods.
  • Business Insider spoke with Instagram influencers who tried out these features while they were in beta testing to see what they were like to use and what pain points still exist.
  • Subscribe to Business Insider's influencer newsletter: Influencer Dashboard.

Anyone can tag a brand on Instagram, but they can't always tag the actual product they want to sell.

Instagram has moved in stages toward changing that with a series of updates that let more businesses, including influencers and content creator accounts, use shoppable tags and create digital storefronts.

New eligibility requirements for Instagram Shopping that allow different categories of business to sell their products went into effect on July 9. Instagram Shopping encompasses all of the commerce features on the app, from shoppable posts, tags, stories, and business accounts with digital storefronts labelled with "View Shop."

The biggest change is that for the first time, creators are able to enroll their personal accounts and use Instagram Shopping features to promote products they own the rights to, such as merch, cosmetics, cooking ware, and other physical goods. These products must exist on either Facebook's Catalog Manager (a free and DIY business manager) or an approved ecommerce platform, such as Shopify, so Instagram can link to an online store.

Before the July 9 update, creators could only tag products on behalf of a brand that they were partnered with, or by creating a separate business page for their products.

"This tool is definitely a time saver and offers a better linking experience for the creator, a better shopping experience for the users, and better conversion potential for the brand," influencer Katie Sturino, who was part of the beta test of Shopping from Creators, told Business Insider.

Sturino is the founder of Megababe, a skincare company that sells a range of items including deodorants, products to help thigh chafing, and cosmetics. The brand uses the Instagram Shopping features and sees 30% of referral traffic come out of Instagram.

For those influencers who weren't part of the beta test, this update can eliminate some pain points.

Jen Azoulay, a luxury fashion influencer behind the Instagram account @Jen_Wonders, launched her own vintage collection earlier this year under the name Jen Wonders Studio. She registered her brand as a shop using a secondary business account.

But because the following of her business account was small, with fewer than 10,000 followers, she was shut out of some key features, like the ability to swipe up in stories, she told Business Insider.

With the new update, she can apply to use the Instagram Shopping features on her personal account, which has more than 100,000 followers.

Influencers want to see more brand options

The limited amount of brands available to tag has frustrated some creators using these features, they told Business Insider.

There are two main issues, they said. One was that there were simply not that many brands in the program. The other was that influencers could only tag products of brands they had been manually approved for.

"I wish that I could [tag] a lot of brands that I use," said Jaleesa Moses, who was given permission to tag NARS product as part of the initial beta testing in 2019. She said she wished she had more options when it came to brands she could tag, especially those that are in her daily routine.

For influencers like Sturino and Moses, tagging the exact style or shade of a product is great for their followers, but the limited amount of brands available means they can't use that feature as much as they would like.

While the July 9 expanded eligibility allows creators to apply for shopping features and sell their own products, the amount of brands that creators can tag will not immediately change. Instagram is still exploring ways to expand business-creator relationships when it comes to partnerships and tagging, the company said. 

There's still room to grow for Instagram in commerce

Instagram is still testing and launching many new shopping and tagging capabilities, such as linking products in the caption or adding shopping to Instagram Live.

On July 16, Instagram launched Instagram Shop, a new shopping destination in the Explore tab of the app, which will act a marketplace to share shoppable posts, brands, and recommendations.

Still, some influencers feel that Instagram's commerce tools are lacking.

For instance, affiliate links, which are a common way influencers make money from social posts by getting a cut of sales they drive, are not part of Instagram's software for Shopping, including tagging or checkout features. These links can be used in Instagram Stories, but not shoppable posts. 

Digital products, such as subscriptions, are also not permitted as goods that can be sold through the Instagram Shop.

Read more about how Instagram influencers are navigating the changes on the app:

  • An Instagram influencer's guide to negotiating a brand sponsorship and what contract terms to watch out for: Austen Tos one shares her tips for negotiating a sponsorship and how to pitch a deal. 
  • A new survey of 1,021 Instagram influencers shows how the social-media platform has changed in recent weeks and what areas they're leaning into: Business Insider looks into how more Instagram influencers are using features such as "Stories" or "Live" during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Instagram influencers can earn thousands of dollars for a sponsored livestream, but they have to get risk-averse brands on board: As interest in live video has spiked among at-home consumers, creators, marketers, and tech platforms are looking for new ways to make money from livestreaming.

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