Instagram's new 'Saved Posts' feature has big implications for marketers

Hours after Instagram unveiled a bookmark feature called “Saved Posts” on Wednesday, allowing users to save posts they’d like to revisit later, Audi became one of the first brands to offer up a fun hack.

The auto brand posted nine different pieces of a single Audi R8 image in random order on its Instagram page, encouraging users to bookmark each piece in the correct order to solve the puzzle. Those who solved it correctly would see the completed shot of the Audi R8 in a seamless whole on the “bookmarks” tab on their own Instagram profiles. The puzzle has been solved over 3,200 times so far.

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Audi’s saved posts puzzle.

“We’re always looking out for updates that will allow us to be creative,” said John Matejczyk, founder and executive creative director at Muhtayzik Hoffer. “This was the perfect chance to unlock an idea we’d been thinking about anyway, letting people go back to their childhoods and rearrange pieces of a puzzle.”

While Audi may have been one of the first, it most definitely won’t be the last. Saved posts turn Instagram from a browsing tool into a curation tool, a move that puts Instagram squarely in Pinterest’s territory. The move may seem relatively benign, said Jill Sherman, svp of social strategy at DigitasLBi, but Instagram is clearly encroaching on one of Pinterest’s most coveted features with this move.

“People go to Instagram for discovery and inspiration, so this is a logical feature to implement,” she said. “A brand post that used to have a 30-second shelf-life potentially has a three-month shelf-life — maybe even longer.”

More important, the feature has big long-term implications for brands beyond just hacks, especially when taken in conjunction with a series of other updates that the platform has rolled out recently.

Just last month, Instagram introduced links in Instagram stories, which can be used to promote both content and conduct e-commerce sales by brands and businesses. It has also been testing shoppable photo tags with a few select partners. It could easily monetize Saved Posts as soon as these early e-commerce tests mature into a real business — letting users save products to buy later.

“In the immediate sense, brands don’t have access to what people are saving yet, but they have to think about what it can mean down the road,” said Mike Mikho, CMO at Laundry Service. “It is an obvious step for Instagram as it moves to introduce more e-commerce functionality and has obvious implications for brands from a data and commerce perspective.”

For Matt Heindl, senior director of social media at Razorfish, the feature is particularly useful for brands who have long-lead products. Bridal or wedding products and home improvement, for example, are good fits, where consumers create virtual mood boards in advance while browsing. A brand like Lowes, for example, could be able to target people saving paint brands’ photos or images from décor influencers.

But perhaps the biggest win for brands will be when Instagram starts using the data collected to improve ad targeting. It doesn’t seem improbable, given that the update is housed under the “Instagram for Business” tab, with the blog post saying: “For Instagrammers stumbling upon a business they want to remember, a new product they like, or a memorable ad, they can now keep track of favorite posts right from their profile.”

“It most definitely will serve as another data point for paid targeting purposes down the line,” said Will Thompson, associate director of social at Giant Spoon. “I also anticipate you will see a lot of call-to-actions to save posts, as it will also affect the algorithm and increase the likelihood of a brand’s content showing up in one’s feed.”