Instagram didn’t make any fuss about its latest feature, choosing not to distract from the big reveal of its new app redesign. And so, when it released Community Content for brands last week, it did so quietly.

However, that doesn’t mean the Facebook company’s not excited about the update. With the new Community Content feature, businesses can add visuals shared by creators to their product pages. Instagram sees it as another step in its path to becoming a legit shopping destination, but in a way that stays true to the platform, Ethan Arpi, Instagram product marketing lead for shopping, told WWD.

“Businesses on Instagram are part of the community,” he explained. “We see everyday people tagging their favorite brands in photos and videos to show them love. Our investment in Community Content strengthens these relationships.”

If people tag a brand when they share photos or videos on Instagram, the business will receive a notification and an option to ask the creator for permission to use the content. The brand can match the shared item to a specific product in its inventory, connecting the asset to a particular product page, in a special section titled “From the community.”

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“When people shop, they want to know — how does this dress look on someone with my body type or how does this lipstick look on someone with my skin tone?” Arpi said. “On Instagram we have so many amazing photos and videos from our community that can help answer these questions.”

Any approaches that can instill confidence when buying products on the Internet can’t be overestimated, especially during a health crisis that has kept many consumers at home.

“Ultimately, we want people to feel confident that a product is right for them before they take out their wallet,” he added.

The feature itself is free and fairly straightforward, with few bells and whistles. Shares can only be tagged for a single brand, and there’s no mechanism in Community Content for any sort of compensation, should creators want to charge for their work. For the latter scenario, Instagram would encourage such deals to move into other services, like branded or sponsored content.

What users see when a brand is interested in their content and requests their permission to use it. Courtesy image

But it’s still early days, and Instagram has been heartened by results seen in tests so far with businesses like beauty company Live Tinted, Privé Revaux eyewear and Uninterrupted, the streetwear brand founded by Maverick Carter and LeBron James.

In other words, look for Community Content to evolve over time. The company hopes to take it beyond mere product pages and bring the creator-driven imagery to all Instagram Shop surfaces. And it may even make its way from organic posts to advertising someday. Arpi stopped short of confirming whether that was in the roadmap or not, but it seems like a natural destination for this sort of media.

For now, Instagram is paying attention to how creators and brands embrace the feature now that it has rolled out to U.S. businesses. A global launch will follow next year.

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