With each new year, social marketers like to predict what’s going to happen in their industry for the next 365 days. But you can’t predict everything and 2020 is an excellent example of this. This being said, social media evolves constantly and Instagram, with over 1 billion monthly active users, is no exception.
For Instagram, some of their newest features were clearly responses to the ongoing pandemic, fueling new and maintaining old connections. Other trends were driven by the users themselves. Here, we’re highlighting some Instagram trends to keep an eye on as you continue to develop your 2021 social media marketing strategy.
1. Instagram Live streams get longer
First introduced in 2016, Instagram Live has evolved as a way for businesses and individuals to broadcast in the moment. During 2020, they experienced a spike in interest as a way to maintain connection and conduct announcements and events digitally. From February to March 2020 alone, there was a 70% increase in Live views.
Live videos have also been extended from one hour to four hours at maximum and now appear on the Explore page. Going Live on Instagram might seem overwhelming at first, which is why we created a Live guide for businesses that will walk you through all the essential steps.
Mani-pedi company Olive & June uses Instagram Live to run a 7-day “Bootcamp.” Users new to at-home manicures or pedicures can sign up on their website and then follow along on Instagram Live each day. It’s a great way to introduce new users to their products and keep them connected to their social media presence.
Ways to use Instagram Live:
- Plan shared livestreams with other Instagram accounts and creators
- Use the Q&A sticker to answer questions live
- Introduce a new product or service
2. Generate revenue through Instagram
No longer relegated to shopping for products from businesses, Instagram now offers several ways for customers to convert without leaving the app. In 2020, Instagram Shop was extended to all business accounts, offering customers a way to save, purchase, and checkout in the app. To support Shop, product tags are available not just on posts but also in stories and Live broadcasts.
Instagram beefed up their support for creators in 2020, a trend that might continue into 2021. With the introduction of video ads in IGTV, creators can receive 55% of the cut. Taking a page from Twitch, badges were launched to support creators during their live streams. When watching a creator’s Live broadcast, supporters can purchase badges in three different price levels. Badge purchases appear in the comments, get listed on the creator’s list of badge holder and unlock a special heart.
Ways to generate revenue through Instagram:
- Set up Instagram Shop for your business
- Use product tags in your posts and stories
- Partner with creators as part of your influencer marketing strategy
3. Short, digestible graphics in carousel posts
With the help of free and easy apps, creating Instagram graphics is easier than ever. Carousel posts include up to 10 posts and accounts of all kinds are using it for education. Topics range from mental health to racial justice to relationship advice and everything in between.
Anti-Racism Daily is a daily newsletter that tackles a different anti-racist topic every day. To supplement the newsletter article, their Instagram posts also sum them up in an easy-to-read format.
Ways to use carousel graphics:
- Pick a topic you’re passionate about and turn educational tidbits into slides
- Find apps that have ready-to-go templates
- Turn your established infographics into slides
4. Educate or summarize with Instagram Guides
The original introduction of Guides in May 2020 was meant to be for well-being tips. Instagram worked with companies and creators to put together self-care Guides that might help alleviate grief or anxiety while sheltering in place. Since then, Guides have been introduced to everyone and have been used in a variety of ways.
There are three types of guides:
- Places: recommend places in your city or elsewhere
- Products: recommend or introduce your favorite products
- Posts: recommend posts that you’ve created or saved
Each guide has a small section at the top where you can summarize what it’s about. These also live on your Instagram profile page as its own tab, right next to the IGTV tab, so they’re another way to highlight your most important evergreen content similar to Stories highlights.
Jenn Yee of @pastrywithjenn used a Place Guide to introduce 10 of her favorite restaurants and bakeries in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The Guide includes a small blurb per place, a map with the tagged locations and a way for you to send it to your fellow foodie friend.
Ways to use Instagram Guides:
- Introduce your product lineup
- Show off your favorite businesses in your area
- Create informative articles on any topic your brand is passionate about
5. Reel out your silliness
Inspired by TikTok’s features of easily creating short videos with fun music pairings, Instagram Reels was also newly introduced in 2020. Reels are limited to 15 seconds and offer you the ability to string multiple clips together into one video. These tend to be casual and a little bit silly.
Reels are shareable and when saved, lives in its own tab on your profile page and might show up in the Explore page.
The Lip Bar uses Reels to create quick how-to videos. In this one, the company paired up with beauty influencer @therealteshamarie to show how she uses their products in her hydrating winter routine.
Ways to use Instagram Reels
- Put together quick how-to guides on using your products or services
- Find a trending meme and add your own spin on it
- Partner with an influencer to share how they use your products or services
6. Accept an Instagram Challenge
Challenges aren’t exactly a new thing on Instagram but they’ve certainly exploded during the pandemic, likely due to extra time on creators’ hands. Challenges might include the word “challenge” in them but one thing they all have in common is their own hashtag.
Challenges spread quickly like memes and follow a set of guidelines or rules. Each one leads to one or more posts and is a fun way of mixing up your content.
The #imjustakidchallenge began on TikTok and was a product of cabin fever creeping in. Using Simple Plan’s song, the challenge asks family members to recreate an old family photo with the same people, outfits and poses. Each video follows the same format with participants getting into a pose and once it’s reached, the old photo appears on the screen.
Ways to use Instagram challenges
- Follow popular video creators to find the current trending challenges
- Start your own brand challenge
7. Support small businesses & nonprofits with stickers
Stickers in Instagram Stories have been around for a while but new ones are being continually added. Because small businesses are having a tough time with ever-changing dining guidelines, Instagram introduced new ways to help support them.
Each sticker allows the viewer to click through for an action. Restaurants can use the Order sticker to easily promote their to-go menus, anyone can use the Donation sticker to help fundraise for their favorite nonprofit and you can add the Support Small Business sticker to share about your favorite business.
Ways to use supportive stickers
- Add your preferred delivery service to your profile page to make use of the Order sticker
- Promote your favorite cause and help them reach a fundraising goal
- Collaborate with other brands by creating a series that promotes your favorite small businesses
8. Don’t be afraid to be more casual
With the spillover of challenges and memes from both Twitter and TikTok, Instagram brand accounts are not as beautifully curated as they used to be. And that’s a good thing! Creating content in a pandemic is challenging, which means videos and photos take on a more casual and fun tone.
Imperfect photography, screenshots of Tweets and jumping in on popular memes can only make your brand feel more engaging and relatable.
Reese Witherspoon created a 9-photo grid that showed her progression from January to September 2020. With the addition of her #2020challenge hashtag, accounts began posting their version of 2020 feelings.
Ways to be more casual on Instagram
- Take a fun Tweet that you’ve posted or a fan has posted and use that screenshot in a post.
- Find a trending meme and fit your own brand’s voice into it.
- Instead of creating a highly edited and produced video, see if you can film it on a phone and make it more casual.
What Instagram trends are you excited about in 2021?
If 2020 has any summarizing lesson, it’s that things can and will change often. Instagram trends get created with influences from other networks and introductions of new features. Keeping up with the current trends freshens up your content and shows your audience that you’re not afraid to try new things.
To get inspiration on what kind of topics and posts your audience would be most interested in, keep tabs on the most essential Instagram metrics.