With every New Year, social marketers like to predict what will happen in their industry in the next 365 days. But you can’t predict everything and 2020 is a great example of that. With this in mind, social media is constantly evolving 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 ones and maintaining old connections. Other trends were driven by the users themselves. Here are some Instagram trends to keep in mind as you evolve your social media marketing strategy in 2021.

1. Instagram live streams are getting longer

Instagram Live was first introduced in 2016 and has evolved as a way for businesses and individuals to broadcast in the moment. In 2020, they saw a surge in interest for keeping the connection going and making announcements and events digitally. From February to March 2020 alone, the number of live views increased by 70%.

Live video has also been extended from one hour to a maximum of four hours and is now displayed on the Explore page. Going live on Instagram may seem overwhelming at first. That’s why we’ve created a live guide for businesses to walk you through all the important steps.

Mani-pedi company Olive & June uses Instagram Live to run a 7-day boot camp. Users who are new to manicure or pedicure at home can sign up on their website and then follow on Instagram Live every day. This is a great way to introduce their products to new users and keep them connected to their social media presence.

Ways to use Instagram Live:

  • Schedule 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 income through Instagram

No longer just for shopping for corporate products, Instagram now offers customers a variety of ways to convert without leaving the app. In 2020, the Instagram shop was expanded to include all business accounts and offers customers the option to save, buy and check out in the app. To support the shop, product tags are not only available in posts, but also in stories and live broadcasts.

Instagram stepped up its support for developers in 2020, a trend that could continue into 2021. With the introduction of video ads in IGTV, developers can get 55% of the cut. Badges have been launched on a Twitch site to aid the developers with their live streams. While watching a creator’s broadcast live, backers can purchase badges in three different price tiers. Badge purchases appear in the comments, are added to the list of badge holders of the creator and unlock a special heart.

Ways To Generate Income From Instagram:

  • Set up the Instagram shop for your company
  • Use product tags in your posts and stories
  • Work with developers as part of your influencer marketing strategy

3. Short, easily digestible graphics in carousel posts

With the help of free and simple apps, creating Instagram graphics is easier than ever. Carousel posts contain up to 10 posts and are used by accounts of all types for educational purposes. Topics range from mental health to racial justice to relationship advice and everything in between.

Anti-Racism Daily is a daily newsletter that deals with a different anti-racist topic every day. In addition to the newsletter article, they summarize their Instagram posts in an easy-to-read format.

Ways to use carousel graphics:

  • Pick a topic you’re passionate about and turn educational tidbits into slides
  • Look for apps with ready-to-use templates
  • Turn your established infographics into slides

4. Inform or summarize with Instagram guides

The original launch of guides in May 2020 was intended to provide tips on wellbeing. Instagram has worked with businesses and developers to put together self-care guides that can help alleviate grief or anxiety while they seek shelter. Since then, guides have been presented to everyone and used in a variety of ways.
Example of a guide
There are three types of instructions:

  • Puts: recommend places in your city or elsewhere
  • Products: recommend or introduce your favorite products
  • Posts: recommend posts that you have created or saved

Each guide has a small section at the top that you can use to summarize what it is about. These are also located on your Instagram profile page as a separate 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 showcase 10 of her favorite restaurants and bakeries in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The guide includes a small blurb per location, a map with the locations marked, and a way to send them to your foodie friend.

Ways to Use Instagram Guides:

  • Introduce your product range
  • Show your favorite stores in your area
  • Create informative articles on any topic your brand is passionate about

5. Reel out your silliness

Inspired by TikTok’s features to easily create short videos with entertaining music pairings, Instagram Reels was also re-launched in 2020. The roles are limited to 15 seconds and allow you to combine several clips into one video. These tend to be casual and a little bit silly.

Example of Instagram roles

Roles can be shared. When saved, they will be in their own tab on your profile page and may appear on the Explore page.

The lip bar uses rollers to create quick tutorial videos. In this case, the company has teamed up with beauty influencer @therealteshamarie to showcase how she uses their products in her winter moisturizing routine.

Ways to Use Instagram Roles

  • Put together quick guides on how to use your products or services
  • Find a trending meme and add your own twist
  • Work with an influencer to share how they use your product or service

6. Take on an Instagram challenge

Challenges aren’t exactly new to Instagram, but they certainly exploded during the pandemic, likely due to the extra time available to developers. Challenges may contain the word “challenge”, but they all have one thing in common: their own hashtag.

Challenges spread like memes quickly and follow a set of guidelines or rules. Each leads to one or more posts and is a fun way to mix up your content.

The #imjustakidchallenge started on TikTok and was a product of the creeping cabin fever. Using the song from Simple Plan, the challenge asks family members to recreate an old family photo with the same people, outfits, and poses. Each video is the same format, with participants getting into a pose. Once it is reached, the old photo will appear on the screen.

Ways to Use Instagram Challenges

  • Follow popular video artists to find the current trending challenges
  • Start your own brand challenge

7. Support small businesses and nonprofits with stickers

Stickers in Instagram Stories have been around for a while, but new ones are added all the time. Since small businesses struggle with ever-changing food policies, Instagram has introduced new ways to support them.
Order sample sticker on Instagram
Each sticker enables 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 raise funds for their favorite nonprofit organization, and you can add the Support Small Business sticker to get information about your favorite business.

Ways to Use Supporting Stickers

  • Add your preferred delivery service to your profile page to use the order sticker
  • Promote your favorite cause and help them meet a fundraising goal
  • Collaborate with other brands by creating a series promoting your favorite small businesses

8. Don’t be afraid to be more casual

With the numerous challenges and memes from Twitter and TikTok, Instagram branded accounts aren’t as nicely curated as they used to be. And that’s good! 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 into popular memes can all make your brand feel more engaging and reliable.

Reese Witherspoon created a 9 photo grid showing her progress from January to September 2020. Using their hashtag # 2020challenge, the accounts began posting their version of the 2020 sentiments.

Ways to be more casual on Instagram

  • Take a fun tweet that you posted or that a fan posted and use this screenshot in a post.
  • Find a trending meme and customize the voice of your own brand.
  • Instead of making a highly edited and produced video, see if you can film it on a phone and make it more casual.

Which Instagram trends are you looking forward to in 2021?

When 2020 has a summary lesson, things can and often will change. Instagram trends are created with influences from other networks and the introduction of new features. Keeping up with the latest trends will refresh your content and show your audience that you are not afraid to try new things.

Keep an eye on top Instagram metrics for inspiration on which topics and posts your audience is most interested in.