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Instagram Year in Review: Top Trends from 2018

By Benjamin Chacon

Updated on December 5, 2018

14 minute read

2018 was a big year for Instagram! From pop culture phenomena to launching a new video platform and too many new features to count (but we did), it’s been a busy year for the folks at Instagram — and it’s 1 BILLION users around the world.  Let’s take a look back at Instagram in 2018

Published December 5, 2018

Stay on top of the biggest social media marketing trends!

2018 was a big year for Instagram!

From pop culture phenomena to launching a new video platform and too many new features to count (but we did), it’s been a busy year for the folks at Instagram — and it’s 1 BILLION users around the world. 

Let’s take a look back at Instagram in 2018 and the biggest moments from the year:

Table of Contents

  1. Popular on Instagram in 2018

  2. Top Brands on Instagram in 2018

  3. Trending on Instagram in 2018

  4. New Instagram Features in 2018

Popular on Instagram in 2018

Remember when Instagram was just a small-time photo-sharing app with cool filters?

It’s incredible to think about, but after 8  years, Instagram finally hit the 1 billion monthly active users mark in June (up from 800 million in September 2017). And it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down – just take a look at this year’s highlights from Instagram:

Today, Instagram is so many things: a social media platform, a sales channel, a content hub, and a breeding ground for pop culture… (Don’t believe us? Just think back to the In My Feelings Challenge of July 2018, which was the biggest viral dance challenge of the year according to Instagram, and a #1 hit for Drake).

But it’s the ability to be so many things at once that’s made Instagram so popular — along with the people and businesses who use it.

Speaking of popular people, let’s take a look at the top accounts of 2018:

It’s been a big year for Portuguese soccer sensation, Cristiano Ronaldo. Not only did he compete in his fourth World Cup, but he also transferred to Juventus for a jaw-dropping €100 million, and, most importantly, he jumped into the #1 spot as the most followed person on Instagram!

Ronaldo effectively de-throned Selena Gomez this year, who previously held the record in both 2016 and 2017.

And while we don’t want to take away from Ronaldo’s achievement, 2018 did represent somewhat of an off-year for Gomez.

Gomez recently opened up and shared she was going through a tough, emotional time. And in September, she followed up by sharing an Instagram post stating that she was taking a break from social media.

“Update: taking a social media break. Again. As much as I am grateful for the voice that social media gives each of us, I am equally grateful to be able to take a step back and live my life present to the moment I have been given. Kindness and encouragement only for a bit!” Gomez wrote.

And what about popular Instagram posts?

Well, despite being just the seventh most followed person on Instagram, Kylie Jenner broke all kinds of Instagram records with her debut photo of her daughter, Stormi!

With over 18 million likes (and counting), Jenner’s post has received nearly 5 million more likes than the second most liked photo of 2018, which went to Justin Bieber with his engagement announcement to Hailey Baldwin. Not only is this the most liked photo of the year, it’s the most liked photo EVER! Way to go, Stormi.

And that’s not all! With over 13 million likes, Jenner’s second photo of Stormi took the #3 spot for most liked posts of 2018, and her secret pregnancy definitely helped push her to the top of the Instagram leaderboard this year.

What about the most popular hashtags of 2018?

As we’ve said before, using ultra-popular hashtags isn’t always the best strategy for getting more engagement on your posts and stories. But that didn’t stop millions of users from tagging their content #love, #instagood, or #photooftheday, the top three hashtags of 2018!

But for millions of people around the world, 2018 was the year Instagram helped their voices be heard. The year’s top advocacy hashtags were #metoo (1.5 million), #timesup (597K), #marchforourlives (562K), so we’re seeing a shift in the reasons why people are using Instagram too.

Top Brands on Instagram in 2018

The most popular brands on Instagram haven’t really changed much over the years, with Nike, National Geographic, and Victoria’s Secret consistently taking the top 3 spots.

The same is true in 2018 with National Geographic taking a marked lead over Nike with 95 million followers!

As for branded hashtags, the popular photo-sharing app, VSCO, once again took the #1 spot… but not for the reason you’d expect!

Over the past few years, the hashtag #VSCO has consistently ranked as the most used branded hashtag on Instagram. But in 2018, it was the app’s other branded hashtag, #VSCOcam, that took first place!

This just goes to show how important branded hashtags are for spreading the word about your products and building a community around your business.

Trending on Instagram in 2018

Now that we’ve covered the milestones, let’s take a look at some of the biggest trends to emerge in 2018.

#1: Shopping on Instagram Goes Global

2018 has undoubtedly been the biggest year for Instagram ecommerce yet.

Thanks to a global rollout of Instagram’s shoppable posts feature in March, businesses in 46 different countries can now tag products in their Instagram posts, completely streamlining the buying journey for their customers.

And now with shoppable Instagram Stories stickers, businesses have yet another channel to sell their products on Instagram!

Plus, Instagram is even testing out a Shopping channel on the Explore page!

From major brands to small businesses, more and more accounts are using Instagram’ shopping features to connect with customers in a fresh, immersive way… and we don’t expect a slowdown anytime soon!

#2: Instagram Profiles Become the New Homepage

Building an attractive visual identity for your brand has always been important — but never more so than today!

As more and more people turn to Instagram (instead of Google) to search for businesses and products, it’s becoming so incredibly important to optimize your profile for sales, followers, and awareness.

And businesses are taking note!

Whether it’s using a consistent editing style or crafting an engaging Instagram bio, business in 2018 went all-out when it came to their profiles. And we only expect this trend to continue in 2019.

Shoutout to Later’s very own Taylor Loren for calling this one!

#3: Vertical Video Gets (Really) Popular

Remember when posting vertical videos used to be a bad thing?

Well, thanks to Instagram’s insistent support of the format (we’re looking at you Instagram Live, Instagram Stories, and, of course, IGTV!), vertical video is now becoming a huge trend!

But is it really that surprising?

With more and more people consuming content primarily on their mobile devices, vertical video just makes sense! According to AdWeek, today, 94 percent of people hold their phones upright when capturing content.

And not just for Instagram! With Facebook and even YouTube joining the vertical video club, clearly the format isn’t going away anytime soon. Which means that now is the time to learn how to create and edit vertical video so you can be ready for 2019!

Read to get started with IGTV? Check out our ultimate guide to IGTV here!

#4: Changes to Instagram’s API Makes Waves

Earlier this year, Facebook and Instagram made several major changes to their APIs in an effort to protect user data and privacy, and almost every company that does business on Instagram was affected, whether it was a shopping app or an analytics app.

Because the new Instagram API is much more restrictive (and thankfully, more secure) than the previous one, many apps that weren’t approved by Instagram to use the new API suddenly stopped working. The good news is that it put a stop to a lot of Instagram bot apps too.

Luckily, Later is an approved Instagram partner, so we were only minimally impacted by the change!

#5: Taking Your Account Private

One of the biggest (and strangest) Instagram trends to emerge this year was large Instagram meme accounts make their profiles private. And still built a huge following, despite not being a public profile!

According to several large meme accounts, the main reason they went private is that it helps them attract new followers. The idea being that by taking your account private, when one of your followers sends a post to their friend, that person has to follow you in order to see it.

But there are other reasons too. Some meme accounts have reported that it helps them keep their followers from hitting the unfollow button and it also adds a layer of exclusivity to their content.

We’ll have to wait and see whether this trend crosses over into 2018 (but here’s hoping it doesn’t!).

New Instagram Features in 2018

Is there any doubt that 2018 was the biggest year for new Instagram features to date?

Over the past year, Instagram added a ton of new creative tools for Instagram Stories, new video channels, shopping tools, and more!

Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

Add GIFs to Instagram Stories (January 2018)

Instagram launched the first of many new creative tools for Instagram Stories just a few weeks into 2018 — and boy, has it caught on!

It’s no wonder businesses have been so quick to jump on the GIF bandwagon — they’re the perfect way to add a bit of personality to your stories, not to mention they can increase brand awareness and help drive more engagement on your account!

Plus, did you know you can create your own GIFs for Instagram Stories?

New Fonts & Type Mode on Instagram Stories (February 2018)

Instagram’s second major rollout of 2018 was Type Mode in Instagram Stories, which allows you to pick a colorful background for your story (in lieu of a photo or video).

Okay, sure, it’s doesn’t sound that impressive. But Type Mode actually solves a pretty big problem for stories. Previously, there was no way to share text-only stories on Instagram. But thanks to Type Mode, you can easily type out a message, add a background, and voilà!

Instagram also took the opportunity to add several new fonts to Instagram Stories, bringing the total to 5: classic, modern, neon, typewriter, and strong.

Add Username & Hashtags Links to Your Instagram Bio (March 2018)

Your Instagram bio is extremely important, especially if you’re using your Instagram account to promote your business. But with only 150 characters and a single clickable link, driving traffic elsewhere can be tricky.

Luckily for all of us, Instagram has just made things a lot easier! In March 2018, Instagram launched its first major update to the bio: the ability to add clickable username and hashtag links.

Now, when you include a “#” or “@” in your bio, it will automatically become a clickable link that will lead visitors to a hashtag or another profile.

This offers a huge benefit to businesses, as they can now promote their branded campaigns and hashtags directly in their bios!

Updates to the Instagram Algorithm (March 2018)

Instagram made its first of several changes to the algorithm in March, and we couldn’t be happier about it!

In response to people complaining that they were seeing really old content on their feeds, Instagram rejigged the algorithm to give more weight to when something is posted.

“Based on your feedback, we’re also making changes to ensure that newer posts are more likely to appear first in feed,” Instagram wrote. “With these changes, your feed will feel more fresh, and you won’t miss the moments you care about.

Then, for the first time ever, Instagram went on record with TechCrunch to explain exactly how the algorithm works and what factors are most important in determining what appears on your feed.

Shopping on Instagram (March & September 2018)

One of Instagram’s biggest focuses of 2018 was building out their shopping features… and they definitely delivered!

Starting with a global rollout of shoppable posts in March, Instagram doubled-down on shopping a few months later when they launched a new shopping sticker for Instagram Stories, giving businesses yet another channel to tag and promote their products!

On top of that, Instagram also announced that they’re testing a new Shopping channel in Instagram Explore, which would give users a centralized place to browse and buy products!

Can you tell we’re excited?

Want to learn more about how you can drive more sales with Instagram shopping posts? Check out our ultimate guide to Instagram shopping here!

New Focus Mode on Instagram Stories (April 2018)

Instagram wanted to make it easier for you to share beautiful photos on Instagram Stories, and they did exactly that by launching their new Focus Mode.

As the name suggests, the new camera mode focuses on a subject’s face while blurring the rest of the photo’s background, creating a professional, depth-of-field effect — and some seriously good selfies!

Share Feed Posts to Instagram Stories (May 2018)

With more and more users shifting their attention to Instagram Stories, a lot of businesses (and influencers!) have started using stories to cross-promote their regular posts.

Thankfully, Instagram made this process a lot easier in May with the ability to directly share feed posts to Instagram Stories.

Whether it’s to drive attention to your latest influencer marketing campaign or to promote a new campaign, there are tons of reasons for sharing yours and other users’ posts to Instagram Stories!

Add Emoji Sliders to Instagram Stories (May 2018)

Instagram is all about making stories more interactive in 2018. Case in point: Instagram’s new emoji sliders.

A bit like Instagram’s question stickers (which we’ll discuss below), the emoji slider also lets you ask questions to your community, like how ???? they like their ramen or how ????the new Yeezys are.

IGTV (June 2018)

Instagram launched a ton of new and important features in 2018, but none were quite as bold as IGTV!

Launched as Instagram’s first standalone video platform, IGTV gives businesses a new channel to grow their following, showcase their products, and show-off their creativity.

Despite being a fairly recent addition, IGTV has already proven itself to be a major asset to businesses, both big and small! So far we’ve seen businesses use it to share how-to’s and tutorials, to promote their products, to share company news, and so much more.

As its integration into the Instagram app becomes even more prominent, we expect more businesses to adopt IGTV into their marketing strategies in 2019!

Add Music to Instagram Stories (June 2018)

Close on the tails of Instagram’s IGTV launch came another charismatic feature: the ability to add music to your Instagram Stories with music stickers!

The newest feature will allow you to add a soundtrack to your story, whether it’s a photo or video. And thanks to an integration with Spotify, you can select from thousands of different songs to find the perfect track for your content!

Questions Sticker (July 2018)

Instagram added a touch more interactivity to Instagram Stories with the launch of question stickers in July!

Unlike poll stickers and emoji sliders, both of which allow users to “vote” on questions that you submit, when you add a question sticker to your Instagram story, other users submit questions for you to answer.

Along with polling stickers and the new emoji slider, questions stickers give you another easy way to interact with your followers — whether you want to collect feedback on your products or crowdsource ideas!

And that’s it! With 2018 being such a huge year for Instagram, marketers, and business owners alike, we can’t wait to see what 2019 will bring!

Want to be the first to know about Instagram’s latest features? Sign up to Later’s newsletter and join 1 million+ marketers using Later to grow their business online!

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