December 9, 2019 Last updated on December 3rd, 2020
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2019 saw some big changes rolled out across Instagram. Perhaps the biggest was hiding public like counts, a “test” that started in the summer and has now been extended to multiple regions, including parts of Europe, the US, Japan and Canada.

Other changes included shoppable ads, desktop publishing for Instagram and IGTV, new chat, quiz and donations stickers, and the option to switch to a Creator account.

In other words, it’s been a busy year on our favorite platform, and 2020 promises even more exciting updates.

So without further ado, let’s dive into the 7 Instagram trends to watch in 2020 that will keep you ahead of the curve.

Instagram trends 2020

Instagram Trend #1: The continued growth of Instagram Stories and IGTV

Earlier this year, Instagram announced it was going to start hiding likes on main-feed content. This controversial change sparked a lot of discussion about the impact on influencer marketing, with some users celebrating (like Kim Kardashian) and others … not so much (like Piers Morgan).

Whatever the real reasons behind the change, it correlates with Instagram’s increased focus on IGTV and Instagram Stories. If users are less concerned with how many likes their main-feed content gets, they may consider trying something new. For example, video.

And guess what? There are no public facing metrics on Instagram Stories and yet it’s where the majority of your audience now spends their time. In May 2018, it was reported that Stories were growing 15x faster than feeds, and by January 2019, 500 million people were using Instagram Stories every single day.

In terms of IGTV, 2020 will be the year we see whether it truly takes off or not. While Instagram hasn’t released IGTV engagement or viewership figures publicly, a number of brands have been using the app with positive results.

For example, after a year of sharing edited YouTube videos on IGTV, publishing powerhouse Condé Nast is returning to the app with five new IGTV series spread across different brands including Vogue and GQ. This is off the back of an IGTV series produced and distributed by Condé Nast Traveler that successfully incorporated paid sponsorship from Amex.

Creating IGTV series is a big Instagram trend 2020

It will be interesting to see how these series perform for Condé Nast in the coming months, and whether any other brands will follow suit.

What you can do to prepare:

If Instagram Stories aren’t part of your content strategy, start there.

There is no better way to build intimate 1:1 relationships with your audience, so think about the ways you can create Stories that provide value and build trust. I like to categorize Instagram Stories in two ways: value-driven Stories and personal Stories.

Value-driven Stories are informative and “how to” in style. Personal Stories bring viewers into your brand’s world a little more, e.g. Mailchimp’s day-in-the-life-of-employees Stories.

Instagram Highlights strategy by Mailchimp

While the jury is still out on whether more consumers will adopt IGTV, don’t rule it out if you think your audience might be consuming content in this way.

And if you think they are, start slowly and do a pilot launch. Create 2–4 videos over the course of a couple of weeks or months and then analyze the results.

Bonus tip(s)! IGTV requires a different strategy to Instagram Stories, and while it does take more effort, the rewards can be plentiful. Check out these 8 IGTV examples to inspire your IGTV strategy.

Instagram Trend #2: Brands pushing creative boundaries

If Instagram does start to hide likes for all users around the world, this could have a very positive impact on creativity.

Up until now, so many brands have prioritized the superficial “like” metric over creative and meaningful content, and genuine relationships. But with the focus off of likes, brands and creators can channel that time and energy into creating more interesting content without worrying whether it will achieve a certain number of likes.

We’re all familiar with some of the clichéd Instagram posts: colorful walls, workout smoothies, food flatlays and coffee. Lots of coffee. 🙄

These kinds of photos get shared again and again because they can be an easy way to get likes. They’re familiar, but 99% of the time they’re not pushing any creative boundaries.

With likes hidden, we may well see brands and individuals sharing the types of content they actually want to share versus the types of content they know is most palatable for a broad audience. It could be a very exciting time for content creation on Instagram.

What you can do to prepare:

As always, your audience and what they want and need should be front and centre of your content strategy. With that taken into consideration, think about how you can elevate your content so that it’s more interesting and engaging than your competitors’.

You don’t have to start from scratch, either. Analyze your content to date to see which performed best, and then think about ways to improve and enhance it.

You could push the boundaries of your photography to date, or you could try out some new kinds of content like carousels, video, stop motion and cinemagraphs.

Instagram Trend #3: Experimenting with innovative ad formats

As Instagram’s organic reach decreases, it makes sense that the platform will improve its ad capabilities to encourage brands and businesses to dip their toes into paid advertising.

We saw Instagram introduce shoppable overlays onto grid posts in 2019, and one of the Instagram trends we’re likely to see in 2020 is innovative ad formats across Stories and IGTV, too.

One of these ad formats will be new AR “try on” ads that Instagram is testing with selected brands that sell products on the platform. These ads are interactive experiences that allow users to engage virtually with the advertised product and see how it looks on.

With 30% of users saying they’ve bought a product they discovered on Instagram, AR is a huge opportunity to make products more demonstrable and therefore boost sales. Especially if you consider the shareability of AR filters.

Disney’s simple Mickey and Minnie ears AR filter was super shareable, spreading brand awareness and sparking conversation and experiences between friends. This could prove extremely valuable to brands when you add e-commerce into the mix.

For now, beauty brands Mac and Nars are early partners, as well as eyewear companies Warby Parker and Ray-Ban. But it won’t be long before we see this new feature rolled out for other products too.

Shoppable Instagram ads

What you can do to prepare:

According to Adweek, AR ads more broadly are performing very well for brands including NBA, Gucci and Wayfair, with conversion rates ranging from 20-80%.

But don’t wait for everyone else to start using AR ads before you do. If AR advertising would make sense for your brand, map out a strategy and start testing capabilities. Being one of the early adopters could reap huge rewards.

Instagram Trend #4: More augmented reality (AR) effects

In my recent Iconosquare blog about how to work with the Instagram algorithm, I mentioned a quote by Instagram’s director of fashion partnerships, Eva Chen. She revealed that while aspirational photos performed better a few years ago, now users “want to see you letting your hair down.” In other words, less contrived scenarios and posed red carpet photos, and more natural, relatable posts and Stories.

However, it will be interesting to see how “natural” these Stories are. In August 2019, Facebook opened up its platform for AR development (Spark AR) for anyone to use, which led to a surge of creators downloading the app.

Just two months later, Facebook announced it was removing all Instagram filters associated with plastic surgery. This means any filters that make people look like they’ve had lip injections, fillers or a facelift will be banned.

While this ban is a positive one, it signals a trend we may see grow in 2020: users showing up on Instagram Stories using AR filters. Particularly if brands create AR experiences worth sharing.

What you can do to prepare:

AR filters create an opportunity for brands and consumers to connect more intimately. And the best part is, making an original Instagram filter is easier than most people think.

However, to create an Instagram filter that generates real impact make sure to take into account the same considerations you would for any other strategy: your objective, your audience, the tone, and the call to action.

Here are some AR filters to inspire you.

Actor, rapper and comedian Big Shaq gained more than 20 million impressions with zero ad spend behind his AR filter. All of this traffic was driven purely by word-of-mouth sharing.

Fashion brand OFF-WHITE developed an Instagram filter that allows shoppers to test out the brand’s neon-green sunglasses in real time. The frames feature the label’s cross motif on the outer temple and “FOR YOUR EYES ONLY” written on the inner arms.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by @virgilabloh on

Asos’ first AR Instagram filter was an image of ASOS packaging, which it layered over a woman’s eyes to make it appear like she had ASOS on her mind.

Instagram Trend #5: The emergence of the nano influencer

One of the biggest Instagram trends to watch in 2020 is going to be the rise of the social media influencer with less than 10,000 followers: the nano influencer.

This is because Instagram users want to connect with real people that share experiences they can empathize with, and not heavily edited images of exclusive spaces and scenarios.

This lack of relatability, or trust, is why we’re seeing a shift back to peer-to-peer engagement. “At the end of the day, the most effective form of advertising is peer-to-peer referral,” said Amber Atherton, founder of marketing platform, Zyper.

While the nano influencers’ reach is low, their influence among a small but tight-knit community of people is potentially huge. They will know most, if not all, of their followers, and that level of intimacy could be a huge benefit for the right brand or campaign.

What you can do to prepare:

Do you have a brick-and-mortar store? Or are you hosting a local event or campaign in 2020? If so, consider using a nano influencer (or multiple nano influencers) as part of your Instagram strategy.

They are lower cost than micro or macro influencers, and are likely to have much better engagement rates than their larger counterparts. Many people trust – and act upon – recommendations from friends and family, so can guarantee that your brand or product (if relevant) will be well received.

Dunkin’ Donuts used nano influencers like @rievictoriaaoki (before she grew to 11k+ followers) and @vanessaferraiolo in a recent campaign and managed to reach more than 1 million people and achieve a 5% engagement rate.

nano influencers on Instagram

Instagram Trend #6: The rise of the older demographic

For a long time it seemed that Instagram was a place made just for Gen Z.

And while millennials and Gen Z do still account for the largest number of users, one of the Instagram trends to watch in 2020 will be the rise in older users consuming and creating Instagram content.

Across my own Instagram Explore page I have increasingly seen women in their 50s and 60s sharing food, beauty, fashion and fitness content. This cohort of influencers are redefining what it means to be a social media influencer, and their enthusiasm is contagious.

For brands, the use of older generations creating and consuming content is great news because this demographic is most influenced by Instagram ads. The group most likely to search out products after seeing Instagram promoted posts is those aged 65 to 74.

What you can do to prepare:

With greater spending power than younger generations, engaging with the over-50s is an opportunity worth exploring for brands on Instagram. However, the secret to doing this effectively is not defining this demographic by their age.

Microsoft, for example, targets by use and adoption of tech rather than by age. The brand’s consumer marketing director, Paul Davies, explains: “We also believe that age doesn’t define us as much as it perhaps did in the past. That’s partly driven by technology because tech doesn’t discriminate by age, tech platforms are open to all.”

With so much more data available to us than ever before, brands can look beyond age and dig deeper into people’s lifestyle, behavior and interests. This kind of information provides a more nuanced and accurate view of individuals, and will enable an Instagram strategy that delivers better ROI.

CoverGirl recently partnered with nutrition entrepreneur and model 70-year-old Maye Musk on a multi-channel campaign. Working with Musk is positive in more ways than one. Not only does it enable the beauty brand to inspire Musk’s generation, but also younger generations.

According to Business of Fashion, “a by-product of the baby boomers’ rise has been their appeal to the millennial and Gen-Z generations, inspired by women who show that life doesn’t end after the age of 50.”

Instagram Trend #7: Growing use of text-based content

With the move away from curated, highly filtered content and a renewed focus on other metrics besides likes – e.g. shares and saves – one Instagram trend to watch in 2020 may well be the increased use of text and infographics.

Rather than a place that negatively affects our mental health, brands and users alike are increasingly turning to Instagram as a place of inspiration, motivation and self-care.

For example, look at the Instagram accounts of @lisaoliveratherapy or @heyamberrae. Mini infographics, quotes and words of wisdom make up the majority of their content, which generates great engagement and sparks positive conversation in the comments.

What you can do to prepare:

You may already be using inspirational quotes graphics as part of your content strategy, but what other ways could you use mini-infographics to provide your audience value?

The questions you receive most from customers or clients are a great starting point for valuable content. As well as this, think about the informative content you’d usually put into a blog post – “how-to’s”, tips and tricks, lessons learned – and turn it into bite-sized shareable mini-infographics.

This type of Instagram content works best when it’s short and impactful, so I recommend looking at some other accounts for inspiration and then get creative. If you have a smaller marketing budget to work with, a tool like Canva is ideal for making bright, colorful and instantly shareable Instagram content.


So there you have it! From innovative ad formats and the rise of a new kind of social media influencer, to the impact of hidden likes on creativity, these are 7 of the biggest Instagram trends to watch out for in 2020.

However, as Instagram continues to grow, new features will be added and changes will be made frequently, so it’s important to stay up to date so that you can tweak your strategy accordingly.

So stay tuned to Iconosquare’s blog for the Instagram trends and updates in 2020!

About the author
Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell is a door obsessive and Instagram educator, teaching small businesses, solopreneurs and content creators how to build engaged communities on Instagram in less time. Read more from Bella on her website:

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