The State of Instagram

What to expect on your feeds in 2016.

Jan 18, 2016 · 6 min read

by RKZ, Creative at BORN SOCIAL.

We’re already halfway through January. That’s 1/24th of the year over and done with. 440-odd hours of our lives. Gone. Never to be experienced again. How time flies! With the explosion of Snapchat to the Internet constantly breaking in 2015, we decided to delve into what 2016 may have in store for us.

As Creatives working in a monumentally fast-paced social media agency, we tend to gravitate towards visuals — aesthetically pleasing ones at that. When tasked with figuring out what 2016 may hold for us in regards to social media, we all — completely unintentionally — focused on Instagram. Considering it fate, we decided to discuss just that: a singular platform; a celestial being! The big cheese! Et cetera.

Last year was undoubtedly Instagram’s to lose. So what did we see on the platform specifically?

“2015 was the year of storytelling,” says our newest creative, Maxi. “This included witty captions and continuous themes throughout feeds created through colour schemes, palettes and specific styles of photography.” It was clear to see that people began considering Instagram as more than just a platform for singular images. This was catalysed by Instagram changing the grid on desktop to mirror how you’d see it on your phone. “Instagram became a halfway house between Tumblr and Twitter for power users and influencers to build on their following,” says Shaun. “Using the caption to share large copy and build on the images; hashtags increasingly being resigned to the first comment so they serve the purpose, without cluttering the caption.”

Senior Creative Paddy shared thoughts on the bigger changes and how brands were leveraging themselves in 2015, “Instagram had sizeable hurdles to jump in the form of monetisation through advertising and tore a couple of pages out of the rule book with looping videos and ditching the notorious square image upload. For me, it really matured as a platform in 2015, transitioning from a host of sporadic life updates into a genuine source of inspiration. We’ve seen the blogging approach to copy, proving that audiences will engage with more than 140 characters.” Sorry Twitter. “We’ve seen accounts like Symmetry Breakfast stay true to—and owning—a core visual style, and countless brands and accounts using tricks like the rule of threes, knolling and strict colour palettes.

Really, it was about looking at the big picture (no pun intended). Yes, every post needs to be true to your brand but people are now regularly treating accounts as a whole portfolio.”

So, who really did well in 2015?

@sirjoancornella (Maxi’s Pick). A combination of art and design with humour. He combines both worlds on his account with short, witty comics in consistent colour schemes. A visually pleasing and culturally insightful feed.


@dirtylemon (Paddy’s Pick). Dirty Lemon combine a smart aesthetic with flawless image sourcing, punchy personality and smart branding. It makes it hard to spot a product plug. They know their brand, their audience and their platform which has made for a really classy brand experience. They’re not doing the ‘in-house intern’ approach, but rather properly designing a brand presence on social.


@rhymesanddines (Sam’s Pick). A favourite account of mine. Matching stunning plates of food from acclaimed chefs with — often unknown — alternative music. It works beautifully and simplistically.


@vuhlandes (Shaun’s Pick). His fashion and model photography embraces the hard and dangerous edge of native Detroit, blurring the lines between documentary, street fashion and societal culture. He probably has most of my likes on any account this year.


Now we’ve seen some of last year’s MVPs, let’s talk Instagram’s much-anticipated future. Creative by Creative…

“In 2016, I think we’ll see other genres of bitesize entertainment reaching across. Snaps of amazingly executed videos, timelapsing of puddles forming and evaporating, etc. My account to follow: @andrewhector. His sense of space and composition is magical and he’s growing pretty quick.” Jason


“I think Instagram will continue to loosen its grip on their users in 2016. Including links in copy has to be around the corner and it’s only a matter of time until they introduce third-party scheduling tools, particularly as advertising contributes more and more to their revenue. Will this allow users to be more active or ultimately water down what has made Instagram so great? I don’t know, but we’ll find out.

My account to watch in 2016? Surprise surprise, it’s an illustrator. But not just any illustrator, he’s an absolute game changer. Most people broke the Internet last year; @jean_jullien won it. He is the artist behind — arguably — the most successful image of the year:

Peace for Paris by Jean Jullien

His work encompasses genuine humour and naive stylisation that isn’t visually intimidating. The focus is on relatable subjects that allow him to transcend the niche world of illustrators and penetrate social on a ‘viral’ scale. He’s reactive, resourceful and recognisable. Keep an eye out for his charming characters popping up in social streams and ATL campaigns throughout 2016. And when they do, drop his name and walk away.”Paddy

“Advertising is going to make or break the platform. Instagram needs to find the balance between making money and keeping users happy otherwise they could start making users look elsewhere to share their photos. My account to watch: @gettyimages. They are a renowned source for journalistic photography and — as other outlets like AP and Reuters — have made excellent use of Twitter to share text-based news, too. As Instagram starts to drift from a platform exclusively for lifestyle and fashion accounts like Getty bring some much needed — high quality — diversity.”Shaun

“For me, 2016 will be the year of curation. One to watch in 2016 would be @stellaspoils: a curated daily newsletter for the cool kids.”Maxi

Last but (hopefully) not least, are my thoughts on it all: “We’re past the point of multi-grid images and really elaborate looking profiles. There’s going to be a lot more product placement as a user, and a smarter Search section. Managing multiple accounts is an absolute necessity for Instagram this year, and now more than ever you’ll see powerhouse influencers and one-person brands explode. For example, I’m excited to see what @1924us does in 2016. A beautifully personable and creative storyteller; fantastic copy and photography. His account is most definitely a sight for sore eyes. Ironically, those eyes are probably from constant scrolling.”


So there you have it, folks. Creatives talking shop, curation and what they think we’ll be seeing on Instagram this year. In case you were curious, you can scope our Instagram feed here, as well as the creatives: Maxi, RKZ, Sam, Shaun, Paddy, and Jason!


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We are an award-winning team of social media specialists. We help Davids (not Goliaths) with social media strategy and management.

Getting Social

Updates on the state of social media, from our team of specialists at BORN SOCIAL.

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