A pope, a pop star and the heart emoji: What was hot on Instagram this year

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Selena Gomez just beat former love Justin Bieber -- and herself -- for the title of most liked photo on Instagram. A picture of Gomez sultrily sipping on a straw from a bottle of Coke bearing a portion of a lyric from her song "Me & The Rhythm" attracted more than 4 million likes.

A Pope and a pop star ruled Instagram this year, but they weren’t the only popular figures on the social media platform. Olympic icons, caffeinated hashtags, an Oscar-winning actor and smiley-face emojis also were crowd-pleasers. Here’s what else we learned cruising through Instagram’s 2016 list of the most popular hashtags, emojis, celebrities and moments:

1. Instagram newbies

Pope Francis makes history again. Francis isn’t just shaking things up at the Vatican, he also making his mark on social media, becoming the first Pope to join the popular image-sharing platform. More than 328,000 people poured out their photo love for the first post of him praying at the altar. The bishop of Rome — aka @franciscus — has amassed more than 3.4 million followers on the social network since joining.

Soccer legend Pele, singer Kanye West and actress Halle Berry were among 13 other well-known figures to break new personal ground with their first photo posts on the site this year.

2. Celebrities who stole the Instagram spotlight

Fans can’t get enough of Selena Gomez. The 24-year-old American actress and singer has captured the spotlight as this year’s most popular Instagram celebrity. With more than 103 million followers — about the population of the Philippines — Gomez not only surpassed Pope Francis, she also outperformed other contenders such as Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Beyonce and Kim Kardashian.

Not only did Gomez’s posts and videos steal the show, she grew her follower base by 50 million — the most of any celebrity — even knocking out soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. He came in second with 42 million new followers this year.

3. Most-used emoji

No smiling faces here, the award for the most commonly used emoji of the year goes to the little red heart. “Heart eyes” and “joy face” round out the three most-used digital images on the photo-centric social media site.

4. Feel the love

In the sea of Instagram’s hashtags, #love prevailed above all. Food lovers on the other hand had an insatiable appetite for #instafood, while #coffee was the No. 1 choice for beverage connoisseurs.

5. Star moments

Fans and musicians around the world showed an outpouring of #love this year while paying tribute to late music icons David Bowie and Prince with their favorite memory-filled moments.

Fashion model Iman rocked a sweater from Gucci’s Fall 2016 collection to honor her late husband, Bowie, on Instagram at the 2016 Grammys.

The 2016 Rio Games finished as “the most social Olympic Games in history and the most Instagrammed event ever measured.” Athletes, celebrities and sports fans captured their favorite Olympic moments and shared them with the world.

But this year’s Instagram gold medal moment goes to actor Leonardo DiCaprio after he received the best actor Oscar for “The Revenant” — his first win after earlier snubs. With more than 1.2 million likes, Instagram calls it “the” moment of 2016.

By Azadeh Ansari