Instagram is one of the world’s most popular photo sharing apps. Today, Instagram has in excess of over 100million weekly users, the most successful and fastest growing social networking platform of all time since its launch in October 2010.
By comparison, three of the so called ‘Big Four’ social networks, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, took four, five, and eight years respectively to reach the same number of users. In addition, data from Alexa suggests that instagram.com is the 62nd most visited website around the world, and the 29th most visited in the United States. Those are impressive numbers when you consider the number of people who potentially use Instagram exclusively through the app.
Instagram is similar to most other social networks in terms of operation, however is unique in that it is photo-based. While other social media sites, including Pinterest, are based around photography, Instagram is the most well known of these, and is seen as a pioneer in this type of media, despite launching eight months later than Pinterest did.
For users, Instagram is simple; they simply download the app to their smartphone, take a photograph, add the effects and features they want, and then share through their account. As well as sharing photos to Instagram itself, users can also share their conent over other social networks, including Facebook and Twitter.
While people from around the world downloaded Instagram to their smartphones, much of the appeal for those doing so was due to the new way in which they could follow their favorite celebrities. While Twitter removed boundaries in terms of interaction, the photography element of Instagram provided much more of a ‘window on the world’ for celebrities, and specifically for those who wanted to know what Rihanna or Lewis Hamilton was doing on a given day. At the same time, many adopted it as a convenient way to share their photos through their other social media, as mentioned previously.
Although the positive aspects of Instagram have had huge praise, there has been a lot of criticism not of the platform, but of the ways in which people are using it. One example would be the ‘Rich Kids of Instagram’ Tumblr blog, used to demonstrate the excesses of young men and women around the world.
In an environment still showing and feeling the effects of 2008’s global financial meltdown, many are questioning why people would use Instagram to demonstrate such grand extravagance.
Despite its popularity, Instagram remained on the edge of public awareness for much of its existence until Facebook acquired it in a $1billion deal in September 2012. Instantly, the Instagram platform was thrust into another stratosphere.
The various mainstream media, as well as critics of Facebook, were quick to come up with reasons as to why they had looked to acquire Instagram.
· A desire to purchase the competition before they became a real threat to their own product
· Sensing the opportunity to link Instagram to their platform and potentially monetize it
· Introduce new users to Facebook, despite their already huge share of the market
Although the public line was the predictable ‘huge opportunity,’ the reality is that all of these reasons probably played a part in some respects.
While there were fears the Facebook acquisition would see Instagram change dramatically, there is little difference in how the user experiences the app compared to last summer.
Intrigue continues to surround the future of Instagram, and will surely continue to do so until Facebook publicly defines a strategy for taking the app and platform as a whole forward.
Advertising, in the way that Facebook advertises, is still not present on Instagram. Although brands and celebrities are advertising via photographs, there are no actual on screen adverts or anything similar. With Facebook continuously moving towards monetizing their content, and focusing greatly on ads in particular, it would not be surprising to see Instagram adopt a similar approach.
If this happens, it is likely to be controversial. However, there are numerous social sites and platforms on the internet that have little to do with Facebook, yet still require users to log in with their Facebook account.
Therefore, this would be a natural step to take, however it does have the potential to backfire if people decide to use a service such as yfrog for adding and sharing photos across Twitter or their other social networks. This might also trigger a further amalgamation of the two, and could perhaps eventually see Instagram become an app within Facebook itself, rather than something open to anyone as a standalone app or social platform.
The other potential option is that Facebook uses its own developers to enhance the exciting, albeit limited features that one could enjoy on Instagram, and make it more appealing to a wider audience before monetizing it in a way they might like to. This would almost certainly be a short to medium term initiative, as it is difficult long term to see the two remaining as separate entities.
It definitely appears that there will be little slow down in Instagram’s current rate of growth. Perhaps keeping the brand name away from Facebook as much as possible will prove to be a worthwhile strategy until people fully adapt to the way Facebook now has to operate as a publicly traded business.
Instagram is not going anywhere. The coming years will teach us a lot about what the future of the app will look like, and how users will relate to Instagram either independently of or within Facebook in future.