Instagram: What is it and Where is it Going?

Let’s face it, social media’s a digital minefield. Not only are brands competing for attention from their close rivals, they are competing with anyone and anything that has a profile.  Plus, most don’t really know which, out of a whole range of platforms, to invest their valuable time and energy in.

There’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat and Tumblr, to name just a few of those popular in the Western world. All of these do something slightly different and have different groups of people predominantly using them – just to add even more confusion.

The platform I’m a big fan of currently is Instagram – the photo and video-driven social network – which is taking the internet by storm (despite the rubbish rebrand). So brace yourselves, as I give to you the basics, in terms of where it’s going and what’s different about it.

The Cold Hard Facts

Instagram has over 400 million active users and is growing, fast (in 2013, it only had 90 million!). In the US the number of people regularly using Instagram will grow 15.1% this year, and by 2017 over 50% of social network users will use it. To put this into context, Facebook (1.59 billion users) will grow 2.9% and Twitter (320 million users) 8%, in the US over the next year.

Video, Image, Video

By 2018, around 69% of internet traffic will be video content; you only need to scroll down your Facebook feed to see the impact it’s having. Originally focused on imagery, Instagram has changed to take advantage of this by enabling videos to be posted. 15 seconds at first, videos lasting a minute can now be added.

Given Instagram is designed for visual content, it therefore appears to be very well positioned for the future.

Higher Engagement

Instagram users are, on average, more engaged. In 2014, research shows that Instagram posts returned an engagement rate which was 58 times higher than Facebook and 120 times higher than Twitter. However this has since decreased massively, something which has been linked to the platform opening up to paid advertisements in 2015. On this front, further changes are afoot…


Until now, Instagram has used a reverse chronological order for viewing posts, meaning no profile or post has preferential treatment. In contrast, the more established platforms enable major brands to get a leg-up, spending vast amounts to benefit from complex algorithms and targeted advertising (Facebook’s ad revenue reached $5.8bn in Q3 of 2015).

But like Facebook and Twitter, Instagram have announced that they too will be creating an uneven playing field, by applying algorithms. In a recent post, the company said “This means you often don’t see the posts you might care about the most. To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.” I’m not so sure that they’re being entirely truthful. Plus, they may know what I’m looking at and engaging with, but not necessarily why I’m looking at it or the meaning I’m taking from it.

Time to Round up.

Social media continues to change, adapt and grow, at a rate of knots. Companies have invested time energy and effort investing in Twitter and others, only for the digital winds to shift toward another network.

Whether you should join Instagram above all else, is up for debate – and is something I will explore in a later blog – however all roads point toward a business and a network that’s here to stay. So you may as well embrace it…

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