Instagram is big. Over 300 million active users each month post 70 million photos per day, and collectively distribute 2.5 billion likes. Engagement on Instagram is seven times higher than on Twitter and Facebook, and also leaves Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube in the dust. Still think it's just a platform for selfies?
The future of personalised marketing fits perfectly with Instagram, and since it's owned by Facebook, it's no wonder that Instagram is now on a drive to make money. The world's marketeers are already busy Instgramming their brands. Can Instagram – currently enjoying 40% year-on-year growth – rule in the coming era of 'social commerce'?
Is Instagram more than a photo-sharing platform?
Heck, yes. "Everything you could ever want, in terms of finding emerging 'talent' in every sector, being able to piggyback on hashtags, being able to create and share simple and effective content, is available via Instagram," says Andy Barr, co-founder, co-owner at 10 Yetis Digital, who calls the platform an on-going conversation, and a great platform for brands.
"You can create a visual story on your Instagram page and that has an immediate effect on anyone that sees it," says Jenny Bernarde, digital marketing specialist at Bozboz. "Many companies host competitions or campaigns on Instagram using a hashtag and get their audiences involved, which has consistently shown huge returns on investment."
Product placement is becoming big news on Instagram, which is no surprise given its visual structure.
"With individuals communicating more visually than ever before, it's essentially a communication platform, and moreover, a discovery engine for its users interests and passions," thinks Andy Pringle, Head of Performance Media at Performics, a strand of ZenithOptimedia.
Others think Instagram can be all about brands. "Instagram is offering a platform for curated glimpses into lives and brands," says Stephanie Trunzo, CDO of PointSource. "This level of personalisation creates a better, more contextual mobile experience that leads to immediate purchases – and people naturally trust recommendations from people they align themselves with more than brands."
What are Instagram's user demographics?
There is evidence that Instagram is the dominant youth platform. SpoutSocial reports that 53% of 18-29 year olds use Instagram, compared to just 25% of 30-49 year olds. There's also a kind of 'youth test' built-in. "You can only upload to Instagram using the mobile or tablet app, meaning only digitally savvy people can use it," says Bernarde. Instagram is mobile-centric like no other platform. "Unlike Twitter, Instagram has grown from and remains a mobile-first platform, where its browser page is rarely used, and even the tablet view is a phone-based design," says Trunzo.
However, Instagram does have its own nuances and specialities. "Health and fitness is probably the most emerging sector of the last few years, but the standalone sectors for me are 'food porn', cats and dogs of Instagram, fashion and beauty, and then everything else," says Barr, though he thinks a slightly older demographic is now using Instagram.
There is plenty of evidence of just that. "It's dangerous to think of Instagram as purely a platform for millennials," says Matthew Knight, Head of Strategic Innovation at global media agency Carat. "Capital One ran a campaign recently which saw a 25% lift in ad recall for 45+ year olds."