Trying to remember a time before social media ruled our lives isn’t easy, and from Facebook to Twitter, Snapchat to TikTok, each has played a fundamental role in changing the way we connect, interact, socialise – and even shop.
Over the past few years, Instagram has not only become one of the most beloved social media networks amongst Gen Y-ers and Gen Z-ers alike, but it has also emerged as one of the fastest-growing platforms for influencer marketing, with luxury brands clamouring to work with the biggest social stars to reach new market segments and boost their reputation amongst their bread-and-butter demographics.
For both brands and influencers themselves, Instagram is big business, and many are turning a tidy profit as a result of choosing it as their vehicle for success. Add to that the business coaches, spiritual mentors and activists who have also opted to grow a presence in such a way rather than going down a more traditional route, and it’s little wonder the network is now estimated to be worth upwards of $102 billion – that’s five times as much as Snapchat, and six times the value of Twitter.
Much of Instagram’s success has come from its willingness to move and adapt to the times, frequently updating its features and more recently, moving away from static image sharing and towards video. Of course, the constant changes have meant that users have often had to adapt quickly too in order to continue riding the wave and work the algorithm to their advantage. Many have reported a drop in follower numbers and engagement since features like Reels and Guides were introduced, leading some to enlist the help of an Instagram growth service or social media manager to help them maintain their presence.
Whether you love it or you hate it, it seems that Instagram is here to stay, and those who fail to embrace it could stand to lose out in the long run. Here are some facts you might not know about this mega-money platform and its journey to the top.
1. Instagram is Facebook’s biggest acquisition
In April 2012, Facebook owner Mark Zuckerburg made quite a stir when his company acquired Instagram, dividing both users and critics alike. Closing the deal for an eye-watering $1 billion, many were dubious that giving Facebook the monopoly on the biggest social platforms at that time would drive advertising prices up, but it’s fair to say that the acquisition was instrumental in Instagram’s development – and in the immense popularity it enjoys today.
Taking the organisation from a simple photo-sharing platform with just 13 employees to a social media giant with over a billion active users, it is now a robust and powerful offering that everyone wants to be a part of.
Through the integration of images with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr, as well as the launch of Instagram Direct, IGTV and Reels, Instagram began its journey towards becoming the most functional and interesting social network in the world – but that was just the beginning.
2. It’s now one of the leading video sharing platforms
Since then, things have changed dramatically, and in 2016, a major new feature was unveiled. The Stories feature allowed Instagram users to post both photos and videos to their profiles that would vanish after 24 hours, much like Snapchat before it – and it is now used by more than 500 million Instagrammers daily.
In 2018, it added another new feature, known as IGTV, which was designed to compete with video hosting platform YouTube and position it firmly as an alternative sharing platform. Users embraced the opportunity to post raw and unedited videos directly through the feature at first, lasting anywhere up to 15 minutes, with brands and influencers later moving towards pre-editing their content for a more professional approach. Within the first 24 hours of the update’s launch, over 5,000,000 videos were uploaded by users, paving the way for Instagram to overtake its predecessor – although despite expectations, this never quite materialised.
Finally, in a bid to keep up with Chinese short video platform TikTok, which was becoming a global craze amongst younger Gen Z-ers, Reels was launched, allowing users to post short videos of either 15 or 30 seconds directly to their feeds and signalling the start of a whole new era for Instagram. With the same functionality as TikTok – the ability to add music from an Instagram music base, add visual effects and make a remix with videos uploaded by other users, it has since become a huge sensation, and has successfully retained the attention of a younger audience.
3. Hashtags play a huge role in its functionality
Hashtags were introduced to Instagram in January 2011 and are an essential element of content navigation for the platform. Popular hashtags are used by bloggers and brands to increase followers and draw more attention to posts, categorising them so that they are shown to the right users on the explore page and allowing users to quickly and easily seek out the kind of content they want to consume.
In December 2017, it became possible for them to subscribe to specific hashtags to track trends and watch relevant content in their feeds without the need to go looking for it, thus elevating the user experience further.
The big question is, which hashtag is the most popular to date? #nofilter is the most popular, but not the most effective hashtag – and ironically, over 30 percent of photo posts adopting this hashtag have filters on them. #love is a close runner-up, with over two billion pictures tagged at the time of writing.
4. The most popular accounts might surprise you
With over two billion users currently active on the platform, it’s perhaps unsurprising that some have managed to rack up some quite considerable followings, but who is the most popular? An up-and-coming celebrity? Perhaps a member of the Kardashian family? Surprisingly not.
The Official Instagram page is actually the most followed account on all of Instagram, with an eye-watering 417 million followers. Perhaps a little more predictably, Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo, with more than 332 million followers, takes second place.
And as for the fastest growing Instagram account, Pope Francis amassed his first million followers in just a few hours after registering on Instagram, setting a new world record that has yet to be beaten.
5. A sponsored post from Kendall Jenner is the most expensive on Instagram
Instagram is currently still keeping the statistics of Reels usage under wraps, so the most popular reel to date remains a mystery – but one thing we do know for sure is that the most popular static image at present is Kylie Jenner’s post announcing the name of her new-born daughter, which garnered over 18 million likes.
Nonetheless, it seems she can’t quite match her sister’s success when it comes to making money on the platform. Kendall Jenner holds the record for the most expensive promotional posts on Instagram, which set brands back a mind-blowing $300,000 apiece.