Instagram #NewItKidOntheBlock

A month or so ago, the orange bar began to flash across my screen at an inordinate rate (relatively speaking, read: I might be exaggerating my popularity), indicating new followers on my Instagram.  I also began to notice that the number of retail brands with user accounts had multiplied.  As an avid, albeit infrequent “Instagrammer” (a modest once a week/two weeks post compared with the 40 million photos uploaded daily), I was excited that the social media tool was gaining traction and curious to see how companies were utilizing it to create brand engagement.

But first, some “Instastats” straight from the social network itself (from July 2012 to January 2013).

  • Registered Users. From 80 to 100+ million
  • Monthly Active Users. 90 million
  • Daily Uploads. From 5 million to 40 million
  • Likes Per Second. From 575 to 8,500
  • Comments Per Second. From 81 to 1000 

Within a six-month period, Instagram has seen an explosion in number of users and interaction.  On average, Instagram users spend over an hour more on the site than Twitter users spend on Twitter (257 minutes vs. 170) and in September 2012, surpassed Twitter in average daily mobile users at 7.3 million vs. 6.9 million (out of 100 million and 555 million registered users, respectively).

A rapidly growing pool of deeply engaged potential customers – it’s not difficult to see why companies are eager to jump on the Instagram bandwagon.  According to a data report by Simply Measured, Instagram and Pinterest (that other visually-based social networking site) are the fastest growing social platforms among the Interbrand Top 100 Brands in the world with a 55% and 59% adoption rate – up 9% and 10% from last quarter, respectively.  Clearly, marketers see an opportunity for reaching a wider audience.

Creative ways brands are using Instagram to engage with and expand their fan-base.

  • Behind-the-Scenes/Action Shots: Brands are getting intimate with followers by allowing them to become privy to once exclusive, private-pass-only peeks into the worlds of luxury brands (e.g. Burberry’s commercial shoot with David Beckman’s son).  They also get a glimpse of the daily grind as experienced by employees of famous brands (like Virgin America).
  • Contests: Recently, Sony hosted a photo contest, which required users to first follow them, then submit a photo that represented love, with winners chosen daily at random.
  • Follower Photo Submissions:
    • Sharpie features follower artwork drawn with their product.
    • Free People (FP): Customers are encouraged to take pictures of themselves and append unique FP decreed hashtags.  Select images are even integrated into FP’s website (with permission of course), so customers get to be models for the day and potential buyers get to see how clothes are styled in real life.

Is it working? If the name of the game is brand engagement, the statistics speak for themselves.  For some perspective on how Instagram stacked against other social networking sites, I examined the number of likes/follows for four active Instagram brands against their other social media accounts:

Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 2.46.54 PM

For all of the above brands, number of Instagram fans has surpassed Pinterest fans.  Both Free People and Adidas (note: clothing retailers) have amassed almost three times the number of Instagram fans as they have Twitter fans, an impressive feat considering the fact that Twitter is a much more established social platform.  To be expected, Instagram branding companies will need to exercise some social strategy muscles before they come anywhere close to nearing the gap with Facebook.

Room for improvement. Brand engagement is fantastic and all, but what about direct sales?  Pinterest has earned a reputation for leading potential buyers to direct purchases on retailer websites (21% of Pinterest users have purchased an item after having seen it on Pinterest according to Hubspot).  Instagram doesn’t offer a direct linking capability from photos of products to website pages for purchase – something worth considering, as mobile usage growth, according to a Facebook statement, is poised to “exceed the growth in usage through personal computers for the foreseeable future and that the usage through personal computers may be flat or continue to decline in certain markets.”

As the new darling of social media continues to glow brighter in the spotlight, marketers and consumers alike should poise themselves for some “instagramification“.

Check out Trajectory’s newly minted Instagram account here.


Eric Brody

Eric Brody is President of Trajectory, launched in 1999, the specialist health & wellness branding and marketing agency using every moment to move customers, brands and businesses upward. Prior to Trajectory, Eric served as EVP and Management Board member at Interbrand (the world’s most influential brand consultancy). Before Interbrand, he held senior marketing positions at Beiersdorf Inc. and L’Oreal and advertising account management positions at Marschalk and Benton & Bowles.He has also taught as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall’s Graduate School of Communications and has lectured at Wharton Business School and Emory Goizueta School of Business.