The Unstoppable Force of Instagram

— Stephanie Kwok, WE 

Last month, Instagram hit the milestone of 700 million active users each month. To put this into perspective, that’s more than ten times the entire UK population and more significantly, double the size of Twitter! Definitely a call for confetti Boomerangs for Instagram this year. 

What’s more impressive is that in the last four months alone, the photo-sharing app has racked up an additional 100 million new users. With this phenomenal speed of growth, could Instagram be the next social network to join the elite billion users club, along with parent company Facebook and Whatsapp?

In August of last year, the app rolled out its ‘Instagram Stories’ feature. This allows users to create 10-second snippets of video and share them with a select group of followers that disappears after 24 hours. Déjà vu? Indeed. Many will say this mirrors Snapchat Stories. Since then, Instagram has seen nothing but continuous growth.

Of course, this success hasn’t come without accusations that Instagram copied its rival, Snapchat. Instagram’s remarkable growth has come at the cost of Snapchat’s, which tanked by 82% since Instagram stories was introduced in the summer last year. What’s more, over 200 million people are using Instagram Stories every day. In contrast, archenemy Snapchat currently has only 166 million active users each day.

Despite this, it seems that Snap Inc. is comfortable with Instagram pinching Snapchat’s best ideas. In an interview following Snap’s quarterly earnings this week, Snap Inc. CEO and co-founder Evan Spiegel said "If you want to be a creative company, you’ve got to get comfortable with and basically enjoy the fact that people are going to copy your products…Just because Yahoo has a search box doesn't mean they're Google.” I guess you can call that great sportsmanship? 

Instagram says it has ‘made it even easier for people across the globe to join the Instagram community, share their experiences and strengthen connections to their friends and passions’. This comes in the form of its stories, live video and vanishing video messages in the Direct Messages feature of the app. Users now have more ways than ever to express themselves – the primary reason for the uptick in users and more importantly, why they’re sticking around. I’d say that’s pretty remarkable for an app that’s still primarily mobile-only!

So what exactly does Instagram’s growth mean for us PR pros? If you don’t already have an Instagram strategy, it’s certainly something you should be implementing in upcoming months. The more complicated part will come with working out how to attract and retain users’ attention and stand out against the plethora of other content on the app. It’s uncommon for a social network to stay as cool as Instagram after almost seven years in the industry. By sticking to its roots of visual communications and wisely adapting to new trends, Instagram has managed to stay at the top and even snap up some of its competitors’ users.

While it’s not clear exactly how fast Instagram will continue to grow, especially considering the overlap with Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp’s story feature and intense pressures on Silicon Valley to lead and stay relevant – the business will undoubtedly seek out new ways to drive revenue as engagement on the app surges in the future. Snapchat, got any (other) new ideas?