InstaWhat? InstaWho? Instagram.

Marie Shelton

Marie Shelton

So, by now you’ve seen those square photos show up in your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and even foursquare news feeds, that not only make your friends look like superb photographers, but also make everyone’s life look incredibly interesting. That is the latest social media phenom app, Instagram. Now that everyone is over Angry Birds and back out in the world, they’ve started taking pictures – lots and LOTS of pictures. In fact, in recent months Instagram has reported that 5 million photos are taken per day and the app has exceeded 1 billion uploads.

Social media street cred
The Insta-phenomenon is on track to become the fastest-growing social media outlet EVER, reaching 100 million users in (hopefully) just two years. To put that in perspective, LinkedIn took eight years to reach 100 million users, Tumblr and Twitter around five and Facebook a record-setting four years. As of May 2012, only 19 months after launching, Instagram had reached 50 million users and is growing at a rate of about 5 million a week. When Instagram launched its Android version in April 2012 it saw 1 million downloads the first day. These are serious numbers. As a result, even the social media king Mark Zuckerberg had to take note, and just a week after the Android announcement, Facebook purchased the photo-sharing company for (insert Dr. Evil voice) 1 billion dollars.

Who makes up 50 million users? You might be surprised.
So the app is cool, big deal. I’m sure it’s full of tweens posting pics of themselves in the mirror with Josh Hutcherson posters in the background, right?
Actually, no, and Josh Hutcherson uses Instagram too. With a little searching you can find a vast variety of brands, products and even celebs. From Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre to Young the Giant and Bon Iver, the musician range on Instagram is broad. Brands like Starbucks and TV shows like Project Runway are all there. When it comes to brands, the types of posts are also varied. Starbucks posts new products, and Diet Coke and Pabst Blue Ribbon post their fan faves and behind-the-scenes shots. Clothing brand Free People posts spotted pieces of clothing around town with matching hashtags.

Oh, and don’t forget to follow the President. Yeah, Barack’s on “the Instagram” too.

What brands are doing with it.

Aside from the transparency factor, some brands are taking it a step further and creating unique photo contests that allow their customers to express what they really think of their products. Earlier this year the city of New York created a #loveNYC campaign that encouraged people to snap photos of various famous-five boroughs with the hashtag #loveNYC. Ten winning photos were placed on the city’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages. The No. 1 photo’s photographer was crowned NYC’s “Official Instagrammer” for a day, with access to take photos of the mayor and other city events.

The makeup brand Lancôme used Instagram to promote its new line of “Rouge in Love” lipsticks. The idea was to shoot a photo that represented one of the lipstick’s three moods and tag it with its appropriate hashtag #inlovewithnight, #inlovewithday, #inlovewithdusk. The most-liked photos were posted on Lancôme’s Facebook page and three winners were picked, one for each mood, for three consecutive weeks. The winners were also given matching “lip” rings in their mood’s shade.

The new glimpse.
One of the real benefits of Instagram besides, of course, interesting photos, is its ability to associate those photos with social events in real time, providing the kind of view we thought we were getting with just 140 characters on Twitter. The difference is, we get to see it, not read it. Along with that is the brilliance that Instagram hooks up with the other two major social media networks out there, Twitter and Facebook. While Facebook posts to newsfeeds, the exposure is only to your network of friends. The real promising impact is its connection to Twitter and the use of hashtags that is changing the face (literally) of major social events such as the Tour de France (#tourdefrance) and the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympics. Didn’t get to visit the Tour de France this year? Meh, that’s fine, check out all the photos here – it’s pretty much like being there! With the opening ceremony for the Olympics just a few days away, you can already find thousands of photos with the hashtag #London2012. U.S. gymnast Jake Dalton has been posting up a storm; follow him on Twitter. Or take a look at all the places and people who have seen the #olympictorch so far. The possibilities are endless. Check out my photos here.

– Marie Shelton, digital designer

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