6 October 2015 | Team Tamar

Instagram at 5: What’s the real appeal of ‘the Gram’?

IMG_3925Today is a big day in the world of digital photo sharing, as Instagram turns 5. I don’t know about you, but I was surprised when I realised – simply because it feels like it has been a part of the digital landscape for so much longer.

To celebrate this major milestone, we’ve revised and updated our ‘Digital History‘ infographic to include the full span of Instagram’s 5 year history. But whilst milestones are interesting for seeing how sites like Instagram grow, the big question is WHY they have grown so impressively fast?

To put their success into context, Instagram is now firmly in the Top 5 social networks – and recently claimed to have passed Twitter. Twitter’s 300 million active users are hardly something to be sniffed at, but when you consider they’ve been going for 9 years, compared to Instagram’s 5, suddenly Instagram hitting 400 million users seems even more impressive.

Most of us can probably (just about) remember the pre-Instagram days – and can therefore appreciate what the little app has done for the digital world. Things like Filters were barely ‘a thing’ before Instagram came along – and the idea of taking square photographs was something we left behind with polaroid cameras.

Fast forward to 2015 and filters are now so mainstream that both Facebook and the Smartphones we use it on contain their own set of filters. The latest version of the Apple smartphone platform – iOs – includes square photos as a default. And you can hardly scroll a single page of your Twitter newsfeed without bumping into an Instagram photo or 3.

So what’s the big appeal of Instagram? Why are we all going so crazy for what are essentially lo-res photos of peoples breakfast, holiday photos and selfies?

The obvious answer has to be the feel-good aspect that comes from all those beautiful photos – though the lack of (overt) commercialisation is probably also a big factor.

I’m sure I can’t be the only one whose Instagram feed is 99% positive – people having fun, stunning views, tasty-looking food, cute animals – you name it, Instagram loves it. And who doesn’t enjoy seeing positive and nice-looking things every now and then?

Contrast that with Twitter, whose newsfeeds are a mixture of celebrities, news, live-tweeted sarcasm and trolling – and you can see why people might lean towards Instagram. Don’t get me wrong – I love Twitter as much as the next guy, but you can’t deny that it’s a platform which mixes the positive and negative in equal measures.

The lack of commercialisation is something that Instagram have made a number of steps away from lately, with sponsored news items and multi-photo stories appearing more and more often – but until these launched, there were virtually no ads (or ways for Instagram to make money!). So this lack of ad-spam has probably been a big help when it comes to growing their userbase.

So the question that now needs to be asked – and the one which Instagram are undoubtedly fretting over this year – is whether this new, commercially-focused Instagram landscape will put off users or not.

In my opinion, the key to it working will be relevancy – nobody will mind ads in their feed if they don’t stand out like a sore thumb. Even more so if they LOOK nice – after all, you spend the majority of your time on instagram scrolling through a feed, so it doesn’t take much more effort to scroll past an ad than to scroll past a boring picture from one of your contacts.

Whatever happens, you can be sure that Instagram will continue to expand and innovate – the next 5 years provides endless possibilities for a growing social network, particularly one that is owned by the Number 1 global social network!

Congratulations to all the team at Instagram. Here’s to plenty more milestones in the future!

Team Tamar