Instagram was launched in 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. Since it’s launch, the app has seen exponential growth, from 1 million users during the first two months on the market to 800 million users by September 2017. In 2012 Instagram was acquired by Facebook an estimated $1 billion. As a brand Instagram is increasingly the most successful of all the major social platforms with its high reach combined with the “cool factor” and wide appeal that other platforms can’t match.
So what is Instagram? It’s a mobile, desktop, and Internet-based photo and video sharing application and service. It allows users to upload photos and videos, add hashtags and geotags, graphical stickers, Augmented Reality objects, as well as apply multiple graphical filters to alter photos. The Explore tab allows users to find popular photos and videos taken nearby. With hashtags the photo-sharing platform users can connect photos and videos they upload other content, as well as follow particular hashtags.
With Instagram Direct features users can send each other private messages and with Stories feature (that was originally designed by Snapchat and subsequently copied by Instagram) to stitch multiple photos and videos into a short temperately stored slideshow to share. Originally Instagram was launched as an iOS app in 2010 and existed exclusively on the iOS platform till 2012 when its Android counterpart was launched too. In 2016 Instagram finally got it’s Windows Mobile version.
In this research, we are putting together data, statistics, and research about all facets of Instagram as one of the most popular mobile apps on this planet.
In the mobile application landscape, when Facebook continues to grow but with a slower pace and arguably looses its popularity among youngsters, Snapchat is extremely popular among youngsters but has reached its growth plateau and in this respect it mirrors the Twitter’s problem with acquiring more than its current 330 million active users, Instagram stands out as the only top photo-sharing / social networking platform that continues to grow across the board.
Let’s lay out the key data points that allow us to describe the scope of Instagram phenomenal success and popularity.
- Instagram MAU worldwide in September 2017 – 800 million (Source: Statista)
- Instagram DAU worldwide in April 2017 – 500 million (Source: TechCrunch)
- Instagram Stories DAU worldwide in 2017 – 250 million (Source: CNBC)
- Total number of photos posted to date – 34.7 billion (Source: Statistic Brain Research Institute)
- Number of photos posted daily – 52 million (Source: Statistic Brain Research Institute)
- 1/3 of the US mobile users are on Instagram (Source: Pew Research Center)
- 1/4 of the US mobile male users have the Instagram account (Source: Pew Research Center)
- 4 out of 10 US mobile female users are on Instagram (Source: Pew Research Center)
- Instagram users biggest age group – 18-29 years old (59% of the total user base) (Source: Pew Research Center)
- Instagram users smallest age group – 65+ years old (8% of the total user base) (Source: Pew Research Center)
- US Millennial users Instagram Penetration in 2017 – 51 million (Source: eMarketer )
- Instagram Celebrity top user – Selena Gomez (132 million) (Source: Socialblade)
- 80% of Instagram users follow 1 or more brands (Source: Adweek)
- Number of businesses registered on Instagram – 15 million (Source: Instagram)
- Monthly number of active advertisers – 2 million (Source: Instagram)
- Instagram mobile internet ad revenue in 2017 – $3.64 billion (Source: Statista)
- Instagram mobile internet ad revenue forecast for 2018 – $6.84 billion (Source: Statista)
One of the core metrics of a mobile app popularity is the number of people who repeatedly use the apps on a monthly basis. Given how dynamic modern life is, it’s hard for people to use a lot of apps regularly unless they’ve become really essential for them. So how many users does Instagram have? For the last 4 years, Instagram enjoyed a skyrocketing growth, from 90 million users who used the app each month back in 2013 to 700 million that use the app in 2017.
Number of Instagram MAU from January 2013 to April 2017, in millions
In terms of how much people are committed to using Instagram on a daily basis, we see the app’s DAU number doubling, from 100 million in October of 2016 to 200 million in April 2017 and then again doubled reaching a whopping 500 million in December 2017. Clearly the app has a momentum and most likely reach its Daily Active Users number equal to its total number of users.
Number of Instagram DAU from October 2016 to April 2017, in millions
Having 700 million users is a great feat on itself but it’s always helpful to put things in perspective. Let’s see how Instagram stack up against other Social Networking super-star apps. By mid-2017 Facebook has managed to get 2 billion users or about 1/4 of the global population. The TV replacement for Gen Z and Millennials, YouTube has 1.5 billion people watching videos wherever and whenever they are up to watching something. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have both 1.2 billion users – no wonder because both belong to Facebook and hence should have their user bases somewhat being connected. WeChat, the Chinese wonder of Instant Messaging landscape has about 900 million. Right now in this picture, Instagram has a modest third place from the end, leaving only Twitter and Snapchat in the dust with its 700 million against 328 million of Twitter users and 255 million Snapchat users.
Instagram number of users against top Social Networking apps
Now let’s compare the growth of Instagram monthly active users with only one other top social media app – its biggest rival Snapchat. Over the course of four years, 2013-2016, Snapchat loyal user base grew from 33 million in 2013 to 300 monthly active users. Meanwhile, Instagram grew from 150 to 600 million for the same period. Essentially, the Snapchat team has managed to get an order of a magnitude more MAU by 2016 and Instagram only 4x more. Given the fact that by 2013 Instagram had been a whole year part of the Facebook empire, it’s not surprising that it had a higher start than Snapchat had but it’s obvious that over this period of time Snapchat enjoyed a faster user base growth. Finally, it’s worth to make a reality of check for where things are by now. The Snapchat average daily active users growth in Q3, 2017 was minuscule – it only gained 5 million, compared with Q2, which demonstrated that the times of a Snapchat quick growth are over.
Instagram vs. Snapchat Monthly Active Users, 2013-2016, in millions
One of the most popular Instagram features today is Stories, originally developed by Snapchat and later bluntly cloned by Instagram engineers, it has an interesting dynamics for its adoption. It was launched in August of 2016 and by October, only two months later, it got already 100 million DAU, by January of 2017 150 million Instagram users were posting Stories on a daily basis. Roughly by October of 2017 Instagram Stories got more people posting them daily than their Snapchat counterparts. Even though there is no data for Snapchat Stories later than December of 2016, if we believe to the approximation based on the previous data and available statistics for Instagram Stories for 2017, clearly the latter is leading and by a large margin.
Worldwide daily active users of Instagram Stories vs. Snapchat Stories
Today mobile users around the world use only about 10 apps a day and this number is being dominated by Social Networking and Media apps such as YouTube, Netflix. Despite the fact that Facebook still dominates the mobile space, by being daily used with 79% of US population, Instagram has climbed the place number two with 32%. While Twitter and Pinterest growth rate during the 2015-2016 period was flat, Instagram did grow and we can speculate about reasons for this growth. People experience information overload and they flock to visual-based social media such as Instagram, where information presented visually and requires less effort to digest.
Instagram American online users penetration in 2016
Any mobile app for sharing and social media apps, in particular, have an important metric – a number of shares (or posts) done daily or monthly. The following graph provides data for an average number of posts made on Instagram in 2015. On average 35% of Instagrammers post photos and videos several times a day, around 24% do it only once a day.
Average number of posts on Instagram in 2015
The cornerstone of a content sharing on Instagram is a hashtag. By mentioning a word with # symbol that follows immediately before it in a photo or video description, Instagram users can associate it with a specific popular topic for any Instagram user to discover. Certainly not all topics people define with hashtags are equally popular, below you can see the Top 20 hashtags. It’s refreshing to see love as the most popular one, following my life, happy, truth and other inspiration and positive ones. It is a testament to one of the early observations about Instagram users and their attitude towards life in general.
Top Instagram hashtags
When Facebook acquired Instagram for 1 billion back in 2012, it raised many eyebrows. At that point, it was an unprecedented price to pay for a mobile app that people at the time couldn’t see growing into a huge photo and video sharing platform as it is today. When you look at the graph, based on Buffer social media management platform data, you can see why it was a smart investment – photos shared on Instagram with a turned on option to share on Facebook as well generate the significantly higher level of engagement, measured in shares, likes, and comments.
Instagram posts engagement vs. Facebook
Over the years, the Instagram team has managed to reach millions of mobile users worldwide and get those people as their active users. If we look at the graph based on demographic data compiled by Statista, no surprise, we see the US as number one country that has about 89 million Instagram monthly active users, Russia and Brazil share the second place with around 27 million MAU. It’s interesting to see Turkey, the country has isn’t particularly prominent in terms of mobile technologies adoption, in the fourth place with 16 million.
Top countries based on MAU as of Q1, 2016, in millions
Instagram has users from all walks of life, an average user profile is really diverse but the data from 2016 Pew Research Center helps us to paint a portrait of people who trust their photo and video memories to the platform. 26% of male and 38% of American female mobile users are on Instagram, 59% of Americans age 18-29 are into sharing great and not so great moments of their life with others on Instagram. On the other end of the spectrum people of 65 years or older who are presented with only 8% of all mobile users in this age. When it comes to education and income the percentage somewhat equal, 38% of US-based mobile users who make $30K/year or less and 31% of who make more than $75K/year enjoy sharing their photos and videos on Instagram. 33% of mobile users in the US who have Instagram on their smartphone have College+ and 27% have only High school or less.
Instagram American online users penetration in 2016, by gender, age, education, income, and location
Demographics aside, Instagram follower statistics will give us the other facet of the Instagram popularity phenomena. Now, psychologically Instagram is the best social media platform for celebrities, it provides them a quick and easy way to share moments of their life and connect with fans globally and in scale, like no other social media is capable at this point. As of the end of 2017, the greatest number of Instagram followers has Selena Gomez – 132 million, Ariana Grande has 116 million, Beyonce – 109 million, Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift – both 105 million and Justin Bieber closes the top 10 with 95 million.
Instagram top 10 users by the number of followers
One of the core principles on which Instagram is built as a photo and video sharing platform is that its users can follow each other to keep up with photos and videos other users share. The average number of followers Instagram users is unknown, but as for the teenagers among its users in 2015 a quarter had only up to 100 followers, 18% 300 or more, 11% were followed by 100 – 200 people and 6% had between 200 and 300 followers.
Average number of Instagram followers of teenage users in the US, March 2015
Shortly after Instagram launch back in 2012, many top brands marketing teams began exploring the Instagram potential to reach a higher engagement with their fan base, they’re trying to define if this new channel was capable to connect with people like other channels couldn’t. As of December last year, National Geographic was the number one brand that has more than 83 million Instagram followers, shortly followed by Nike with 75 million. It’s worth to note that one of the National Geographic branches – National Geographic Travel is on the chart as well with 21 million. Overall the chart is dominated by fashion, sport, retail brands.
Leading brands ranked by number of Instagram followers as of December 2017, in millions
In October 2013 Instagram had begun rolling out its advertising solution, starting with US users that began seeing photo and video ads in their feed. By 2015 advertising began to pick up steam and Instagram managed to earn $0.63 billion in revenue, the next year it tripled this number reaching $1.86 billion, in 2017 the revenue growth slowed down, the company managed only to double the previous year number reaching $3.64. This slowdown speaks to the fact that the bulk of advertisers who wanted to take advantage of the opportunity have already joined Instagram ad platform. The 2018 Instagram revenue forecast promises to almost double it again, hopefully reaching $6.84 billion.
Instagram worldwide mobile advertising revenue, 2015-2018, in billion US dollars