Since its launch in 2010, and particularly in the past two years, the social networking site Instagram has witnessed a spectacular increase in its number of users. Whilst the majority of Instagram accounts are for personal use (accounts with the most followers include Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian), businesses and brands have also begun to utilise the fast-growing network to their advantage.
Some of the most popular retailers that use Instagram include Harrods, Topman, Selfridges, Amazon and Marks & Spencer. Recent research showed that 40% of the Interbrand Top 100 Global Brands use Instagram. The top three brands using Instagram globally (measured in terms of followers and hashtags) are Nike, Starbucks and the NBA.
Businesses can use the platform as a way of promoting their products and offers, as well as giving their customers the opportunity to promote their brand for them through tagging and hashtagging. Using Instagram successfully can create a great deal of publicity for a business.
Harrods, for example, has almost half a million followers. Recognising the potential of their customers as marketing tools, Harrods offers incentives to encourage their customers to share their photos. Their 1,259 posts include photos and videos advertising the store‘s clothes, accessories, designers, fashion events and even food.
The promotion of new products through social media is likely to continue. Building up an online community of followers through social media opens up a new pool of customers for a company or brand. Equally, we as consumers enjoy the benefit of sharing with others and being able to identify the latest trends in the market, creating a mutually beneficial environment for retailers and consumers alike.
Instagram, which was bought and developed by Facebook for $1 billion, has 218 million users. The number of shared posts on the site totals 16 billion, and the site is growing faster than any of its competitors, including Twitter and even its own parent site Facebook: last year Instagram grew by 23%, while Facebook grew by just 3%.
So what can we expect from Instagram in the future? As of March this year, American global advertising company Omnicom made a $40 million marketing partnership deal with Instagram to feature its adverts. This will provide an entirely new medium by which companies can harness the popularity of Instagram for commercial success.