This month marks six years since social media giant Facebook bought Instagram for a cool $1 billion. Back in those days, Instagram was a much smaller fish in the social media world. Fast forward 6 years, and Instagram has catapulted to success, and is now the second most popular social platform in the world (unless we’re counting YouTube) with over 800 million monthly active users. Comparing this with Twitter’s mere 330 million users per month, this figure is quite an achievement.

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So what’s led to Instagram’s success? 

In short, Instagram hasn’t been afraid of change. It seems that with almost every month that passes, we are greeted with an update to the platform, but here are some of the key features which we believe have contributed to its success (and the features you or your brand could be making use of!):


Stories: ephemeral social content has only been part of mainstream social for the last few years, but it has steadily grown in popularity, firstly through the rise of Snapchat, before the creation of Instagram Stories. Stories allow the user to upload an image, video or stop motion clip which stays live on the platform for 24 hours (with Highlights, stories can now be saved to a profile, giving ephemeral content more longevity). Through stories, it’s possible to tag others, use hashtags, GIFs and stickers, making uploads engaging, personal and importantly, discoverable – meaning that story uploads can potentially widen an account’s audience.

Shop-able content: big brands with an e-commerce offering have historically suffered on Instagram, with no ability to post a link anywhere on the platform, other than in the bio. This all changed recently when Instagram introduced shop-able posts to the platform, launching in the UK last month. This allows brands to tag their photos with product names and prices. By simply tapping a post, tags will pop up which link to the product itself, where the consumer can purchase. This is a huge step forward for many businesses, making products instantly more accessible within the Instagram interface, and brands such as Marks & Spencer and Topshop are taking full advantage.

‘Swipe Up’: on a slightly related note, Instagram introduced the ‘swipe up’ feature within stories in 2016 to those accounts with over 10,000 followers, and/or verified accounts. The introduction of this feature opened up a world beyond Instagram for brands and individuals alike, leading the audience directly to the account’s chosen landing pages. This has been hugely beneficial for brands in terms of being able to link off to blog posts, products and services offerings. It’s easy and novel, and the audience have responded well. Within a month of swipe up launching, publishers saw 15-25% of people who saw a link in an Instagram Story swipe up. (Marketing Land)


Business profiles: yet another step in the right direction for Instagram was the creation of business profiles. This was designed to allow businesses to understand their followers better and to help them grow. Business profiles offer valuable insights and data on posts published to assist in the continual improvement of content, and also allow businesses to provide contact details. This gives the audience contact information without them having to leave the social platform – you could say it’s a win-win-win for the business, the customer and Instagram.


With over 770 million new users gained in the past 6 years, there’s no denying Instagram’s success post-Facebook buy-out. The changes it’s made over the years have generally worked in Instagram’s favour, and we’ll wait in anticipation for future Instagram updates.


Amy Saunders

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