Happy birthday insta! The story behind instagram’s five years in the industry

Instagram is turning five, and this week OTB is reflecting on how it seems like only yesterday this social media staple was tentatively breaking into the ranks of the dynamic and ever changing online world. Since then Instagram has grown to be one of the biggest social media sites of the age, and successfully made the transition from the home of the selfie to key marketing tool for brands and marketing strategists alike.


Instagram was first launched in 2010 by developers Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger as a free photo sharing app, with its main USP being the confinement of users to square-shaped images rather than the typical aspect ratio of mobile photos.

Despite this relatively simple concept and accusations of mimicking the already launched FourSquare, according to We Are Social Media.com Instagram had amassed 1 million users only two months after its launch.  Only six months later Instagram celebrated its 150 millionth photo upload, and by November 2011 it is claimed that Instagram boasted an incredible 10 million users, little over one year after its creation.

With the addition of new filters and features, alongside active campaigns to drive community engagement such as InstaMeet events and Weekend Hashtag Project which successfully allowed users to create new social interactions with others and find new ways to be creative with the app, Instagram quickly became thesocial media site for a wide range of global users.


With such explosive beginnings the online community had high expectations for Instagram’s continued growth. But perhaps fewer users expected Instagram to become a key staple for creative marketing, generating brand awareness and boosting customer engagement.

Despite its boom in social circles in its early years, it wasn’t until late 2013 that Instagram began to explore the world of marketing and sponsored photos and videos through Instagram Direct, allowing users to send content to a selected group of people and follow the real time impact of conversations and impressions generated.

The value of Instagram for marketers can be huge, if used correctly. According to a recent article byFastCompany, ‘Instagram touts the most engagement and the highest conversion from browser to shopper. The report also shows that 92% of luxury brands who post an average of 5.5 times a week on Instagram increase their customer base.’

Great examples of brands using Instagram to boost engagement and translate this into sales include Lancôme, whose project #bareselfie encouraged users to post makeup-less selfies after trying out the latest Lancôme product, with 50% of the product’s sales generated by the Instagram campaign. Another successful example is Ben&Jerry’s, who were among the first brands to run advertising on the site to support the launch of its latest flavour – with a reach of 9.8 million users, Ben&Jerry’s grabbed the attention of its target demographic and boosted sales.


On the eve of its fifth birthday, it is claimed that Instagram boasts 400 million users worldwide. According to an article by Marketing Week, the success of Instagram ‘has come down to a focus on community, creativity and mobile consumption.’ eMarketer research has argued ‘it is forecast that Instagram’s mobile ad revenue would more than quadruple over the next two years to reach $2.81bn in 2017.’

These statistics for the huge marketing prospects of Instagram are staggering, and as marketers look for ever more creative ways to reach out to their target markets and differentiate their campaigns from their competitors, Instagram’s marketing potential is far from saturated. According to Tim Pritchard, head of social media at Manning Gottlieb OMD, the aspirational nature of Instagram advertising is extremely valuable in its ability to add personality and dialogue to more traditional online marketing campaigns.

So as we wish Instagram a happy fifth birthday this week, it seems the future of Instagram marketing looks bright. Find out how OTB can help your brand make the most of this potential by contacting us here today.

Happy birthday insta! The story behind instagram’s five years in the industry