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If you’re building an app, you want to compare yourself to the best.
Look for the best revenue benchmarks, the top engagement figures, the best daily active user data—and use it to help you grow.
And in the world of top-performing apps, one of the most important is Instagram. What started off as a tiny social network nobody had heard of quickly ballooned into a giant big enough to tempt Facebook itself.
And since Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of the network, it’s only grown even more.
But what’s been at the heart of its growth? What types of statistics keep the social network running at such a furious pace?
Today, we’ll break down the most important metrics behind Instagram’s meteoric rise to the top of the social media platforms.
We’ll look at who’s on the social network, how they engage on Instagram, and how it stacks up against other networks.
Finally, we’ll look into its revenue and see if Facebook’s billion-dollar bet paid off.
Let’s get started!
Up first: the demographics of who’s on Instagram, and how quickly those market segments are growing.
Overall, Instagram is an app with a more affluent audience, and one that’s growing at a tremendous rate.
In June of 2018, Instagram hit one billion monthly active users, marking an increase of 200 million users over its previously-released number of 800 million in September of 2017.
It’s also the social network app people in the United States are most familiar with after Facebook, with 93% of Americans in 2019 being familiar with the site.
Instagram has over one billion users, making it the sixth-largest social network in the world.
Of those six, four (Facebook, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram) are owned by Facebook, Inc.
It’s also the second-most-popular social networking app in the United States, with 114.43 US app users.
Instagram is also the smartphone app with the tenth largest reach, reaching 47.3% of smartphone users in the US as of December 2018.
Finally, and perhaps more somberly, Instagram is expected to see a much slower growth in users over the coming years, down to a mere 4% growth rate by 2022.
However, this slowdown is inevitable with any social network, even one as popular as Instagram.
The United States leads by a solid margin, with 120 million users as of January 2019.
In the next five are three of the so-called BRIC countries with fast economic growth, with Brazil, Russia, and India all claiming a spot. (China, the fourth of the BRIC countries, is not on the list because it blocks Instagram, along with many other sites.)
Rounding out the list are other major world economies including Japan, the UK, and Germany.
This general type of ranking holds true for Instagram.com desktop web traffic as well.
The first and most obvious statistic about Instagram’s user base is that it skews heavily towards younger users.
Specifically, 71% of Instagram users are under the age of 35, with about one-third between the ages of 18-24 and one-third aged 25-34.
And its reach among these age groups is significant, with 64% of adults aged 18-29 on the platform.
And this population tends to be slightly female-dominant, with 56% of users being female ni the US according to 2019 research.
Worldwide, the gender split is almost identical, with only a 0.6% gap between men and women.
But an interesting insight comes to light when combining those two data points and looking at Instagram’s user base across age and gender.
Essentially, Instagram is slightly more popular with men in younger segments and more popular with women in older age brackets.
In other words, an Instagram user aged 18-34 is more likely to be male, and a user over the age of 35 is more likely to be female.
As we saw based on the country of Instagram users, Instagram tends to be an app most popular with those of higher income, and that holds true at the individual level as well.
In fact, of those in the US who earn over $100K per year, 60% are on Instagram.
While the statistics aren’t completely linear, they generally show a trend towards higher-income users being more likely to be on the social network.
Finally, Instagram users are educated. The more education one has, the more likely one has Instagram.
Of those with a college education, 42% are on the app, compared with 36% of those with some college and 29% with a high school diploma or less.
In short, Instagram has started in many ways just like Facebook. Facebook began as an invite-only network for Ivy League college students—affluent, educated, young people.
Like many brands, Facebook’s association with its desirable users made it even more popular in the early years.
Yet as Facebook has continued to grow, its demographic has changed. Today Facebook is more popular among lower-income teens than those in households with higher incomes.
And this user base effects the “cool factor” of social networks. Perhaps one of the reasons for Instagram’s explosive growth is the same concept as in the early days of Facebook.
It’s an app used by young, hip people—especially those with wealth and resources.
Some believe Mark Zuckerberg saw the trend coming years ago, which led to the acquisition of Instagram in the first place.
But as its platform expands to new markets, the question must be asked—will it lose its allure just like Facebook did a decade before?
Overall, Instagram has fairly high engagement. One in four Americans check Instagram at least once a day, with 18% of Americans checking the app multiple times per day.
Rather unsurprisingly, the younger users are far more engaged on Instagram than older users, with 47% of US internet users aged 18-29 checking Instagram at least once a day.
Now that we have a general idea of how many people are on Instagram, let’s take a closer look at which particular features are most popular on the app.
Instagram Stories are one of the most popular features of the app, with 500 million daily active users as of January 2019.
While the number is impressive in and of itself, it’s worth noting that the stories feature first launched on Snapchat. It was developed for and expanded on Snapchat years before Instagram copied the feature.
Yet in March of 2017, Instagram stories had more active daily users than on the entire Snapchat platform altogether.
Perhaps even more telling, Instagram Stories keeps growing in users, while Snapchat has started to see a decline towards the end of 2018.
When it comes to the most basic type of engagement on Instagram, the post, the average amount of posts by brands was 0.69 per day.
Sports teams and fashion verticals were the most likely to post often, with an average of 1.7 and 1.1 posts per day, respectively.
Hashtags are used on a huge number of posts on Instagram. However, since much of them are used on what’s known as dark social—posts shared between friends without public access—we don’t have highly accurate data on their usage.
However, we do have good data when hashtags are used for locations, with the most popular locations being major cities across the world.
London, New York, and Paris are the top three cities on the social network based on the number of hashtags used.
According to 2018 data, approximately 41% of brands have started to use Instagram’s newest feature for eCommerce—shoppable posts.
Despite widespread brand adaption, however, it hasn’t reached a large number of customers at this point. Of heavy online shoppers, only 19% had purchased something through social media.
That said, social shopping is likely going to be one of the foundational shifts in the coming years, and Instagram is at the forefront.
When it comes to top user accounts, there are a few immediate trends to notice. With the exception of Instagram itself, all are celebrities in sports, music, or media.
Topping the list is Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo with 152 million followers. Brazilian soccer player Neymar comes in 10th place with 110 million followers.
The list also includes singers Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, Beyoncé, and Taylor Swift alongside media personalities Dwayne Johnson, Kim Kardashian, and Kylie Jenner.
On Instagram, visual tends to rule the day. That’s why the top brands tend to fall into one of three categories—fashion, beauty, and fast-moving consumer goods.
The leading fashion brands lean towards either high-end fashion or athletic wear. Claiming two of the top three brand rankings by follower count are Nike with 75.4 million, Victoria’s Secret with 58 million, and Nike Football (soccer) with 30.8 million.
Leading beauty brands on Instagram include MAC Cosmetics with 17.1 million followers, Anastasia Beverly Hills (15.2 million), and Sephora (13.3 million).
Finally, leading brands selling fast-moving consumer goods include Too Faced Cosmetics (9.6 million), Urban Decay (9.2 million), and Red Bull (8 million)
The average number of followers on Instagram is probably a lot lower than you might expect. In fact, about 70% of Instagram users have fewer than one thousand followers.
The giant brands and celebrities with millions of followers are a tiny, tiny fraction of total users on Instagram. Only the top 1.6% have over 500k followers.
And perhaps surprisingly, the number of followers may be trending downwards. For brands on Instagram, follower growth actually saw a decrease toward the end of 2017.
Whether this is part of a larger trend or merely a two-year-old fluke remains to be seen. More recent data isn’t yet available.
The median engagement rate amongst posts on Instagram is 1.73%, with higher education having the highest percentage (3.39%) and fashion with the lowest (0.92%).
Accounts with the highest interactions include 9gag (memes) with 223.91 million interactions, theshaderoom (celebrity news) with 131.13 million interactions, and natgeo (travel) with 118.09 million interactions.
When it comes to statistics on any social network, we need to compare it with its competitors. Social networks tend to be highly competitive, and knowing where one stacks up against competitors is critical to understanding its future.
There are a number of social platforms vying for Instagram’s users, but we’ll focus on Facebook (also the parent company of Instagram), Twitter, and Snapchat.
All the way back in 2012, Facebook acquired the then-relatively-little-known app Instagram for an unheard-of $1 billion.
But in the years since, Facebook’s future acquisition have made the Instagram price look small in comparison, spending twice as much for Oculus VR and shelling out $19 billion for WhatsApp both in 2014.
Today, it seems that Instagram will become one of the most—if not the most—valuable properties for Facebook in the coming years.
Twitter, much like Facebook, is losing ground among the younger demographic. However, while Facebook remains popular with an older crowd, Twitter is facing it own unique problems.
For one thing, it’s no longer generating the type of engagement rates that are dominated by competitors.
Today, less than half of Twitter’s users visit the app once a day or more, compared with 60% of Instagram users.
And as we’ve previously seen with different app rankings, Twitter seems to be becoming less and less interesting and popular as time goes on.
(An interesting sidenote to this is that Twitter actually offered Instagram a deal hundreds of millions, which Instagram turned down—later accepting nearly double that from Twitter’s biggest competitor.)
One of the biggest competitors for Instagram is Snapchat, especially among a younger demographic.
One area in which Instagram is doing well compared with Snapchat is daily interaction. On average, users spend around 53 minutes on Instagram each day.
(This data is based on Android users in the US and does not include statistics on usage of the iOS app.)
Since its inception in 2015, Snapchat has seen meteoric growth in the teen market, almost immediately surpassing Facebook in popularity and lapping Instagram six months later.
Yet towards the end of 2017, Snapchat’s popularity started to lag, while Instagram started to see an increase.
In the fall of 2018, Snapchat has yet to recover, with Instagram quickly gaining ground. Whether it will yet again surpass Snapchat in popularity amongst teens remains to be seen.
Any statistic on Instagram is great, but if it doesn’t equate to revenue, there’s probably not much future for the app.
So let’s now turn our sights on the income Instagram generates. Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t break down revenue by subsidiary, meaning we’re mostly in the dark as far as actual revenue for Instagram itself.
But there are plenty of estimates from third parties based on a variety of factors, and we’ll be using those to estimate and predict Instagram’s revenue as part of Facebook’s total income.
First, let’s look at some of the projections for Instagram’s revenue growth in comparison with Facebook.
Specifically, Instagram is projected to make up $6.8 billion in ad revenue during Q4 of 2020, around 40% of Facebook’s projected non-Instagram $15.7 billion during the same period.
But a more important figure comes down to where the growth is happening. And if the estimates and projections hold true, Instagram is all the more important for Facebook.
According to the previous data, Instagram is projected to make up around 30% of Facebook’s ad revenue—but about two-thirds of Facebook’s new revenue.
In other words, the most potential for revenue growth lies in Instagram, and if Facebook wants to succeed in the coming years, they’ll need to leverage the platform to keep meeting shareholder expectations.
When it comes to revenue per user, this is an even trickier metric, since Instagram doesn’t share revenu data and only reveals active user data at large milestones.
However, based on our estimates and the knowledge that Instagram has at least one billion followers, we can reasonably estimate that Instagram is generating approximately $11.60 per user per year.
Facebook—the social media platform, not necessarily Facebook, Inc. the company—has begun to face perhaps its most difficult challenge yet.
Specifically, the recent events of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, government questioning, and privacy controversy have left many of its users confused and angered.
A 2018 study by the Pew Research Center showed that 74% of US adults using Facebook adjusted their privacy settings, took a break of several weeks or more, or deleted the app from their phone.
For any app, those are frightening numbers.
Which is why one of the strongest cards in the hand of Facebook, Inc. might not be its flagship network but Instagram.
Despite the bad press, Instagram has remained largely unscathed. It’s yet another reason why Instagram may play a key role in Facebook’s future strategy.
In April 2012, mere weeks before Facebook was to go public, Mark Zuckerberg announced a deal to acquire Instagram for $1 billion.
At the time, Instagram was just a photo-sharing app with team of 13 people and zero revenue. Upon news of the deal, many investors began questioning Zuckerber’s judgment.
It showed Zuckerberg was impulsive, reckless with finances, and didn’t bode well for the leader of a new public company.
But in the years since, stock prices don’t seem to show that at all. In the spring of 2019, Facebook stock is valued at around $165 per share, 440% of its value seven years ago.
The past twelve months haven’t been easy for Facebook as a whole, due to a number of scandals and an uphill battle to win back public trust.
But Instagram, closely tied to Facebook’s stock price from the beginning, is almost certainly a more positive factor than anyone could have imagined at the beginning.
When it comes to social networks, few can boast the incredible growth of Instagram. It’s simply proven that some platforms can break records.
What are the secrets to its success?
First off, it’s found a new niche market that Facebook has been struggling to reach for years—youth. Specifically, while Facebook’s target market has continued to age, Instagram has become the “cool” network for today’s high school and college students.
While this demographic doesn’t have the same level of economic influence or affluence as the group that’s primarily on Facebook, they’re still able to buy.
But while Facebook earns ad revenue from a variety of markets, Instagram is clearly carving out special offers for eCommerce, with feature like shoppable stories, highly-visual brand accounts, and top users that focus on visual product placement.
While Facebook still dominates the social networking field, adding Instagram was likely one of the smartest moves of the behemoth. They’ve acquired a serious competitor while adding a level of invigorating freshness to the typical market of Facebook.
Instagram is clearly dominating non-Facebook competitors like Twitter and Snapchat, the latter by cleverly (and controversially) copying its features.
It’s no surprise then that Instagram is showing excellent promise with revenue and continues to be an economic and reputation boost for the Facebook brand.
With Facebook’s expertise at the helm, Instagram is only set to keep growing in the coming years.