A quick overview of Instagram

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Last week, September 6th, 2012, Instagram was officially welcomed to Facebook. This means that Instagram’s 16 employees (yes, that’s correct, they are only 16) will be moving to Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park. The acquisition, that was announced back in April, has been pending the Federal  Trade Commission’s approval.  The final price tag for Instagram ended up at 735 million dollars – not the initial 1 billion due to Facebook’s fluctuating stock price. A lot has been written about Instagram since the initial acquisition announcement in April, but if you are one of those who isn’t a hundred percent sure of what it is, I thought I would use this week’s blog article to give you a quick Instagram overview. This way you won’t feel like a fool when your twelve-year-old niece asks you if she can post a picture of you on her Instagram.

What is Instagram?

Judging from the price tag you would assume that Instagram is an extremely sophisticated, genius application that meets people’s various needs. The truth is that Instagram is exceptionally simple. It’s an application for your mobile phone that enables you to edit pictures you have taken with your mobile phone camera using built-in filters and share them with others. If you have an Instagram account you can tag pictures, rate and comment on other people’s pictures and follow other users. If you want to see how Instagram works without downloading, installing and creating an account yourself, you can watch this YouTube demonstration of Instagram.

Instagram background

The name “Instagram” is a combination of the words instant and telegram. Instagram was founded by two Stanford graduates, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, and launched in October 2010.  Initially, it was only available for the iPhone, but in April 2012 Instagram became available for Google Android phones as well. Instagram became instantly popular. After just a few months they had over one million users from all over the world. In July 2012, Instagram had over 80 million users with 4 billion photos uploaded, and last week Instagram announced that they have passed the 5 billion photos mark.

Who can see Instagram photos?

To be part of the Instagram “community” you need to have an Instagram account. You can sign up for one using the Instagram app which is available for iPhones (can also be installed on iPads) and Google Android phones. By default your account is public, meaning that anyone can see your photos. You can select to have a private account in which case users need to be approved by you before they can see your photos.  Even if you don’t have an Instagram account you can view Instagram photos on your PC using a number of websites. One example is Gramfeed. Here you can look at photos that are currently popular or search for photos containing specific hashtags. Other websites for viewing Instagram photos include Instagrid, Webstagram, INK361, Instagreat and Photogram.co. To get full access to user photos you need to have an Instagram account, but you can still see popular photos and do searches on photo tags without an account using some of these websites.

Integration with other social networks

Instagram integrates with other social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Foursquare. This means that you can post your Instagram photos directly to other social platforms so that more users can see your photos. If you add a location to your photo you can post your photo to the location-based social network Foursquare. (To learn more about social networks read the blog article “Making sense of the Social Networking Jungle”.)

How can you use Instagram as a business?

Even though Instagram is primarily intended for personal use, sharing photographs with your friends and family, Instagram, just like other social networks is being successfully used by some businesses to promote their brand and their products. According to a study by SimplyMeasured in August 2012, 40% of the leading brands are active on Instagram. Big brands like Red Bull, Starbucks and Burberry have hundreds of thousands of followers each.

In 2011 Ford successfully used Instagram to promote their Ford Fiesta. They launched a photo competition called “#Fiestagram Photo Competition” where users were asked to take pictures showing off a particular feature or technology found on the Ford Fiesta. Ford organized the Fiesta’s features into six categories: #Starting, #Hidden, #Listening, #Entry, #Music, and #Shapes. Each category was given its own week. Users uploaded their pictures tagging them with #fiestagram and the hashtag for the week. A team of judges selected the winner for each week and at the end of the competition, the overall winner was given a brand new Ford Fiesta.

Is Business Productivity using Instagram?

Update: I now have an Instagram account, you can check it out here.

Currently, Instagram isn’t available for the Windows mobile platform so I can’t download Instagram to my phone. I have downloaded Instagram to my iPad so that I can follow others, but I haven’t shared any pictures myself yet. Now that Instagram is a part of Facebook I’m hoping that they will get more development resources and that they will be able to develop a good PC app as well as a mobile app for the Windows mobile platform. When it becomes available I’ll be sure to let you know how you can follow us on Instagram.

(If you have difficulties reading this article, you can access the full article in pdf here).