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Could Instagram Be Bigger than Twitter? Our Data Shows: Yes

Barbara Social Media Manager
January 10, 2013

According to a recent article on CNET, one post-holidays study reported a dip in numbers during the holidays for the popular photo-sharing app, Instagram. This raised a deep wrinkle in the brows of many in the office, so we decided to take a look at our own data on photography apps to get a more accurate picture of its current and future success in the mobile app space.


Krishna Subramanian, Velti CMO, has been saying for a while now that photo apps are a huge business. And data from our exchange shows just that–our latest State of Mobile Advertising – 2012 Year in Review report shows a 300% increase in photo-sharing apps in 2012 alone, and we expect that number to increase in 2013. The only reason I see why Instagram and similar apps like it might have seen a slight dip in activity last month, were due to Instagram’s failed announcement about user photo rights, which they’ve since retracted and refined.


What we did find in terms of decrease during the holiday season was an overall decrease in app usage among all categories, not just photography apps, from November – December 2012. Despite this decrease, we honed in on usage during Christmas and found that there was still a spike in photo app usage beginning December 24th, with a 2.2% growth in impressions from the 23rd. Growth continued from the 24th to the 25th with a 16.1% increase (day-to-day). Moreover, 95% of the increase seen between the 24th and 25th came from iOS devices, with iPhone 4 & 4S sharing the #1 spot at 24% share each.



Looking at this data, it’s hard to deny that Instagram as a business could potentially be more valuable than Twitter. Instagram on Facebook is big business already, thanks to one word: hashtags. Facebook could potentially make huge money by selling hashtags on Instagram, as hashtag targeting has become a valuable source of data for advertisers to instantly reach consumers interested in their brand, in real-time. Our friends at RadiumOne, for example, recently launched cross-platform, real-time hashtag targeting capabilities, raising the bar for advertisers to target more effectively. This means, if a consumer posts a photo of their Starbucks coffee on Instagram and hashtags it #starbucks or #sbux or #coffee, that would feed into a brand’s campaign to drive similar ads targeted to the same consumers, or it could even be an ad sold to Starbucks (e.g. the already famous–or to some, infamous–Taco Bell commercial using all Instagram photos).


When Facebook first bought Instagram back in April 2012, they reported having 20 million users. Now, 8 months later, they have 100 million users–a growth even Twitter hadn’t seen in its first 2 years of existence. Also, by hosting Instagram photos on Twitter, Twitter is stopping traffic that could go directly to Instagram and taking money away that could be filtered to Facebook. For a long time, this was a win for Twitter, but Instagram recently said “no more.”


Do we think our data is the only indication of a booming app category in photography? No–but so far, all signs are pointing to a healthy future for photography apps, whether they replicate Instagram, PicStitch, Camera+, or the like.



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