Yet another place to upload things for people to look at – or not, as the case may be. A bit like Facebook, only smaller – both in scale and function. There are no birthday reminders or Messenger notifications. Instagram is simply pages and pages of pictures and video, categorised around themes.
And yet the social network caused a stir last week when it revealed its UK user numbers for the first time. A gaggle of journalists gathered, somewhat speculatively, in the London office of its parent, Facebook, to hear the site has amassed 14 million active monthly users.
The figure will have caught the attention of Twitter UK, which last reported 15 million users, albeit nearly two years ago.
To provide some sort of reality check, 14 million is the equivalent to the entire populations of our 15 biggest cities regularly accessing the site, mostly via mobiles. They contribute to some 70 million global uploads each day.
It begs the question: why? It’s not as if there’s a shortage of places for images on the web.
But then I remembered my school friends who used to have all that cool artwork stuck to their bedroom walls. And those canvas bags we used to carry so proudly, having painted on the names or album covers of our favourite bands.
'Having the experience trampled on by insensitive ads is a concern for those trying to monetise Instagram'
That is what Instagram has managed to tap into. It’s about passions and identity. Drawing on things you like and putting them out there in the hope of meeting like-minded souls, or at least people who find them (you) vaguely interesting.
Product-wise, it is pleasingly easy to use. Touch of a button here, a swipe there. Photos can be manipulated and shared in an instant. Users talk of their "personal feeds" and fix of "daily inspiration".
Which is why having the experience trampled on by insensitive advertising is an ongoing concern for those now trying to monetise the platform.
The message comes clear and often: maintaining integrity is paramount. In these early days, there is
a dedicated team who advise brands on how best to approach it.
The company does not divulge how much advertising actually costs. Sources suggest it’s about £25 per mille (CPM), with a minimum spend of £50,000. If that sounds high, it’s because it is. About six times more expensive than Facebook, for example, although it’s not a direct like-for-like comparison.
There is no doubt the cost of advertising on Instragram will drop as the platform opens up to agencies and advertisers, but its commercial leaders are clear that we should expect it to continue to be positioned as a premium, branding solution within the mix.
For their part, agencies are getting excited by the engagement and creativity a commercially open Instagram could unleash, especially with the promise they will soon be able to retarget users with follow-up ads across Facebook.