Instagram: Growth of a Photo Powerhouse

Even for a company with pockets as big as Facebook, spending $1 billion for a photo sharing app seemed excessive. But this was Instagram, the hot startup that everybody loved. And Facebook happens to be in a cage wrestling match with Google, remember?

A year after its acquisition, many believe that Instagram has delivered on the promise that made Facebook snatch it up – adding new features and filters as it has quadrupled its number of active users. Much of Instagram’s success has come through building a sense of community with content like #HowIShoot, a blog series where Instagrammers share how they set up and process their photos; you learn pointers about their camera, vantage point, shooting and editing.

Fast, beautiful and fun

Co-founder Kevin Systrom spent two years at Google, where he worked on Gmail, Google Reader, and other products before moving into Corporate Development. He started Instagram with fellow Stanford graduate Mike Krieger, who brought experience from Microsoft and Meebo. Their photo startup has enjoyed incredible success – attaining 100 million monthly users less than three years after launch.

There’s a certain simplicity in the value proposition offered by Instagram: turning the photos you shoot with your smartphone into professional looking shots through neat filters. And, of course, there are the added benefits of easy sharing and quick uploads of the snapshots you took anywhere from your backyard to business trips or family vacations. Instagram has enjoyed tremendous success in both iOS and Android, with millions uploading the free app from the Apple App Store and Google Play.

With Klout like this

Despite its wide appeal, Instagram has plenty of competition ranging from a rejuvenated Flickr to Twitter, a much larger social network with photo ambitions of its own. And there was the much-publicized flap about user privacy when many Instagram users became enraged about new terms that apparently ceded ownership of their images.

So amidst these challenges Instagram must be happy to have some allies in terms of integration. Klout, the network that measures our digital influence, announced last month that Instagram photos will now affect your Klout score – an integration that could cause some users to be more active with Instagram as they seek to strengthen their overall influence.

And Instagram has also made waves in the news industry as some reporters are using Instagram-edited photos (as well as Vine videos) for their publications. When social networks like Twitter or Instagram make headway into industries like news, it causes you to think about the full societal influence of the networks. Regardless of the amount of impact, there will always be plenty of speed bumps. So will Instagram keep up its growth momentum? Will Facebook start to integrate the app directly into Facebook? We’d love to hear your thoughts about Instagram and its place among social networks.

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