The social media site Instagram has grown hugely in its short four year existence. It’s not that long ago that few people had heard of the photo and video-sharing platform, but Instagram has rapidly become a household name, popular with both everyday users and commerce alike. It is this growing user base which has enabled Instagram to recently achieve a milestone for its community.

300 million user community

Instagram has recently announced that it has over 300 million monthly active users. This is obviously a very large figure in itself, roughly equal to the population of the United States, but it is further put into perspective by comparison with other social media sites. The much more established Twitter, which one would assume to be bigger than Instagram, only boasts 284 million monthly active users. Given that Twitter is eight years-old, this is a pretty massive achievement for a social media site only half its age.

Thus, there is evidence to suggest that when we talk about the big two social media sites from now on, instead of mentioning Facebook and Twitter, increasingly we could possibly instead referred to Facebook and Instagram. This is more good news for the former, given that it is the parent company of Instagram. Facebook has moved into profitability recently with an outstanding marketing and monetisation strategy, and now it can boast that Instagram is clearly the fastest growing of the social media sites.

Aside from its obvious popularity, and the exponential growth of its user base, Instagram also makes an ideal site for those involved in tourism, either at the commercial or destination level. The photo and video-based nature of the site makes it ideal for holiday-related companies to share absorbing media, and it is certainly a source of potential customers and revenue that should not be overlooked.

Skift Trends Report

With this in mind it is extremely valuable for tourism-related businesses to understand the latest trends on Instagram. Thus, the Skift Trends Report, which provides the latest intelligence on travel trends, has some interesting insights into the way that Instagram is developing as a social media site which tourism businesses would do well to pay heed to.

One of the most notable aspects of Instagram which has been documented by Skift is the fact that it has an extremely engaged community as well as a fast-growing one. According to the research organisation Forrester, 4.21 percent of brands’ total followers on Instagram have engaged with their content in comparison to 0.03 percent and 0.07 percent of brands’ total followers on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. It hardly need be said then that it is absolutely in the interest of any business to create a strong brand on Instagram.

While this is already an impressive figure that offers companies are huge opportunity, it is expected to grow further still in 2015. This is because Instagram has recently announced that it will eliminate spambots forever during the next calendar year, which will vastly decrease the total follower count on the photo-sharing site. Instagram has shown itself to be keen to create an entirely human network of users which is particularly tuned to brand awareness.

Instagram is now attracting vast figures with regard to daily uploads and downloads and this is something else that shrewd businesses can tap into. According to figures in the Skift report, 70 million photos are uploaded to Instagram every day, and this is only expected to increase as the popularity of Instagram escalates and diversifies in the coming years.

Instagram shifts to the mainstream

When Instagram started out it was very much viewed as a niche channel, and certainly didn't have a particularly corporate-focused flavour. If anything it was associated with fashion and young people sharing photographs of one another, but with its move to the mainstream and shifting emphasis toward being an ad-supporting platform, Instagram has in fact because the ideal site for travel-related marketing. The social sharing site combines the most intense audience for commercial content with a young and fashionable user base, and an image which has not yet become corporatised or dowdy in any way.

One of the useful features provided by Skift with regard to Instagram is its SkiftIQ service. This tracks the social media efforts of over 2,700 travel brands to ascertain which particular topics, companies, brands and destinations are currently trending on the photo-sharing site. Currently, Disney has made great usage of the Instagram platform, achieving thousands of followers per day, while the National Geographic Instagram site is currently the largest among travel-related pages. Additionally, Australia has done a great job of appealing to the Instagram community, and has already racked up over 60 million likes.

Engaging with customers in the contemporary era is increasingly a task best achieved by visual means, and in this respect Instagram provides the ideal communal platform for all travel companies and destinations to explore. As the reputation of the site continues to increase, it would make obvious commercial sense for tourism-related organisations to investigate the potential that it offers them.

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