Instagram Is the 2nd Biggest Social Network, But Not for Long

Source: Ana Arevalo/AFP/Getty Images

Watch out Facebook, Instagram is hot on your tail. The photo-centric service passed 400 million users this week, making it the second largest social network behind Facebook. According to Forbes, nearly 100 million have joined in just the last nine months alone. Half of those new users came from Europe and Asia, where the app still has quite a bit of room to grow.

Instagram’s impressive growth has shot it past Twitter in terms of users, which had about 316 million users as of the middle of this year. It doesn’t seem as if Instagram is growing at the expense of Twitter; Instagram is booming because consumers are more apt to share pictures and video — Instagram’s bread and butter — rather than short, text-based statuses, which is what Twitter is all about.

So why has Instagram gotten so popular so quickly, and why should it be worried that its success will be short-lived?

People Want to Share Pictures and Video

Twitter seems kind of old hat these days, because at its core, it’s more about posting status updates than sharing content. Services like Instagram are built around media, with text secondary. There is some evidence to this: Hootsuite reports that picture and video posts are 12 times more likely to be shared on social media than text posts and links combined, and a photo post will get twice the likes of a text status, on average.

How to use Instagram app

Source: Instagram.com

Being Owned By Facebook Helps

When Facebook bought Instagram in 2012, few may have seen the benefit. But with nearly 1.5 billion users on Facebook, that’s a lot of exposure for the photo-sharing service. Yes, the companies are still pretty much separate, but it seems that the lines will continue to blur with time. Indeed, Forbes reports that shortly after hitting the milestone, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram chief Kevin Systrom took a walk at Facebook headquarters, which Zuckerberg says was “to talk about the future of Instagram.” So you have to think Facebook plays a large part.

It’s Easy To Use, And Less Restrictive

Using Instagram is pretty easy and straightforward. It’s just point, click, and share. With Twitter, you have to think. You only have 140 characters to work with, and sometimes it’s difficult to get a complete train of thought in such a small space. But remember that old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words?” There really isn’t a word limit to Instagram, because your description and your picture can do the talking for you.

But There’s Snapchat To Worry About

Just as Instagram is hitting it’s stride, there’s a new player in town. It’s called Snapchat, and as of the middle of this year it had about 100 million users, according to Mashable. Like Instagram, it’s all about sharing pictures and video with your friends and in photo sets called “stories.” Snapchat works a bit differently though: If you don’t view a picture, it could be gone. That’s because every picture posted to the service expires after a certain amount of time, never to be seen again (although, now you can pay to do so if you want). This gives users a reason to come back time and time again. Is it also giving users a reason to forget Instagram?

Are There Too Many Social Networks?

Here’s another way to think about the rise of Snapchat. Are there just too many social networks, period? For some, there may be. According to AdWeek, the average person regularly uses about five social media accounts. With new social networks appearing online all the time, something has to give. It’s probably not out of the question to speculate that if you’re using one photo-sharing site, there’s not much need for two.

Follow Ed on Twitter @edoswald

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