Instagram, the Next Wave of Social Sharing?

By Amy Slife In an era of social sharing, there is a constant flow of new platforms, services and applications popping up all over the place. Instagram is one of the latest apps to pick up steam.

If you’re unfamiliar, Instagram is a free social photo sharing application currently available only for iPhone users. It allows users to share, location tag and add artistic filters to iPhone pictures. The service launched in October 2010 and has been picking up new users, funding and recognition from brands quite quickly. In just a short four months time, Instagram has attracted 1.75 million users, whom upload approximately 290,000 photos per day collectively, and raised $7 million in funding.

As a user, you have the ability to follow photos from your friends, as well as photos from strangers, news outlets, and brands that have jumped on board the Instagram train as a way to share their photo imagery and engage further with their fans and supporters. NPR was one of the first media organizations to use Instagram as a tool for distributing their content back in early January. They’ve since amassed 11,274 followers and posted just shy of 100 photos and asked their followers about the types of content they want to see. Of course, the answer from followers was behind the scenes photo footage.

Whether you’re following friends, strangers, news outlets or brands, the app provides similar interaction features that users can find on other social media platforms, such as the ability to Like and Comment on photos, share them to other platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr. The recent addition of hashtags, a concept very similar in form and function to Twitter’s use of the hashtag, allows users to tag posts with a theme, or encourage brands to utilize them for social media campaigns. For example, Lipton introduced a campaign utilizing Instagram and the hashtag #briskpic to capture images from users that have a chance of being featured on Brisk iced tea cans at this year’s SXSWi (South By Southwest Interactive) conference.

Additional orgs like NPR and Charity: Water have launched hashtag social media campaigns with Instagram and other well known brands like Starbucks, NBC News, Levis Brazil and Pepsi with their Pepsi Max line have joined Instagram.

How does it all boil down for your brand? Instagram creates another touch point for brands to interact with their most passionate consumers. It's formed a community for brands and the like to communicate their message in a purely visual way, in addition to providing behind the scenes looks for more personal interaction and gathering photo content from their fans. Hopefully, with a recently released API the service will be able to amass users outside of the iPhone owning population soon.

Do you think Instagram is the next big hit in the social media world? Share your thoughts in the comments below!