The idea that you could make a living off of being an influencer is a new one, and it’s one that is fueled by the Instagram platform. This company has made its name by pushing the boundaries of what it means to be beautiful and relevant, transforming the internet from a communication medium that’s based on words to one that is based on images.
The meteoric rise of Instagram from a simple image sharing platform to the massive cultural phenomenon that it has become is breathtaking. Launched in 2010, the company grew to one million users in the span of just two months. Nine years after its launch it had grown to one billion users.
The word Instagram is a combination of the words instant camera and telegram. The idea is that pictures are immediately available and that they are sent quickly like a telegram. Starting out with a half a million dollars in seed money from Baseline Ventures, creators Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger spread out from their original HTML5 project. It rolled out onto iOS in late 2010 and is now available across platforms, including on the web.
A Subsidiary of Facebook
Just prior to Facebook’s initial public offering in 2012, the company put out word that it was buying Instagram. The deal went for one billion dollars, and was the subject of a huge amount of buzz all over the world. Facebook reportedly used one fourth of its cash to buy Instagram, a huge gamble to take just prior to its IPO.
Throughout the buyout process and since, Facebook stayed committed to keeping Instagram as a separate platform from its own. Since its acquisition by Facebook, Instagram has gone through a series of major updates and expansions, all while maintaining its aesthetic and base functionality. The most notable of these expansions was to the web in 2016, though Instagram’s website is intentionally limited in scope.
Like Facebook, Instagram makes its money by selling embedded advertisements.
The platform has not been without controversy. There have been numerous allegations of censorship levied at Instagram. The company has defended its stance as being tied to Apple’s age appropriate content guidelines.
Another major scandal that involved Instagram had to do with illicit drugs being posted for sale on the site after a report by the BBC in 2013. This continues to be an issue for both Instagram and for its parent company, Facebook.
The cultural impact of Instagram is impossible to ignore. Its introduction of image filters has changed perception on almost a global scale. Instagram partners with support applications like Boomerang and Bolt that allow users to further manipulate photos and video.
Instagram appeals broadly to young users. Young people have a tendency to look at and interact with the visual representations on Instagram as opposed to the text-based communication available on other social media platforms.
In particular, Instagram has given rise to influencer culture, in which individuals leverage celebrity and outward appearance to monetize their lifestyle. Notable Instagram celebrities include Taylor Swift, Leo Messi, Kylie Jenner, and Ariana Grande. In order to comply with Instagram’s policies, users are required to flag content that has been sponsored by advertisers.
Instagram has proven to be a social media platform that caters to user needs and desires while remaining an open platform. Its visual communication style with minimal text allows it to be an influencer itself.