Life After Instagram: Opportunities In The Mobile Photo-Sharing Ecosystem

The digital camera feature has been a major driver of mobile phone sales for a decade. 

But Instagram’s sale to Facebook last year was a watershed moment for the mobile photo-sharing industry.Among other things, it showed that a mobile-first photo sharing service could be worth $1 billion dollars, and that the app store economy could grow a photo-focused social network at speeds so alarming that an incumbent — in this case, Facebook — would be prompted to neutralize the threat by acquiring it. 

In a new report from BI Intelligence, we take a fresh look at the mobile photo-sharing industry and analyse data to see how Instagram has fared since they were acquired, study a few rising competitors including Snapchat,  look at how mobile start-ups and established Web-centric businesses are monetizing camera and photo-sharing apps, and examine opportunities for brands to use their engaging networks. 

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Here’s a brief overview of the mobile photo-sharing ecosystem: 

  • Instagram is still on top: As part of its new video feature announcement this month, Instagram revealed that it now has 130 million users, who have shared some 16 billion photos. That’s up from 5 billion photos when the Facebook deal closed last September, suggesting a monthly average of more than 1 billion photos shared, or a daily average of more than 40 million photos.
  • But others, like Snapchat, are certainly worth watching rising: There are a crop of fast-growing mobile messaging services that include photo-sharing as a core feature. Snapchat stands out as particularly photo-focused, and has an ultra-youthful user base. The company revealed that its users are sending 200 million “snaps” daily, up from 150 million a couple of months ago. The Flickr iPhone app has rebounded in recent months, and Twitter’s Vine service — 6-second looping movies — aren’t photos, but they’re casually shot and shared the same way mobile photos are. Thanks to Twitter’s support, Vine has been a top 10 app for the past three months, and has already picked up 13 million downloads.
  • There are various different ways to monetise in the land of a thousand camera apps: Instagram was not the first photo app with filters, and it was hardly the last. A glance at the iPhone App Store, for example, shows hundreds of different types of camera apps, each with its own utility, some without social pretensions. Different monetization categories include paid or freemium apps with one-time purchases to unlock features, free apps bolted onto a paid or freemium Web-based services, free apps designed to build a social network, and ad-supported services and subscription services billed through an app. 
  • And brands are figuring out how to get in on the action:  Many memorable social brand activities have been image- or photo-related, such as the now-famous Oreo ad tweeted during this year’s Super Bowl blackout. These sorts of stunts can provide incredible value if they go viral, generating millions of impressions — with a positive spin — for much less money than a traditional ad placement.  Instagram in particular has grown as a place where brands can build significant followings and engagement, sharing beautiful photos and images with their fans on a daily basis. Starbucks, for example, has attracted 1.3 million followers on Instagram, and routinely passes 50,000 “likes” per photo.

The report is full of charts and data that can be easily accessed, downloaded, and put to use.

In full, the report:

  • analyses data to see how Instagram has fared since they were acquired
  • Studies a few rising competitors including Snapchat
  • Looks at how mobile start-ups and established Web-centric businesses are monetizing camera and photo-sharing apps
  • Examines opportunities for brands to use their engaging networks. 

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