Instagram: Here’s to another ten

Rahul Titus, Head of Influence at Ogilvy on what marketers need to know now that this channel has reached adulthood.

Rahul Titus

Head of Influence Ogilvy UK


Instagram is now ten years old. In the world of social media, that’s a ripe age. It signifies a kind of maturity that few platforms reach. RIP Myspace. 

For a sense of perspective, ten years ago, 76% of us with a mobile phone had the most basic apparatus, meaning not an app-enabled smartphone. Roughly three million smartphones were sold in 2010. In contrast, in 2020, that number is comfortably more than 1 billion. 

A lot has changed. 

The potential of Instagram, now the 25th most popular website in the world, was obvious early on when, one month after its iPhone launch, it had more than a million users. 

Today, the platform has sloughed off the surly bonds of its adolescence. It is now a leading social media platform; Instagram has matured, and its confidence manifests in the way it takes on its competitors. Instagram has made a name for itself as the platform that beats niche players at their own game. When there is a popular feature or functionality on another platform, Instagram will release its own, arguably better, version without missing a beat. 

TikTok for example, is a new contender that similarly vies for users’ attention by serving up high-impact visuals. During the past year, the platform has enjoyed exponential growth. Yet Instagram remains undaunted. 

In August this year, it announced the launch of a new function, Reels, that is aesthetically similar to TikTok. It allows users to record and edit 15-second multi-clip videos with a selection of creative tools, AR, audio effects and a countdown clock for hands-free shooting, similar to those that made TikTok so popular. 

And this isn’t the platform’s first brush with head-to-head combat. Another competitor, Snapchat, which sought to transform its platform into an e-commerce destination, was thwarted by Instagram. The IG Shop is now beating Snapchat at its own game and dominating social commerce. In fact, 83% of surveyed users said that Instagram helps them to discover new products or services.  

Now, the gold standard in brand marketing is a personalised, peer-to-peer connection.

Rahul Titus

Influence: the good, the bad and the ugly 

Social media is a powerful cultural force, but there has been much debate as to what extent it is a force for good. Platforms have been criticised regarding mental health and Instagram is no exception. Tragically in 2017, Molly Russell took her own life after viewing content on Instagram linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide. Instagram has since banned this sort of content.

But the effect of social media is not always that stark; its impact on mental health can come in different guises. The app sets trends related to fashion, but also body image. 

Instagram now hosts a dizzying panoply of attractive people posting immaculate photographs that exhibit their attractiveness. Plan International UK, a non-profit London-based organisation, found that 72% of female users aged 14-21, have seen images on the platform that made them feel bad about the way they look. 

Addressing these concerns is now a top priority for the platform. The app trialled removing ‘likes’ from its posts, for example. And years before that, the platform already had inbuilt tools that provide mental health support. 

Despite these challenges, there have been many bright spots for Instagram and plenty of positive influence. 

Sir David Attenborough, the beloved British TV personality leading the charge against climate change, became the fastest person in the platform’s history to reach one million followers. That Instagram can so quickly elevate the platform of a man forwarding such a worthy cause, and not just the profile of actors and celebrities, demonstrates its breadth.

There are other reasons for hope. While 2020 has been a challenging year, and many of us have been effectively locked down, social media platforms such as Instagram have given us a way to connect, share and explore, safely. In fact, in March, Instagram use ballooned by more than 40%. 

The pandemic spurred people to follow new kinds of influencers, including doctors, scientists and teachers. Many users started following DIY accounts that instruct on everything from making food to building bookshelves, to make good use of more time at home. 

It seems that, in terms of transforming Instagram into a haven for ‘good influence’, its users’ contributions are outpacing the platform’s measures this year. 

But even before COVID-19, Instagram has revolutionised the way we travel, eat and shop. Influencers post on all these topics and more, with tips and tricks that sway how we behave. Not sure what to cook for dinner? Chef Jamie Oliver, who has 8.3 million followers, posts new recipes daily. Need advice on what to do while you’re in Norway? Follow a Scandi influencer for help. 

Relying on social media channels for guidance in this way is the foundation of Influencer Marketing. 

Instagram changed commerce by offering a destination for authentic endorsements from real individuals. Influencers have helped transform marketing from something that brands do, communicating top-down to consumers. Now, the gold standard in brand marketing is a personalised, peer-to-peer connection.

It’s up to brands to make the most out of the platform’s influence. Here’s some starting points: 

Guest Author

Rahul Titus

Head of Influence Ogilvy UK


Rahul has been a prominent player in the word of influencer marketing right from its infancy. He is the Head of Influence at Ogilvy, having built the influence specialism in the past couple of years. He is in charge of setting the strategic direction of the Ogilvy influence proposition that covers that full spectrum of influencer work, from celebrities all the way to micro-influencers. He heads up a team of creative experts who are responsible for delivering best in class influencer marketing for clients including Walgreens Boots Alliance, Bacardi, Vans, PlayStation, Unilever, TK Maxx, British Airways and Mattel. He has presented and commented on expertise around influence for Blogosphere, Campaign, The Drum and PRWeek. Rahul has a degree in Finance and Economics from Christ College and a Masters in Marketing from the University of Manchester.

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