Instagram Becomes The Largest Mobile Social Network

by Jason Keath on Dec 15, 2011

Instagram added 2 million new users last month. Everyone seems to love the fast growing app (only available on iPhone for now). I personally find it more rewarding than Facebook.

At Le Web Instagram attributed their growth to the Thanksgiving holidays (ugly sweater photos?) and the iPhone 4S launch. But the fact is they were already outpacing the other largest mobile focused social network, Foursquare.

When I say “largest mobile social network” I am talking about a social network where the majority of user activity is from a mobile device. Instagram and Foursquare both fit this bill well and they were both created as mobile apps first, not websites with a mobile app added later.

As addiction to mobile grows, as smart phones evolve into the majority of phones AND internet devices, the web will in fact be accessed more on our mobile devices than on our laptops and desktops. So whoever is building the best mobile based social network today is only going to become more relevant tomorrow.

The Instagram growth is even more impressive when you realize it is still only on the iPhone. Foursquare is on the iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Nokia, Palm, and Windows Phone. Basically everywhere. Foursquare also started a year before Instagram.

Not Apples To Apples

To compare Foursquare and Instagram is not truly a fair fight. Foursquare is fighting to teach the mainstream a new activity, sharing location publicly. While Instagram is based on sharing photos, something we are all frankly addicted to on the internet.

But the comparison is still important. Instagram announced at Le Web that they have passed 14 million users and well on their way to 15 million users. Foursquare announced previously that they currently have 15 million users.

Instagram is growing at 2 million new users a month, Foursquare at .866 million a month. Instagram will likely surpass Foursquare’s user numbers in January, if they have not already.

Android Breaks Instagram Into New Territory

And again, that is only with iPhone. Android makes up a majority of the smartphone market and has been waiting for Instagram for a year. They may have lost SOME potential in the Android market with other similar apps trying to fill the void.

But ultimately their superior product and 14 million users will allow them to double their user size in short order, by summer of 2012 if they can get Android up and running in Q1.

What About Facebook?

For starters, I am talking only about social networks that focus on mobile. But it is hard to ever ignore Facebook.

They have been way behind in mobile. Their mobile products have only recently started to show a little life and actually implement basic features from the site itself.

But even with their slow movement, Facebook has 400 million mobile users. That is a massive number.

And Facebook has clearly said that they are now focused on mobile. They are rumored to be creating multiple apps that will serve different audiences and different features from

Facebook is a given in any social networking space, but they still do not match the unique photo sharing experience of Instagram. We saw this already with Foursquare come to think of it. Facebook jumped into the checkin came and then promptly jumped out, understanding they served a different purpose.

Why Is This Important?

Instagram is covering new ground at this stage. They have created a successful social network on one mobile OS. Brands on Instagram are embracing the platform. They have a plan to tastefully introduce ads to monetize. And they have tons of potential and audience in the bank.

As our web habits evolve and mobile takes on more of the activity, our social networking behavior will follow. And so will the marketing opportunities.

Learn How Brands Use Instagram

Brands are already starting to do some cool things on Instagram. And for the most part they seem to get the culture of the platform. How the emotion and stories of the photos carry a lot of weight.


Image source: Bakerella

Post Author

As the CEO and founder of Social Fresh, Jason is the lead analyst and consultant for all Social Fresh brand clients. Jason has 15+ years of experience as a marketing leader and focuses on how to help brands be more...