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Instagram hits 100 million users – three things you can learn

Wednesday, 27 February 2013 | By Michelle Hammond

The co-founder of Facebook-owned photo-sharing platform Instagram has outlined key reasons for the company’s success, after hitting 100 million users since its launch in October 2010.


Instagram, founded by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, has taken the world by storm with its online photo-sharing service, which encourages users to apply digital filters to their photos and share them via social media.


In April 2012, Facebook made an offer to purchase Instagram – along with its 13 employees – for approximately $1 billion in cash and stock, with plans to keep it independently managed.


Following the deal, Instagram was hit with a temporary user backlash amid concerns the platform would become too “mainstream” under Facebook’s ownership.


And while some users may have backed off from the app or shut down their accounts altogether, many more have signed up. Today, the company confirmed it has reached 100 million users.


In a lengthy blog post, Systrom highlights some of the key turning points for the young company, suggesting start-ups can learn from its success.


Be opportunistic


“Instagram’s first office had few redeeming qualities – and insulation was not one of them. There were only two of us, so we rented desks in a co-working space on a pier over San Francisco Bay,” Systrom said.


“It was common to find us working in winter jackets huddled over our laptops… One night soon after launch, about a half-mile away, the [San Francisco] Giants’ stadium was full of fans.


“Having so little insulation in the office had an unintended consequence of being able to hear the crowd roar every time someone hit a long ball.


“We had a sense that maybe through Instagram we could tune in to what was happening just a few steps away.


“With a few quick commands at his terminal, my co-founder Mike’s screen filled with images of the game: the bullpen, dugout, concession stands, cheering fans and a panoramic view from somewhere up high.


“In a matter of hours, the people in that stadium had recorded moments in time through Instagram and allowed us to tune into an event while we sat a half a mile away, working.”


Understand your place in the world


According to Systrom, the baseball incident helped him and Krieger,Krieger finally understand why Instagram was going to be different.


“We understood the power of images to connect people to what was happening in the world around them,” he said.


“And, although Instagram had a fraction of the user base it does today, that night we saw a preview of what Instagram would enable at a much larger scale down the road.


“Now, more than ever, people are capturing the world in real-time using Instagram – sharing images from the farthest corners of the globe.


“What we see as a result is a world more connected and understood through photographs.”


Allow people to tell their story


“Images have the ability to connect people from all backgrounds, languages and cultures… Of the 100 million people on Instagram, there are stories that awe us, stories like Kathryn Mahoney’s,” Systrom said.


“Kathryn is an aid worker for the United Nations in the most remote refugee camp in Southern Sudan.


“She shares vivid photos of the day-to-day life of the people who live in Yida as well as the struggles and triumphs of the UN’s work there. From thousands of miles away, Kathryn reminds us of the power of images to educate and inspire.”


“There are love stories that move us… And there are inspiring stories of small businesses and artisans.”