Instagram is an application-based mobile photo and video-sharing social media company. The Instagram app allows its users to take photos and videos directly within the app, and then share them on multiple social networking sites, including its own. Instagram was acquired by Facebook in 2010 for $1 billion.

Key Takeaways

  • Instagram is beating out Flickr in the photo-sharing space.
  • Instagram's use of hashtags and being a dedicated social media sharing app helps give it an advantage over Flickr. 
  • Instagram has the fact that it allows friends to connect and explore going for it, while Flickr’s biggest draw is its large photo library. 
  • For advertisers, Instagram still wins out—by a large margin.

Flickr, on the other hand, is an online image hosting and video hosting website. Flickr was purchased in 2005 by Yahoo for about $25 million, then sold to the independent image-hosting firm SmugMug in 2018 for an undisclosed amount. The company has become a popular website for users to share and embed photos, but it has found a lot of success in being used by photo researchers and by bloggers who use it to host the photos they embed in posts and social media.

Instagram vs. Flickr

While both companies specialize in photo sharing, Instagram has been growing faster than Flickr due to its unique approach to social sharing. As of mid-2018, Instagram reached more than one billion active users, 10 times that of Flickr's 100 million users. 

Instagram Wins at Connecting With Friends

While Flickr does promote itself as a social sharing site where users can share photos with friends and family, its strongest business is as a photo library for bloggers and other professionals and as a hosting platform for photographers and bloggers. Instagram, on the other hand, is strictly a social media platform for sharing photos and videos.

In addition to driving engagement within the app itself, Instagram also lets users share their photos on all the major social media websites, even Flickr. This means that the company can engage users when they are both on and off the app. Engaged users equal a stronger business for social networking sites.

Instagram's Use of Hashtags

While Instagram was not the first company to use the hashtag, it has become one of the most effective companies at using hashtags. Flickr has been unable to unlock the full potential of sharing and engagement through hashtags.

When a user wants to discover new and interesting photos or people on Instagram, it's natural for that user to search a specific hashtag. This increases the discoverability and engagement of the app far beyond that of Flickr.

Flickr is a platform for more general discovery rather than the specific discovery Instagram provides. Flickr offers a library of professional-quality photos that other people can use. Instagram, on the other hand, gives a user the chance to discover other people or companies with the same interests through specific hashtags.

While both models work for the respective companies, Instagram's more pointed discovery makes the app more of a utility for users, meaning that users search Instagram more often than Flickr.

Instagram Is Best for Visual Advertising

According to Hootsuite's AdEspresso research, roughly a third of users say they've bought a product they've discovered on Instagram, and 70% of users look up brands on the platform. In addition, 80% of users follow at least one brand on Instagram, and 60% of users learn about new products through the platform. 

These stats shouldn't be shocking, but it should be a telling sign. Advertisers need to engage users where they are most likely to be to increase the return on investment of ad budgets.

With new advertising features and the ability for brands to create their own accounts, Instagram has built an incredibly efficient medium for companies to communicate with users. This means more advertising revenue for the company, as well as an unobtrusive approach to advertising that mitigates user attrition.