There's no way you can avoid social media. It's everywhere. Social media is any computer technology that allows individuals and businesses to share ideas, thoughts, experiences, photos, and videos through virtual networks that people can access through apps and websites. Social media and social networking have become even more popular, thanks largely to the increased use of personal devices like smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches. But which sites are proving to be winners? This article looks at the differences between two of the most popular photo and video sharing sites—Instagram and Flickr.

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 allows people to explore and connect with one another, while Flickr’s biggest draw is its large photo library. 
  • Instagram still wins out for advertisers by a large margin.

Instagram vs. Flickr

While both companies specialize in photo sharing, Instagram continues to grow faster than Flickr because of its unique approach to social sharing. Instagram is an application-based mobile photo and video-sharing social media company. The app allows users to upload photos and videos from their devices or to take them directly within the app, then share them on multiple social networking sites, including its own. Acquired by Facebook (FB) in 2010 for $1 billion, Instagram has more than one billion accounts that are active each month around the world—500 million of which are active every day.

Flickr, on the other hand, is an online image and video hosting website. The site was purchased in 2005 by Yahoo for about $25 million, then sold to independent image-hosting firm SmugMug in 2018 for an undisclosed amount. It's a popular website that allows users to share and embed photos. A lot of its success comes from being used by photo researchers and bloggers who host the photos they embed in posts and social media. In December 2019, TechCrunch reported that an email from the company stated that there were more than 100 million active Flickr accounts, which housed more than 10 billion photos and videos.

Instagram Wins at Connecting With Friends

Flickr promotes itself as a social sharing site that allows users to share photos with friends and family. But its strongest business is as a photo library and hosting platform for bloggers, photographers, and other professionals. 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—including 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

Every social media enthusiast knows what a hashtag is and how to use it. If you don't, it's that number sign you see that comes before a keyword used in a social media post. Hashtags allow users to connect with posts in which they're interested.

Hashtags can help your posts get discovered and help you increase your social media following.

While hashtags were used in the early days of the internet—notably in chatrooms—Twitter (TWTR) was one of the first modern social media sites to adopt them. The use of hashtags is now an important part of every site. In fact, Instagram is now one of the most effective social media platforms that employ hashtags. When a user wants to be discovered or wants to discover new and interesting photos or people on Instagram, it's natural for that user to use or search for a specific hashtag. This increases the discoverability and engagement of the app far beyond that of Flickr.

Flickr hasn't been able to unlock the full potential of sharing and engagement through hashtags. That's because it's a platform for general discovery rather than for specific discovery. 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 each company, 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 (ROI) 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.

The Bottom Line

Although they both promise a very visual experience for their users, there is a clear distinction between Instagram and Flickr—two social media platforms that allow users to share and view photos and videos. Instagram certainly comes out on top as the clear winner. That's because it has far more active accounts and allows users to engage with one another and with available content on a much larger scale.