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2012: The Year of Instagram

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No social media channel shone brighter this year than Instagram. From visits to the White House to the cover of Time, this photo sharing program grew from a fun iPhone app to a must-have branding tool for marketers and a first-hand news source for the rest of the world.


If you start off your year with an invitation to the Oval Office, as Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger did, you know your year will be pretty awesome. On January 25, 2012, mere weeks after Barack Obama opened an Instagram accountKrieger is the FLOTUS’ guest at her husband’s State of the Union address.

At this point, Instagram has 4.25 million users.


In February, Jason Mraz will be one of the first multi-platinum-selling musicians to crowdsource Instagram photos for an upcoming video. (Rufus Wainright follows suit in June. Two months later, Alicia Keys and Ellie Goulding create their own Instagram-infused videos.)


When the calendar flips to March, the app has 25 million users. Big brands are beginning to envision the potential of this photo sharing platform, but also see one of its biggest limitations at the time — the app is only available to iPhone users. Coca-Cola Spain gets so antsy for an Android launch that it creates its own Instagramesque app for Android.


April is the month when Instagram made news — as in news your parents might have read. On the third of the month, Instagram for Android launches. The 30 million existing iPhone users moan that the app has jumped the shark, but retailers are smiling wide. Two days later, Whole Foods Market announces its Earth Month Contest “for ALL Instagram users.”


Whole Foods Earth Month Instagram Photo Contest

Whole Foods Market Quick to Invite iPhone and
Android Users to its Instagram Contest

On April 9, Facebook buys Instagram for an incredible one billion dollars. Many who read this news think they’ve spotted a typo or were accidentally redirected to theonion.com. But Zuck ain’t playin’. This free app, while still its own entity, is now (an expensive) part of the Facebook empire.


In July, the sports world takes note of Instagram. For a good part of the year, many athletic franchises have used the app to give followers exclusive “behind the scenes” access to their favorite players before, during, and after games. But on July 23, Instagram goes beyond the major leagues as Sports Illustrated publishes its “Leading Off” section with six pages of striking Instagram photography.

When that issue hits, the app has grown to approximately 80 million users.


The Olympics comes to London as the whole world watches — and shares iconic moments through Instagram hashtags. #london2012 and #olympics were used over 913,000 times during the games.

On August 8, Simply Measured releases the first definitive report about brand use of Instagram. According to its research of the Interbrand 100, 40 percent of the top global companies have an active Instagram account.

August ends, according to comScore, with the number of those using Instagram daily surpassing the number of daily mobile Twitter users.  If you listen carefully, you hear hundreds of foam stress balls being squished at Twitter headquarters.


Fall arrives and artsy photos of autumn leaves flood the Internet. Instagram parody videos also gain traction — my favorite being “The Instagram Song (Put a Filter on Me)” by Julia Mattison.


To celebrate Halloween, Dunkin’ Donuts holds a photo contest for its 179,000 Twitter followers and about 20,000 Instagram followers (numbers are approximate). Entrants are asked snap pics of their DD takeout cups in costume and use the hashtag #DresseDD. Five winners are chosen — four of whom submitted their entries via Instagram.

Halloween is also the day that Simply Measured revises its Interbrand 100 report. Now, 54 percent of the top global brands boast Instagram accounts.

Instagram Growth in Top Global Brands

Note the 33% growth of Instagram adoption between August 1 and November 1, 2012

Many on the East Coast, however, are not thinking about trick or treating. They’re dealing with something more frightening — the devastating winds and repercussions of Hurricane Sandy. Major news outlets rely on the first-hand perspectives of Instagram users to report the path and aftermath of the storm. There are plenty of photos to choose from — certainly much more than news agencies have had access to previously — as over 800,000 are uploaded with the hashtag #Sandy.


If Sandy put Instagram on the map, events in November give the app a prime cartographic location.

On November 5, at long last, the Web interface of this once-mobile-only app is launched. Not surprisingly, the look and feel of these Instagram pages is eerily similar to Facebook’s brand pages.

One week later, the cover of Time features the wrath of Hurricane Sandy with a photo filtered through an Instagram lens.

Thanksgiving 2012 has many families inviting mobile phones to take part in their holiday feast. Photos of mashed potatoes and Tofurky offers Instagram its Best Day Ever — more than 200 photos are uploaded per second during its peak.

The eleventh month of the year presents Instagram with another milestone: the first non-celebrity brand to have 1 million followers emerges on its platform. The winner of that honor? MTV.


So far in December, we see Facebook taking greater control of Instagram and Instagram giving its biggest F-U yet to Twitter.  But in the spirit of the holiday season, let me “focus” on a couple photos of brands I follow (Beachmere Inn and Lundberg Farms) that spread good cheer to you and Instagrammers around the world.

Instagram Cheer from Beachmere Inn and Lundberg Famrs

Give me your best guess– what predictions can you make for Instagram in 2013?

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  1. Hi Lisa
    Really enjoyed your post on Instagram which is really a hot social media platform right now. I’m still trying to figure out how to use it in a way that will benefit my business.

    • Lisa Kalner Williams

      Thanks for the feedback, Henry! What’s your business? Perhaps I can give you a few tips or examples of how Instagram might work in your niche.

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