Happy new year! As we start this new chapter in the Instagram marketing story, it’s the perfect time to reflect on what happened during the past year.

Even though 2012 set a high bar for Instagram milestones, 2013 was a strong follow up. Here’s our year in review, using the the check list we wrote in January 2013.

30 Brands have more than 1 million followers on Instagram

At the beginning of 2013, only 4 brands had over 1 million followers: MTV, Victoria’s Secret, Starbucks, and E! Online. This list got bigger. Way bigger in fact, as 27 new brands joined the Million Followers Club:

most followed list nitrogram 50

  • National Geographic (now the most followed brand on Instagram with 3.5 million followers)
  • Nike
  • Forever 21
  • Louboutin
  • 9GAG
  • NBA
  • Topshop
  • Sneaker News
  • Michael Kors
  • H&M
  • Brandy Melville
  • GoPro
  • Moda Para Meninas
  • Asos
  • Adidas Originals
  • Burberry
  • Louis Vuitton
  • Urban Outfitters
  • High on Life
  • Red Bull
  • Super Street
  • Gucci
  • NFL
  • Marc Jacobs
  • Nasty Gal
  • Beats by Dre
  • Tiffany & Co
  • Vogue Magazine

Back in January ’13, we estimated that 10 brands would join the club. That was a big underestimation, but we’re glad to be proven wrong this way. Now, over 30 brands are in the club. You can check out the most followed brands using the Nitrogram 50: Ranking top brands on Instagram.

Brands claiming their main account

At the beginning of 2013, many brands had yet to claim their main username on Instagram. Fast food chain KFC owned @KFC_canada but not @KFC, there was an official @pepsimax account but no @pepsi, and @mcdonalds had yet to become active.

mcdonalds cover image

All of these and more joined Instagram: 75% have an official presence now. The most represented industries are The Automotive, Fast Food, Beverage, Apparel and Retail industries. The least represented is the Insurance services industry with a 30% adoption rate only.

Brands honing their Instagram skills

2013 wasn’t only a time of high growth for brands on Instagram. It was also a great time for brands to increase their understanding of the platform, and use it better use than in the previous year.

At the beginning of 2013, Taco Bell’s account was private. We estimate that at the time, the band was approving over 200 new followers each day. A community manager’s nightmare. But in mid-march, @tacobell finally became public and is now boasting over 200k followers.

Zara and Louboutin have started to diversify their content. Both brands are slowly driving away from reposting product studio shots (a content more fit to Pinterest) to content that feels more “real-life”, truer to Instagram’s psychology.

Before: studio product shots

Now: an “Instagrammy” feel

These two are just a sample among brands working to share more adapted content on each social media platform.

Instagram activity and community

We originally predicted that Instagram would reach 300 million users this past year. But early on in 2013, Instagram started communicating about monthly active users instead of existing accounts. Regardless, the Instagram community kept growing steadily to 150 million monthly active users, a 67% growth rate compared to last December’s 90 million.

As for the peak of 500 photos per second we predicted, this probably happened. At the very beginning of the year, when the community was much smaller, the Super Bowl garnered a record activity of 450 uploads per second. Recently, Instagram announced a record activity the day Thanksgiving and Hanukkah collided.

Instagram from Space? Maybe in 2014

Our bet was that a socially inclined astronaut would use Instagram directly from Space, since some are already Tweeting. This didn’t happen, although Space selfies are commonplace now.

space selfie
photo courtesy of NASA

What are your hopes for 2014 in social media and especially on Instagram? What do you think is going to happen? We didn’t expect Instagram Direct, Instagram video and Instagram ads coming so soon in 2013, so don’t hesitate to take wild guesses!