Celebrities like Angelababy make up 75 of top 100 Instagram accounts, photo-sharing app says as user base hits 400 million

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 September, 2015, 11:04am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 September, 2015, 2:38pm

Despite a recent satire-laced offensive by cultural icon Barbie mocking its services, there seems to be no stopping Instagram in its tracks as the company announced this week it has amassed over 400 million users. 

That is four times as many as rival Twitter. Around 75 per cent of the photo-sharing app’s user base now comes from outside its home market of the United States.

Although the popular social media app is periodically blocked in China, notably from last September till January in the wake of high-profile Occupy Central and Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, it has continued to gain traction in Asia. 

According to the company, over half of the latest 100 million users come from Asia and Europe, with Brazil, Japan and Indonesia adding the most new accounts. 

In Hong Kong, a number of celebrities have given it a helping hand, including Shanghai-born socialite and media darling Angelababy (Angela Young), formerly hailed as Hong Kong's top model.

READ MORE: Chinese celeb Angelababy's investment fund goes on shopping spree for e-commerce site, juice-diet brand

She was named product ambassador for Meitu, one of China’s smaller smartphone players, this year, a match made in heaven as both “brands” have made their name via social media and by appealing to fashionable young women. 

"Popular personalities such as Angelababy are comfortable being themselves on Instagram and they are able to give fans around the world a glimpse of their own authentic, personal moments," said Jayne Leung, head of Greater China at Facebook.

"Of the top 100 accounts on Instagram, more than 75 are celebrity accounts, spanning music, television, film and sports. Musicians make up a quarter of the top 500 accounts," she added.

Instagram has outpaced many of its social app rivals in terms of growth since 2012, partly helped by promotional tactics put into operation by its parent Facebook as the social media giant looks to begin monetising another golden egg. 

Facebook also owns WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger – and has been blocked in mainland China for years by the government’s infamous legions of censors, who together form what is known as the dissent-stifling Great Firewall.

Earlier this month, Instagram announced the launch of a global advertising service, three years after Facebook spent US$1 billion to acquire the app. 

This means any company can now run ads on its platform, starting from a limited number of countries and regions including Hong Kong, where its launch partners included the local tourism board, Sony Mobile HK and P&G Vidal Sassoon.

This new revenue stream is projected to be worth US$2.8 billion in 2017 alone, according to research firm eMarketer, foreign media have reported.

Instagram is proud to trumpet its content, which ranges from photos and videos of the first surface image of Mars to Champions League football celebrations and desert ghost towns in the furthest reaches of Africa. 

Moreover, celebrity acolytes run the gamut, from David Beckham to South Korea’s Big Bang. Some 80 million photos are now shared on the site every day.

But the way in which it caters to and profits from social vanity has been lampooned recently by an anonymous wedding photographer from Oregon in the United States. 

The account, Socality Barbie, is filled with photos of Barbie and friends dressed in mini-hipster wardrobes pointing to a decidedly “plastic” reality and, as some commentators have put it, “poking fun at the disproportionate power and influence of Instagram”.

The fact that Barbie appears to be enjoying herself immensely, and given all the traffic the account is generating, makes another point: Instagram is here to stay. Attesting to this, the account's followers leapt from 7,000 to over a million in the space of a fortnight.