eMarketer Projected 927.9 Million Monthly Instagram Users by 2021

Wait: Didn’t the photo- and video-sharing network just report 800 million?

One of Instagram's 593.7 million (or is it 800 million?) monthly users may be capturing this pumpkin soup Xsandra/iStock
Headshot of David Cohen

Research firm eMarketer released its debut forecast for worldwide Instagram users, projecting 593.7 million monthly users at the end of 2017, with that number rising to 927.9 million by 2021.

Instagram’s consistent growth and steady introduction of new features has made the Facebook-owned photo- and video-sharing network a force in influencer marketing, and the forecast from eMarketer came as good news to the top brass at several companies in that sector.

Adam Rivietz, co-founder and chief strategy officer of influencer marketing and content platform #paid, was heartened by eMarketer’s projections, telling Adweek that they show “how the platform has matured and evolved from an emerging, high-growth social network to a full-fledged mainstream destination. This is particularly exciting for those who create content regularly—commonly known as creators or influencers—because we’re seeing a lot of marketers view Instagram influencer marketing as a staple part of their marketing plans moving forward. The next frontier for Instagram and influencer marketing is getting more sophisticated in using data and measurement to develop insights and make smarter decisions.”

Denise Lambertson, chief connector of influencer marketing solutions provider LMS, shared her predictions, as well, telling Adweek: “We will continue to see the proliferation of ‘career influencers’ who are making their sole income as content creators for the platform. However, Instagram will also likely continue to develop and release more analytics features focused on transparency. This will create an ecosystem of Darwinism and competition among influencers, as their ability to convert leads and sales will be paramount and they won’t be able to hide behind vanity metrics.”

She added, “This is a really opportune moment for Instagram influencers who reach older audiences to think critically about their content strategy and grow their reach, as this will likely be a priority for businesses that reach those audiences in 2018 and beyond.”

But, wait: Didn’t Instagram announce that it had reached 800 million monthly users in September? eMarketer explained to Adweek that its estimates differ from the numbers provided by Instagram for the following reasons:

  • eMarketer only counts users who access their Instagram accounts at least once per month “consistently each month throughout the calendar year.”
  • The researcher relies “heavily” on survey data to exclude single users with multiple accounts, fake accounts, non-human accounts (pets, businesses, bots) and non-user-initiated contact with Instagram’s database, such as updates by third-party applications.

eMarketer said it sees Instagram’s growth rates “cooling down” from the huge gains it posted between 2015 and 2017, adding that its projected year-end total comes out to slightly more than 38 percent that of parent company Facebook’s monthly user tally and more than double that of Twitter. The research firm cited Instagram’s mobile focus as one of the reasons for the slowdown, pointing out that many people still access Facebook via desktops and laptops, and it also suggested that older users were more likely to stick with Facebook. Both of those points are debatable.

Even if the slowdown in growth occurs, Instagram will still be used by 30.1 percent of all social network users in 2021, up from 24 percent this year, despite its growth rate slowing from 38.7 percent in 2017 to just 7.4 percent in 2021, according to eMarketer’s projections.

Why has Instagram become so popular with the influencer marketing community?

Many experts, like  Open Influence co-founder Felix LaHaye, and Kamiu Lee, vice president of business development and strategy at influencer marketing platform Activate by Bloglovin’, believe that the ability to create sight-sound-motion is a key component to the platform’s success.

“It is particularly impressive how Instagram has launched new products targeted at growing engagement, such as Stories, Polls and face filters,” Lee said. “The continual expansion of Instagram’s user base will only continue to support its dominance in the influencer marketing industry.”

As for monthly user figures reported by Instagram itself, it reached:

In addition, more than 300 million people are using Instagram Stories each day, and there are 25 million business profiles on the network.

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.