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This Report Shows Why Brands Should Embrace Instagram (If They Haven't Already)

A newly released report considers the photo app the best media acquisition of the last five years.

[Image: Flickr user Jason A. Howie]

Instagram still has no way of embedding external links, but that hasn't stopped brands and retailers from embracing the photo-sharing platform. In fact, it's the social network that has seen the fastest growth, most engagement, and highest conversion from browser to shopper, according a report released Thursday from startup Olapic and research firm L2.

Despite Instagram's billion-dollar price tag, the report considers the photo app the best media acquisition of the last five years. (The worst? Tumblr, which is a sentiment starkly different from Adobe's Digital Index released two weeks ago.) As a case in point, the study touts the following statistics:

-Engagement on Instagram is 15 times that of Facebook's, with users spending an average of 257 minutes per month.
-Instagram receives 1,000 comments and 8,500 likes per second. That comes to 1.2 billion likes per day.
-More than 16 billion photos have been shared to date, with an average of 55 million uploaded each day.
-The number of users has increased 66% to 32 million users, the fastest growing of the top 10 mobile apps.
-Instagram ads have helped retailers increase ad recall by 32% and brand message lift by 10%.

"The main message is that we're very bullish about Instagram as a social network brands should be focusing on," Olapic cofounder Pau Sabria told Fast Company. Olapic provides the technology that lets brands, including Pepsi, Coach, and Lancome, turn customers' Instagram photos into shoppable images. Sabria said the ability to embed links could help brands "capture part of the traffic Instagram has and driving that traffic to their sites," but could also lead to an increase in spam. Meanwhile, he said some brands have tried to make do by posting links that users manually copy and paste into a browser.

The report also noted characteristics of Instagram photos that work better for engagement versus e-commerce. For example, captions with question marks do a better job of engaging users whereas longer captions without question or exclamation marks perform better for retailers.

The case studies of a few Olapic customers were also highlighted. For example, when Macy's decided to promote its Thanksgiving parade using Instagram, the retailer was able to increase engagement on its ads by 70 times compared with its non-sponsored posts in November and December, reaching up to 5.3 million people. In the two days following Thanksgiving, it gained 14,000 new followers, 75 times its average daily increase in the past month, and ended up with 42,000 new followers over two weeks.