How is Instagram evolving under Facebook’s umbrella?

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As Instagram slowly starts to mix in some advertising, the major question for the photo-sharing app is how it will become a source of monetization for Facebook. While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg or COO Sheryl Sandberg might address the early effects of Instagram advertising in its Q2 earnings call on July 23, it’s worth noting that Instagram ads are still in their infancy.

How new are Instagram ads? In a Fortune story published recently about Instagram, noting that CEO and Co-Founder Mark Systrom still personally reviews each ad the limited subset of advertisers design for the app. Instagram first allowed advertisers who already appealed to core segments of Instagram’s user base.

The feature story shed some light on newer features, such as Instagram Direct and video. In the past month, 45 million Instagram users (about 25 percent) have either sent or received a message through the app.

However, the video feature hasn’t been as successful, Fortune reports.

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Instagram to start international ad rollout

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After a test for U.S. users, Instagram announced today that advertising will expand into Canada, the U.K. and Australia.

Instagram notes that the reaction for advertisers in the U.S. test has been “positive,” so this is the first step toward a more worldwide rollout.

Instagram blogged about the launch:

As Instagram builds its business, we’ve put our community first every step of the way. And since introducing ads last November, we’ve worked with a handful of top brands to draw creative inspiration from the community and create ads that were engaging and felt natural in people’s feeds.

We gave people the ability to provide feedback on ads so we could learn what people liked—and didn’t like—and improve over time. (If you gave feedback on an ad, thank you!)

So far, our community-focused efforts are working. The results for advertisers have been positive—and in some cases, well above the ad industry’s average for performance. We’re excited to build on this momentum, and in the coming months we will extend the same level of care and consideration as we introduce ads on Instagram to our global community.

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Kim Kardashian, Kanye West make Instagram history

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A photo posted this week by reality TV star Kim Kardashian has broken Justin Bieber’s Instagram record for most likes, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed.

Kardashian recently wed rapper Kanye West in a private ceremony. Kardashian posted a photo May 27 of the newlyweds kissing and since then, the photo has more than 1.99 million likes. The photo has also generated more than 37,100 comments.

The kiss photo broke the old record, set by singer Justin Bieber, posted 5 months ago, where he is being hugged by singer Selena Gomez. That photo has 1.82 million likes.

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Report: Nike and a grandma are skyrocketing on Instagram

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Socialbakers, a Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer, took a look at the top-performing brands on Instagram, finding that Nike was the fastest-growing company in April, but an 80-year-old grandma is also a force on the photo-sharing platform.

On the brands side, Socialbakers found that Nike grew by more than 300,000 followers in April, topping the likes of Forever 21, H&M, Victoria’s Secret and Adidas.

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What drives engagement on Instagram?

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Brands are increasingly taking to Instagram to attract new customers, deliver visually pleasing content to current fans, and give everyone an inside look at companies.

So which industries are doing this the best? According to Socialbakers’ latest Instagram performance report, fast-moving consumer goods brands (FMCG) and home & living accounts.

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See the Sochi Winter Olympics through the Instagram feeds of U.S. athletes

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The U.S. Olympic team recently announced its roster for the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Many of these athletes also love using Instagram, so Facebook compiled a list of all teams, venues and athletes that utilize the popular photo-sharing app.

Want an inside look at life as an Olympic or Paralympic athlete? Check out the list below to follow American athletes and teams as they go for the gold.

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Do you remember Instagram’s top #TBT posts?

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Instagram is already nostalgic about 2013. Facebook’s photo- and video-sharing network released its list of top celebrity #TBTs (Throwback Thursdays) of 2013.

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The top 13 Instagram moments of 2013

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While Instagram recently touched on the top places to check in and the most hotly-posted about topics of 2013, the photo sharing network recently released its list of the top moments of the year, including Pope Francis, same-sex marriage triumphs and the Royal Baby.

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The top Instagram hashtag of 2013? #love

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Much like Facebook, Instagram recently released its 2013 statistics, showing that #love, Justin Bieber and Siam Paragon shopping mall were among the things that were most pictured on the photo-sharing network.

Instagram announced that #love was the most-used hashtag of 2013 and a post by Justin Bieber got the most hearts of any photo on the network.

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Is Instagram Direct Facebook’s attempt at Snapchat?

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Instagram Co-Founder Kevin Systrom validated a rumor Thursday morning, confirming that Instagram is adding direct messaging. Through a feature called Instagram Direct, users can send photos and have private chats with one or more friends.

Many people felt that this was Facebook’s way of integrating a key feature of Snapchat, which reportedly rejected a $3 billion offer from the social network. However, there’s still a major thing that sets Snapchat apart from Instagram, even with this messaging ability.

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