20 charts about the 100 million Americans on Instagram that will change your communications strategy

New Year’s eve 2016: I finally bit the bullet and joined Instagram, a couple of champagne toasts deep. @Moschellaworldwide’s first picture was taken at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC, and its 45 likes would hardly impress an average high school student. Now the platform has has reached over 100,000,000 American users, and we thought it would be fun to figure out who they are, what they like, and how they behave.

So we put DKC Analytics’ star summer intern and NYU computer science major Nikhil Goyle to work analyzing data from Instagram’s API. As a result, the following charts represent Instagram’s own accounting — not just simple follower counts. Research here is based on the internal data that Instagram uses to qualify its own users.

20–34 year olds dominate

Everyone thinks of Instagram as a platform for young people. This is justified, as studies show the social network is the most-loved by a new generation of smart phone natives.

Here’s the breakdown of Instagram users’ age compared to US Census data. The biggest difference is in proportions of 20–34 year olds — representing more than half of Instagram, but only a quarter of America.


Upper-middle income

Despite the relative youth of Instagram users, they live in wealthier households. A full 10% more Instagram users are in $75–100K upper middle class households. We imagine the cost of smart phones (of the kind equipped with high quality cameras) contributes to this disparity.

Instagram vs. Census household income breakdown

Selfies in Miami and San Diego!

Whenever we see audiences that are both younger and richer than average Americans, we wonder if they’re coastal. But Instagram users are EVERYWHERE — relatively in line with general US population dynamics.

We compared media markets (note: not necessarily the same as the cities they’re named after) with Instagram population, and can see some disparities. Maybe it isn’t shocking that warm, surfs-up cities like Miami and San Diego top the charts in user penetration.

Instagram users by state
Instagram users by media market


Indeed, Instagram users are a bit more white than the overall population — 5% proportionally. African Americans are over-represented, Latinos a bit under-represented, and Asians are trailing.


Women lead the way

Many marketing executives we’ve worked with think of Instagram as a place for female-oriented content, and that reputation might be fair, given a 10 point gender gap compared to the population at-large.


NBA on the rise

Sports content dominates feeds, and unsurprisingly the NFL, MLB, and NBA all reach over 20% of Instagram’s American users. Ultimate fighting punches above its weight class, with 18 million fans pinning down both hockey and racing.

Instagram users by sports fandom

Despite topping the charts, Roger Goodell should spend less attention to Tom Brady’s phone and more time reaching America’s youth. When we look at age splits, young Instagram users are moving heavily toward the NBA and international soccer, while the NFL is flat. Tennis, golf, and NASCAR are all losing ground in the social media conversation of America’s youth.

The liberal media elites

While FoxNews touts its audience stats and Donald Trump battles CNN in the wrestling ring, Instagram’s community has made its preference for progressive media outlets clear.

Instagram major media outlets

Ranking Instagram communities from left to right, we can see a clear media divide.

Jordan Peele’s wheelhouse

But the White House isn’t our only source of entertainment. Comedy fans represent almost triple CNN’s audience, with horror movies a distant second.

Movie genre fans on Instagram

And movies genres have some legitimate gender splits. Guess which gender is much more likely to prefer musicals, and which gender is more into anime? BUT the science fiction genre’s almost 50–50 divide is noteworthy.

Instagram movie categories by gender

For those about to rock, we salute-and-tag you

Nielsen says Hip Hop has overtaken rock, but Instagram users still gravitate toward rock and pop genres in larger numbers.

Instagram fans of each musical genre

We wondered how much musical tastes differed between racial groups. It turns out African Americans on Instagram consume more music in general.

Instagram music fans by gender affinity

Taco Tuesday

Food is a top topic, so we wondered what cuisines are winning Instagram’s heart through its stomach. Mexican food is the clear winner, but Indian represents will too. At the bottom of the list, Germans need to figure out which filter makes a brat look more appetizing.

Cuisine categories by audience size on Instagram

Gucci vs. Chanel

And last-but-not-least, fashion content often characterizes Instagram feeds. There have been many lists of the most-followed luxury brands, but these lists don’t look at US-only audiences. When zooming in on the Americans, Gucci and Chanel have the largest footprint. And I personally own zero items from brands in the chart below:

Top American reach of high fashion brands on Instagram

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