This week, Instagram announced it just passed the landmark threshold of 500 million active users. Celebration will be in full swing at this weekend’s VidCon, where the company hopes to bring together video creators and their followers in a unique fan experience.
For the platform’s second VidCon in a row, Instagram will host a “creator’s lounge” (see exclusive photos below). The high-tech space will feature a custom-built Instagram video activation, which will be transformed and themed around a featured Instagram video experience. VidCon’s biggest stars will be able to meet, hang out, and create unique video content in the lounge. Fans will also be part of the experience when Instagram debuts the custom video activation on the Expo floor this weekend.
Instagram launched its video services back in 2014, but in just the past six months, the time users have spent watching video on Instagram has increased 150 percent.
“Video on Instagram has been growing especially quickly, and we’re just getting started,” Liz Perle, Community Manager for Youth Culture and Emerging Trends at Instagram, told EW. “We’re seeing this community use more and more videos to share their authentic and inspiring stories.”
“Creators have limitless tools for expression, and video is their tool of choice right now, and we’re seeing really huge stars emerge on the platform this year,” she continued. “The Instagram creators at VidCon inspire creativity in a way that reverberates across the platform. And the fans of these creators are some of the most powerful, supportive, and positive communities I’ve ever seen on Instagram.”
Comedian and singer Summerella is one of these Instagram creators, building a remarkable following of 1.5 million users. Twenty-year-old Summer Boissiere, or simply Summerella, has rocketed to stardom as recently as the last six months, earning over 1 million followers and over 19 million interactions in that time.
“My followers are my family,” Summer tells EW. “I don’t like the word ‘fan.’ [My followers] are my best friends.” According to Boissiere, it’s this personal connection between her and her followers that sets Instagram apart from other video platforms. “Followers on Instagram are more active,” she says, referring to the “instant” nature of the app. When the up-and-coming artist released her newest single, “Pull Up,” the one-minute teaser video she posted on Instagram (above) earned 50,000 views in its first two hours.
Another Instagram star using that instant connection with followers is Raymond Braun. The LGBTQ-rights activist, who was part of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in 2014 and Out Magazine’s OUT 100 in 2015, uses the app as a tool to spread his message. “There is so much content on social media, and visual storytelling really is what breaks through,” Braun tells EW. “Instagram has always been built on compelling visuals that tell an interesting, powerful story.”
Announcement time! There's a lot going on this week for Pride, so I wanted to share the excitement with you. . This morning, I had the opportunity to speak at the @Instagram headquarters! The team there is incredible and so supportive of the LGBTQ community and making sure our voices are heard. I spoke about #VisibleMe, 30 Days of #InstaPride, and how we can make Instagram even more open, inclusive, and supportive for our community. If you have suggestions or requests for Instagram, leave a comment below and I'll pass them along. . I'm so happy to finally be able to announce that I'm in Season 2 of I Am Jazz! Be sure to watch this week's episode at 10pm on @TLC. I love @jazzjennings_ and her family and I'm proud to be part of a show that is helping change so many hearts and minds. . Right now, I'm on a plane headed to New York City for several Pride activities and events: . 1) On Wednesday evening, I'll be at @barefootwine's Pride kick off supporting Heritage of Pride (@nycpride), along with @bobthedragqueen, @latriceroyale, and @theprettymess. . 2) On Thursday, I'll be at @logotv Trailblazer Honors, dedicated to those impacted by the tragedy in Orlando. . 3) I'm spending Friday in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court's marriage equality decision on the steps of the Supreme Court, right where I was last year! . 4) I'll be at New York City's Pride Parade on Sunday! More info about what I'll be doing there soon. . Pride month is truly my favorite time of year because our community comes together in support, solidarity, advocacy, and celebration. I hope to meet and hug as many of you as possible over the next week. . Day 20 of "30 Days of #InstaPride," a photo series to show support for the LGBTQ community, raise awareness about the spirit of Pride, introduce you to important LGBTQ non-profits, and add more rainbows to Instagram. Thank you so much to @jeffmindell for collaborating with me on this photo. . Today's non-profit is the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (@NGLCC), which promotes the growth and prosperity of LGBTQ-owned and LGBTQ-friendly businesses. . Orlando, you are in our ❤️💛💚💙💜.
For Braun, that means connecting his 50,000 followers with messages of hope and history from the LGBTQ community. He recently launched the VisibleMe campaign, which shares empowering stories of LGBTQ youth from around the world. “Instagram is a special place that allowed that diverse expression to flourish,” Braun says. “It’s such an open-minded, collaborative community, and creativity is the unifying thread across the platform.”
Instagram stars like Summerella and Raymond Braun have not only captured the hearts of users around the world, but they’ve also caught the eye of the entertainment industry. More and more talent agencies and media companies are flocking to social media platforms to find their newest stars.
Brent Weinstein, Partner and Head of Digital Media at UTA, tells EW that they look for talent who have mastered the platform. “In digital media and social platforms, it’s not enough to just create great content,” he says. “You also have to figure out how to build an audience and engage with them around that content. With Instagram, we’re looking for creators who’ve demonstrated a really unique voice and a really unique brand for themselves.”
“These creators [on Instagram] are talking directly to their audience. They’re posting photos and videos from their bedrooms, from their own personal experiences,” says Paula Kaplan, Head of Talent and Live Content for AwesomenessTV. “It’s one of the most popular platforms for our audience, and it’s been a real asset for us to discover new talent.” Kaplan and her colleagues have discovered many up-and-coming Instagram stars, including Justice Carradine, Jay Versace, and the Bomb Digz.
VidCon will put the relationship between these Instagram creators and their audiences at the forefront. “It’s the largest gathering of digital creators and fans in the world, and it’s an important celebration of this incredible segment of our community,” says Instagram’s Perle. “Creators are such an important part of the Instagram community, and Instagram is a place where they can build deep relationships with their followers, understand their engagement, and find new fans who love their work.”
The 7th annual VidCon takes place Thursday to Saturday at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. See the full schedule of events here. Check out exclusive photos from Instagram’s VidCon creator’s lounge below.