Instagram: Allowing the Individual to Become Their Own Business

*Scroll* *Double-Tap* *Scroll* *Double-Tap* *Scroll* *Double-Tap*

For those unfamiliar with the physical actions associated with Instagram, there is a habitual act that is associated with the use of the App: scrolling through the newsfeed and double-tapping an image to “like” the post. The heavy integration of Instagram into a millennial’s life has allowed for the constant entertainment of an Instagram newsfeed to turn into an everyday, mundane activity used for passing the time while staying up to date on one’s favorite celebrity’s life and occasionally checking in on friends and their experiences. As of April 2017, Instagram has 700 million monthly active users as the app has shown impressive growth since at least January 2013:statistic_id253577_instagram_-number-of-monthly-active-users-2013-2017.png


With 1.4 billion eyes on Instagram over the course of a month, the power that Instagram gives its users to share and express themselves with a massive audience is practically unmatched. The opportunities that come from having a platform that can connect millions of individuals are endless – the sharing experience that comes from following, commenting, and liking are conducive to growing an individual user’s follower base and a business can be born. This is why Instagram has been able to establish itself as a forum in which individuals can market virtually anything to a receptive audience. Where I believe this reality is the most impactful is with individuals who would otherwise be unable to garner the attention that Instagram allows them to receive: namely, artists.


Instagram is a photo sharing app so, naturally, certain photographers have been able to capitalize on the Instagram features like the explore page and tags to promote their art. Take photographer Brandon Woelfel for example; his work on Instagram has allowed him to become a viral hit and make a name for himself. With over 1 million followers, Woelfel has been able to capture an audience for his art that brings together digital photography and digital design editing. IMG_7432.PNG

What makes Brandon unique in his success is that he uses Instagram for more than just a  digital portfolio of his art. He utilizes the Instagram story feature so show his fans and followers a background of his editing process – playing up the shared experience feeling that comes with following a user on Instagram. As someone who enjoys photography and considers photography a hobby, it’s cool too see the artistic process:IMG_7434.PNG   IMG_7435.PNG












Playing with the Instagram story feature of tapping one story to move onto the next , Brandon uses the app to have an interactive experience with his fans. No longer a mundane task of scrolling, Instagram becomes a genuinely interactive platform to connect artist to audience. This successful use of Instagram has made Brandon Woelfel successful in branding himself and turning his name and photographs into a business as he now created a photobook, Luminescence, that he sells through his Instagram bio.

In addition, a variety of brands have reached out to Woelfel because of his popularity and artist eye to use products in his shoots. He has partnered with Urban Outfitters, Brandy Melville, and Bose to name a few. Woelfel’s successful use of a social networking platform has enabled him to build a reputable business. You can follow him too @brandonwoelfel.

Fitness Training

Interestingly, Instagram is a platform that can be used for both artists and athletes to reach an audience. Similar to artists that can capitalize on the 700 million potential followers to promote their product to receptive followers and create their business, athletes have been able to gain traction on the app as well. One of the most successful user, Kayla Itsines, has built an entire fitness empire through her Instagram popularity.

Kayla Itsines is the co-creator of the “BBG” programs and fitness trainer. Based in Australia, Itsines originally joined Instagram to post before and after photos of the clients she trained at home. To her surprise, her Instagram quickly gained international traction. Today, Kayla Itsines is a verified Instagram user with over 7 million followers.IMG_7439.PNG

Itsines’ global audience resonated with her before and after pictures and workout videos. Her increasingly growing follower base was consistently commenting to ask about fitness tips, leading Kayla to turn her Instagram popularity into an entire business with an idea to build an eBook of workouts.

Kayla Itsines was able to move from a local fitness trainer to a worldwide name in the fitness world, able to reach clients thousands of miles away, all because of the power of Instagram.

Concluding observations

No matter what your specialty, Instagram provides a worldwide network of users with a variety of interests that allows for individuals to market themselves to a global audience and promote what they are passionate about. With a few seemingly mundane scrolls of a newsfeed, Instagram users are being connected to global artists, athletes, and other entrepreneurs alike. More than a mere platform to share pictures with your friends, Instagram’s huge user base brings people together and allows for individuals to build a business.


  1. Nice post! I like that you point out that not only is social media evolving, but the way users interact/use it is evolving as well. The idea of Instagram turning from something mindless into something interactive for marketing purposes makes a lot of sense as consumer engagement is so important. Curious to see how this evolves in the future.

  2. Interesting piece! As a person who doesn’t use Instagram, I didn’t realize that people are able to use it to make money. It makes a lot of sense…both photographers and fitness experts rely on word of mouth to spread and Instagram is a perfect platform for these industries since they are so visual based.

  3. Sheritta Coleburn · ·

    Great post! I still think it is very interesting how businesses are being built upon Instagram. As you have named a photography and fitness training business that have started on Instagram, I have also seen succesfull food and hair companies stating on Instagram as well. Instagram could be a great platform for many new business and is also a great way to connect with your target market.

  4. camcurrie99 · ·

    Interesting post. The main thing I wonder about when I hear of people whose jobs rely on Instagram for income is, what does it take to make a living? How many followers, likes, posts, etc., do you need in order to pay rent? I suppose it is likely that these figures are kept somewhat quiet, but for someone who may be interested in getting into the business of Instagram, that might be quite useful.

  5. ericiangesuale · ·

    I really like the idea Brandon showing his followers a behind-the-scenes of the editing process with the story feature. The collaborations you mentioned with Urban Outfitters and Brandy Melville are really impressive. From some of the reading I’ve done, major companies are looking to integrate these social media stars and influencers into their marketing and product campaigns in new and creative ways, instead of the conventional #sponsored post just showing off a specific product. Will be interesting to see how intertwined influencers become with the content creation large companies put out.

  6. maririera19 · ·

    I find the idea that Instagram and social networks are becoming increasingly involved and essential to the way business are run fascinating. Social media creates new opportunities for business owners to create a following and become successful. Also, your blog relates really well to @ericiangesuale blog about influencers with huge social media followings and using those platforms to post sponsored content.

  7. sejackson33 · ·

    Great post! While I definitely see the value in utilizing Instagram to build or grow a business, I, like some of the other commenters, wonder if there is a ceiling to how much you can rely on Instagram to drive a profitable business. I also see a lot of value in what Brandon is doing with the Instagram stories. I think individuals running businesses, especially in the photo industry, can differentiate their account by adding this extra personal connection or business insight to their followers.

  8. mgiovanniello · ·

    Nice post! This made me think of my brother (who I wrote about last week) and an Instagram account he made several years ago to post Nickelodeon videos for fans of their various shows. One of his accounts became quite popular, with just shy of 27,000 followers. He took several opportunities to sell t-shirts and other merchandise, and even he was surprised by the response. I think the potential here is massive!

  9. emmaelennon · ·

    Good reminder about the variety of personas on Instagram…your post made me think more about virality and its implications — what does having followers really mean, and is there a defined point where virality on social media translates to the real world (in the form of deals with Bose, etc)? How should we define the value of virality?

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