It’s official: cats don’t rule the Internet

Quick. Answer this question: What is the most popular category of photos on Instagram?

I thought it was food, but I was wrong. And if you thought that it was cats you were wrong, too.

According to this paper by Hu, Manikonda and Kambhampati, nearly a quarter of content posted on Instagram are selfies. This is closely followed by pictures with / of friends. Pictures of pets are the smallest category!

IG paper

The proportion of selfies and friends photos was pretty much stable across different type of users and levels of engagement (defined as the number of photos posted by a user). In contrast, there was high variance for pets and fashion postings – some people posted lots of photos in these categories, most posted none at all.

IG paper2

Source of picture: Hu et al, 2014

The study’s authors conclude that Instagram is mostly used for self-promotion and for connecting friends. I agree with this, but would take the analysis further and suggest that:

  • These findings show that Instagram has broad appeal and is well past its niche stage
  • The data and, particularly, the variance for categories other than selfies and friends, also shows that we can segment and target Instagram users based on their revealed interests
  • Cats don’t rule the Internet 🙂

Surprised with these findings?

9 thoughts on “It’s official: cats don’t rule the Internet

  1. Interesting, and, for me, slightly surprising. If I look at my Instagram timeline, my impression is that ‘travel’ photos are the biggest category. I guess I’m blessed with a set of people I follow who are not so fond of the selfie. I don’t mind an occasional one, but prefer them not to dominate my timeline(s).


  2. Disappointing. I would have hoped that doing stuff (activity) would be much more important than self promotion and relationships. They are important, but …


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