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Instagram reveals it has 14m monthly UK active users as Barclays debuts on the platform

Some 14 million people in the UK are now logging into Instagram at least once a month as the social network’s money machine gathers momentum with upcoming improvements to targeting and self-service tools for brands.

It is the first time the social network has ever broken out its monthly active users by location. And while there is nothing to compare it, the announcement gives some insight into how pleased Facebook is with its "softly, softly approach" to monetising its audience. To give that some context, Instagram has 300 million people logging in at least once a month worldwide with 70 per cent of those users coming from outside the US.

“Instagram’s growth is two years ahead of Facebook”, claimed Facebook’s UK and Ireland director Stephen Hatch at an event earlier today (13 July). He said the rapid rise was indicative of how “intent-based search” wasn’t enough for brands trying to cut through the “tsunami of content for a thimbleful of attention” and that “intelligence-based feeds that help people discover new things” were key to maintaining the momentum.

To do this, Instagram will offer advertisers the same targeting capabilities they have on Facebook as well as introduce more self-service tools for its advertising products to offset its inevitable inability to do as much hand-holding with marketers as it grows. Instagram’s ad formats currently span images, photos and a carousel that lets users scroll through multiple images and the business teased upcoming additions while also talking up the potency of tighter campaign integrations between itself and Facebook.

Speaking at the same event, Instagram’s head of brand development for EMEA Amy Cole said: “We’ll also be enabling more targeting options which allow for more relevance in ads that are being run. A lot of the examples we’ve showed have been focused on the bigger, global brands.

"Some of the products and features that are coming out will start to allow brands of all sizes to be able to take advantage of Instagram. One will be enabling them to do more; think of all the different actions that they can start taking on Instagram ads directly. Things like install apps, signing up for products and services and learning more as well as shopping on Instagram.”

The timing of Instagram’s decision to share more on its monthly active users comes as the social site steps up efforts to talk about how its ads can drive brand building. Almost all (97 per cent) Instagram ads have generated significant lift in brand recall, according to the business, while the average lift in ad recall is 2.7 times higher than Nielsen norms.

The figures are likely to have piqued the interest of Barclays, which launched its first Instagram advertising campaign today. It focuses on entrepreneurs that use the bank’s service and has been six months in the making with the bank mindful of how it would build the brand without its logo at the forefront of its communications.

Instagram purged its site of fake accounts at the end of 2014 in an attempt to safeguard its proposition as a premium community for both people and brands. Despite this, a recent study found as many as 8 per cent of accounts on the social network are fake.