Instagram Captures Their First Big Brand Partner: National Geographic

There seems to be a common cycle for many startups. First, you capture users. Then, you capture brands/celebrities. Then you capture revenues. Most startups never make it past step one, let alone steps two and three. The mobile photo sharing service Instagram rocketed past step one in about a week. And then kept going. Now it’s time to explore step two. Which is exactly what they’re doing with their first major brand partnership: National Geographic.

The partnership seems like an obvious one since Instagram is all about great-looking pictures, and National Geographic is known for great-looking pictures. “National Geographic makes a ton of sense as an initial partner – they’re a fantastic company with such a rich visual history. Given that they’re so visually oriented, it’s a no-brainer that we’re going to be trying some interesting stuff out with them over the next few months,” Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom tells us.

He notes that they’ve been talking to National Geographic for weeks about a potential partnership and what it could mean and how it could work. “Basically, we’ve been going back and forth — brainstorming ideas for how NG can participate in the community,” Systrom says. He says that it remains to be seen exactly how National Geographic will use the service, but says that engaging their fans will be a first priority.

They’d like to participate more actively with their fans through photos – whether it’s enabling people from around the world to tell their story through an interesting prompt/contest, or crowd sourcing images for an upcoming story — everything’s on the table,” he says.

They’ve also got a huge photographer/reporter base that could contribute images ‘on the ground’ as things happen — imagine a ‘live’ version of National Geographic. But again, this is all very early, and we’re excited to figure out how NG and other brands can fully utilize our platform,” Systrom continues.

Systrom also notes that while they have been talking to other potential partners, they have nothing else to announce just yet. “Talking with brands has always been on our todo list – but doing so only really makes sense when you reach a certain scale to provide a big enough audience. Instagram is quickly becoming a standard tool in people’s social media toolkit, and it’s natural to start talking to brands about how they can leverage the visual nature of Instagram,” he says.

He also declined to give any specific numbers in terms of their current userbase nuumbers, but it seems pretty likely that they’re already close to a million users (if not past the milestone).

Things are pretty busy at the old Twitter office.