Kendall Jenner took Kim’s place with the most liked photo on the site – given the family’s experience with reality TV it’s no surprise
Over the past two years the Kardashian sisters have maintained a comfortable monopoly on Instagram. Kim Kardashian’s wedding photo of her and Kanye kissing at their wedding had reigned supreme for almost a year as the most popular photo on the social network (2.4 million likes), but was recently beaten by her younger half-sister Kendall Jenner, who’s racked up 2.6 million likes on a photo of herself with her hair styled in heart shapes. The family’s stranglehold on Instagram is a very real one – the Kardashian slash Jenner clan make up four of the ten most-followed Instagram accounts. In popularity, Kim is second only to Instagram's own account.
Previously, Justin Bieber had the most popular photo on Instagram in both 2012 and 2013. Looking at Google Trends helps to explain the transition – Instagram has rocketed to popularity mainly in the last two years, as both a news source and a social network. As it has increased in popularity so have the search terms "Kardashian" and "Jenner". These people were made for this format and have used it to cement their celebrity status. Bieber has faded somewhat in popularity, while the Kardashians and Jenners have continued on an upwards trajectory. Note that they've had their reality TV show for years, but it was really only when Instagram became super popular that they did too.
With this many followers comes influence. Kylie Jenner's "lip life hacks", regularly revealed on Instagram, sparked a trend that saw teenagers worldwide giving themselves swollen lips. What they do on social media does manage to translate to the "real world", for better or worse. Their fame has been nurtured and maintained on Instagram; while our accounts might just contain relatively ignored pictures of our friends or ourselves, theirs are elements of soap opera watched across the world, with huge publications willing to write articles about a single Instagram picture.
Instagram fame is a very real form of celebrity, even if you could successfully argue that it’s a totally artificial landscape, relentlessly curated and filtered. As stars born on reality TV, it’s no surprise that the Kardashians are so adept at marketing themselves through this format; they’ve grown up together in an environment where they are constantly watched, constantly on display. This understanding of what it’s like to be surveiled will offer an advantage on Instagram. They know what people want.
The fact that they top Instagram’s popularity league table may surprise and irritate some, but given their history it’s little wonder that they’ve become so comfortable at sharing the minutiae of their daily lives with a global audience. The most famous family in the world has Instagram locked down and it doesn't look like anyone is catching up with them soon.