Instagram has transformed the tattoo industry in recent years, growing from an estimated $1.6billion in revenue in 2007 to more than $3billion in 2018.
For many tattoo parlors that growth is directly attributable to Instagram, where photos of new tattoos can help inspire users to seek out their own new ink.
A recent report on tattoo parlors in the US found that as many as 70 per cent of new clients came in from Instagram ads or referrals, and for some social media savvy parlors report that figure can be as high as 90 per cent.
‘Instagram totally changed the tattoo community,’ Brooklyn-based tattoo artist Laura Martinez told CNBC.
‘It’s an online portfolio for every artist, and it made me able to get my work seen internationally.’
Jason Elliott, a tattoo artist in Texas, says he gained an extra 6,000 followers after one of his tattoos was reshared a mere 65 times, showing how powerful the photo sharing app can be.
Elliott began experimenting with paying to promote some of his own Instagram posts like ads, and found it led to four times as many views and comments, all of which added up to more business.
‘I was really skeptical about it at first because I was like ‘I don’t know. I’m paying for something to be put out there,’’ he said.
‘But I did notice that each time that I did it was real people who were interacting with it.’
There are around 20,000 tattoo parlors across the country, and more than one-third of people between 25 and 29 have tattoos, many of whom proudly announce their tattoos through social media, which can inspire others to want to get ink of their own.
Yet, as with any other form of impulsive online decision-making, the potential for making selections you end up regretting are high.
The tattoo removal industry has been growing almost as fast as the tattoo industry itself.
Revenue from tattoo removal procedures grew 50 per cent between 2014 and 2017, with around 110,000 tattoo removal procedures taking place each year, generating $694million a year.
‘It speaks to just how it’s really hard to discern how great someone is from a really nice picture,’ New York based tattoo artist Keith ‘Bang Bang’ McCurdy said.
‘Some people’s tattoo skills don’t translate to their photo skills, and some people’s photo skills don’t translate to their tattoo skills.’