According to a new estimate by Wall Street analysts, popular photo-sharing website Instagram could be worth as much as $35 billion and may outpace Twitter as one of the most popular social networks on the planet. The site already reports a user base of over 300 million and that number may hit 420 million by the end of 2015.

What’s behind Instagram’s rocket to the top of the social media food chain? Let’s take a look:

Social users love visuals. When it comes to grabbing the attention of today’s busy social media consumer, visual content is where it’s at. A study by ROI Research revealed that fans and followers are 40 percent more likely to engage with brands that post pictures than any other type of media. Content containing images reap 94 percent more total views that content without.

Since practically everyone has a smartphone in their pocket’s these days, we’re taking more pictures than ever as we go about our daily lives. Instagram’s easy to use editing and posting tools make it a snap for users to post their favorite pictures within seconds of snapping them.

This gives brands a huge advantage by allowing them to create photo-centric ad campaigns that take advantage of what their customers are already doing. It’s a win-win for Instagram as brands and customers alike flock to the platform to share pictures and short videos of products with each other.

Featured users have mass appeal. Instagram’s corporate bloggers regularly run posts about their most interesting users, along with a link to their photo feed. Instagram excels at featuring fascinating users with mass appeal whose stories are as interesting as their images.

Whether sharing the joy of cooking with @chinamisakamoto or showing off another side of Dubai with @heraldherrera, Instagram does a masterful job of showing how well its platform is ideally suited for sharing a wide range of human experiences in an approachable, intimate way.

Instagram makes photography accessible. Smartphone cameras are easy to use but the majority of their photo-editing features often go unused. Instagram makes it dead-simple to create stunning images and turn the most inexperienced picture-taker into an ace photographer.

“When I entered photography it was tough, really tough, because it was very expensive. Cameras were expensive, practising was very expensive, training did not really exist. Photography BAs and MAs just appeared in the 1970s,” Antonio Leanza, founder of the London School of Photography told The Telegraph. “A working class kid would have found it extremely difficult. Now, it is possible to become a photographer for quite a lot of people … That is a beautiful event. That is a fantastic thing.”

Sometimes unknown amateur photographers even become famous, simply by posting their shots on Instagram to share with the world. It says a lot about the impact Instagram has on the social media ecosphere when both the platform and its users go viral.

Written by:  Image: Tucker W.