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Guest

How Instagram Makes Communities Better

By: Guest | July 3, 2012 | 
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Today’s guest post is written by Christopher Ryan.

My little sis said to me the other day, “Isn’t it weird Instagram doesn’t have a website and you can only use it on a mobile device?”

“No, not really,” I said.

Attention is shifting to mobile and that’s where the people are. Our conversation reminded me of Jeff Jarvis’ What Would Google Do?

In the fourth chapter, New Society: Elegant organization, Jarvis begins with a brief anecdote. At The World Economic Forum International Media Council, top-tier media execs probed Mark Zuckerberg for answers.

Jarvis writes:

Please, the publisher beseeched him, how can my publication start a community like yours? We should own a community, shouldn’t we? Tell us how. […] Zuckerberg’s reply was, “you can’t.” […] He told the media moguls they were asking the wrong question. You don’t start communities, he said. Communities already exist. They’re already doing what they want to do. The question you should ask is how you can help make them do that better.

This is something Jarvis calls elegant organization. (WWGD, Pg. 48)

And this is what Instagram has done for the social web.

See, Instagram occupies the power of a laconic phrase but in picture form; offering terse insight into the personal world of the social network (ubiquitous).

It is fast, simple, and easy to use, and that’s what we like about it. Users simply download the app and create an account. Then it’s as simple as point, shoot, and filter! The captions are a measurement of sharing in Instagram, mostly by way of @ mentions and #hashtags.

The picture reigns supreme here and we, the users, determine if a picture is worth a thousand words by way of clicking hearts and leaving comments.

Instagram is thriving because their service makes existing communities better. We know Instagram is purely mobile, but this doesn’t limit their digital wingspan. Consider the Facebook profile picture:

  • How many of your friends have fancy borders and effects in their photos?
  • What businesses have you noticed using Instagram?

You don’t need to be a graphic designer or even be skilled in editing software to host a beautiful album of professional looking pictures. It makes being creative and the creative process fun and fruitful. In this example, Instagram has improved a facet of the Facebook platform.

Static updates aren’t the only functional benefit Instagram has to offer. The worth of Instagram is in the sharing.

Rita McGrath, Columbia Business School professor, discusses the Amazon complete consumption chain in The Billion-Dollar Social Media Question which has applications to Instagram. She writes:

A consumption chain is the total set of activities a customer goes through in order to get their needs met, or their jobs done.

Instagram users aren’t customers per se, but before you select “upload” you can choose how to share it. This is a primary need in digital communities and Instagram delivers a complete consumption chain by way of connecting us to other digital hotspots.

Default sharing includes:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Email
  • Flickr
  • Foursquare
  • Tumblr

Instagram weaves their content into other networks to add value to current communities, which inherently promotes their own brand, as well as yours. Offshoots like instacanv.as and webstagram.com are gaining traction, trying to create a better Instagram. This is something Jarvis might call a virtuous cycle.

I am especially taken by Statigr.am, an analytics service for your personal Instagram account. It reminds me of Google Analytics only less technical and more user-friendly (I’m unsure how I feel about this).

There are five major categories, each with their own filters and statistics:

  • Overview
  • Rolling month analysis
  • Content engagement
  • Optimization
  • Community

I have been following Gini Dietrich for a couple months now and one of the greatest bits of advice I have gathered is: Measure your efforts. Metrics back-up your claims.

Instagram is making great strides on their own in the mobile social network market but they’re also permeating other forms of social media. I’ve mentioned three examples:

  • Facebook pictures;
  • Sharing, as a consumption chain; and
  • Virtuous cycles, as a means to promote culture.

Lastly, I want to hear from you.

Please share your Instagram experience below. What I mention above aren’t the only benefits of Instagram, nor is it limited to personal use. There are business applications as well.

How do you use Instagram to promote your personal brand or business online? Please share your insight.

Christopher Ryan is searching for an online media company to call home. Chris creates eccentric content in business, digital communication, and personal development at Social Composition Blog. Grokking the human experience on Twitter @TopherJRyan

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