How Instagram Makes Communities Better

By: Guest | July 3, 2012 | 

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 and are gaining traction, trying to create a better Instagram. This is something Jarvis might call a virtuous cycle.

I am especially taken by, 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

  • Alright Christopher. You’ve convinced me that I ought to be more aware of that Instagram icon that sits unused on my iPhone. Nice stuff here, especially the part about communities already existing. 
    (I bet you won’t be searching for an online media company to call home for very long!) 

  • Alright Christopher. You’ve convinced me that I ought to be more aware of that Instagram icon that sits unused on my iPhone. Nice stuff here, especially the part about communities already existing. 
    (I bet you won’t be searching for an online media company to call home for very long!) 

    • I’m happy to hear this, @barrettrossie! Droid here, but: what’s your IG handle? I highly recommend jeffjarvis WWGD and Public Parts if you’re a fan of the communities bit.

  • Instagram, like Hipstamatic and Pinterest, are hinting at a shift in the way that we consume content – visually instead of textually.  Entertainment/media brands especially are doing some really awesome things with it.  Billboard Magazine especially comes to mind. The person who manages the Instagram account is a staff photographer and shares some incredible content from shoots and awards shows. miskatiemo is the social media manager for Billboard, maybe she can share a bit more about the workflow there. 

    •  @jasonkonopinski That’s eggcellent. I’ll check out Billboard Mag on Instagram to see what they’re all about. And I’m excited to hear from miskatiemo. Content consumption is surely changing. How do you think this change is affecting culture/business? Can one aptly answer the familiar platitude: is it for better or for worse?

      •  @TopherJRyan  Make that misskatiemo . Oops. 

        •  @jasonkonopinski Yes, I agree with the shift to being more visual, and I love the concept of Instagram making communities better. . . yes yes yes. I’d add – I like the simplicity and single use of it which is why I’m leaning away from FB because of all the extra garbage in the newsfeed (which I take responsibility for – it’s up to us to manage the stream.)
          However, each of these networks started out with a single-use and then expanded, adding more and more functionality. It’s happening with Foursquare right now with their latest update. They all merge into the same thing. 

        •   @TopherJRyan I meant that for you, too. 🙂 

        • @Lisa Gerber You are on point with the simplicity and single use; it’s an ephemeral joy that keeps on giving, behind the community. For us (social media/marketing/PR) we try and measure that ephemeral existence to create strategy. I like when businesses grow and test new arenas, like Twitter with links. I’m unsure if a single community could provide everything though–even Google. To end this: tests/betas are great, but only of they improve functionality. I’m unsure if this is the case w/ Facebook. I love the new Foursquare. Hub it up!

  • I don’t know, I would seriously consider incorporating the web into Instagram too. I think they could expand it without much effort and without cannibalizing the existing communities.
    There are millions who don’t rely upon mobile in the same way…

    • @TheJackB I think they have done a great job at this, with things like:, webstagram, et. Al. Or did you mean web-incorporate in a different way?

    • @TheJackB This improvement does not necessarily have to come from the inside. These IG niches are a great indicator to your community. Function, use, activity, etc. Collaboration is a good idea for Web incorporation for IG. Thoughts?

  • TopherJRyan

    @magriebler Indispensable is a great word! What captured your “eye” most, concerning Instagram?

  • TopherJRyan

    @ginidietrich I’m glad I didn’t throw cycling into the story. A tiebreaker to win your heart between WWGD, IG, and biking … Tough call!

    • ginidietrich

      @TopherJRyan That is a tough call!

  • MeilaniKieu

    When I first started using Instagram, it was mostly about connecting with friends and seeing what they were up to. [plus trendy filter]. I agree with Christopher. Instagram makes communities better because of its sharing. One automatically feels connected to another user through likes, comments, and @mentions. Because so many people are on Insta, it automatically becomes its own community. 
    I really appreciate brands, celebs, and companies using Insta because it automatically makes the follower feel more involved just by viewing a picture. You become a part of that community as soon as you click “follow”. As soon as you start intertwining your Insta with other social media platforms, your “community” expands and improves.
    I love the accessibility of insta as well. It’s as simple as click and share. Now that Android users are able to engage in the wonderful world of Insta as well, communities can grow, and in result, become better. Thanks, Christopher!!

    • IG-infrastructure and connection:
       @MeilaniKieu Connecting with friends is a large initial draw for IG. I think there’s something greater at work here, than the insta-connection. Seldom is the infrastructure of the product considered by the public, in the way we participate. @Lisa Gerber mentions the single-use and simplicity, and she’s onto something. That, in part, directs our attention and how we give and receive. It’s instantaneous.
      Instagram Behavior:
      Think of how and when you use Instagram. Uploads are in the moment. There are countless times I have taken photographs worthy of IG, tell myself I’ll upload them later, and they never come to fruition.
      Browsing habits are a different story. Usually I only browse the top of my thread after I upload a photo. Others are hooked on the insta-notifications.

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  • RELATED–I want to stir the pot a bit, with some recent news. I received a LinkedIn story to my inbox yesterday on: Twitter and LinkedIn API / App Development. Here’s a CBSnews article: It’s interesting which news source you consult, a primary difference being: Twitter cuts LinkedIn or LinkedIn cuts Twitter.
    Does this retract from the elegant organization of social networks, particularly LinkedIn and especially Twitter? A primary concern is managing brand identity, which is important. Did Twitter find a balance, here?
     @ginidietrich  Thoughts on this thread and conversation?

  • Instagram is freakin’ awsome! It’s change the social media pics 🙂 thanks and keep up the good work 🙂

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