(photo by Daniel Johanson, inspired by @Yvonneosaur’s featured photo on Flippinchi)
If you’re one of the many people that keep an active representation on the internet, you may have heard of the social media platform known as Instagram.
The platform’s interface borrows from many of its predecessors. Users are able to customize their own profiles, and to “follow” the posts of other people in order to build a personal feed of material.
The unique aspect of the platform is the medium of its content. Its main focus is pictures, reinforcing the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words.
“As a highly visual individual, I have always appreciated the art of photography and other forms of artistic expression,” prolific instagram user Yvonne Hsia (@Yvonneosaur) said. “Instagram is appealing to many because users have the potential to produce beautiful pictures in diverse ways for diverse tasks. Developing your own photographic vision is an endless challenge, but very rewarding.”
With the staggering growth of cell phone technology in the last few years, we use our mobile devices in different ways every day. The conception and development of Instagram runs parallel to what we have seen in cell phone technology.
“On Christmas Day, I got my first smart phone,” Hsia said. “I posted my first photo to Instagram on December 26th. I remember Instagram was the first app that I downloaded once I took my Nokia Lumia 920 home.”
Although a completely user-driven community, one intriguing facet of Instagram is the many ways that large amounts of people can deliver a message. There are many ways groups can organize through the app, mostly through the innovation of hashtags.
Hashtag (for Instagram): the pound sign followed by a word or phrase attached to an image in order to let other Instagram users find your picture(s) based on related interests or curiosity; certain tags can lead to being featured on an Instagram community page.
Of course, building trends using hashtags isn’t unique to Instagram. It’s the environment that this app builds that allows for this tailored exposure for its users.
These trends create even greater tools. This includes larger community-driven accounts, that serve as a vehicle to display up-and-coming users.
“Being featured on one of the popular Instagram community groups is a way to promote your style of photography to a large audience who follow that page,” Hsia said. “ These ‘larger’ outlets showcase various Instagrammers daily, and each user brings a different sense of creative inspiration to the community.”
Different geographic locations have different community outlets. A group called “World Union” creates a different page to represent each continent, country, and city; other groups take it upon themselves to create communities specifically for the place they call home, like Flippinchi Publications out of Chicago.
The next step for these community-driven pages is corporate representation. This creates a different link for businesses to find new material for their websites and advertising.
One group on the cutting edge of these innovations is Divvy, a public bike-share company in Chicago. This company’s instagram regularly features photos from local Instagrammers.
“Divvy is very active online, and we rely upon social media to express our brand, to build trust, and to respond to rider issues in real time,” the General Manager of Divvy Bikes, Elliot Greenberger said. “A bunch of the photos we feature on our Instagram are actually taken by our riders. If we really think [the photo] is compelling, we’ll ask the rider’s permission to share it and spread it online.”
This allows for both parties to benefit. The business gains much needed content, and photographers have a patronized outlet for their work.
On the other side of the coin, the purely creative nature of the app gives a chance for businesses to build a face and personality in which to interact with the world. It allows a level of transparency that is not always readily available.
“What we like about Instagram is that it encourages us to post photos that connect with people emotionally,” Greenberger said. “I think the need to be a transparent business comes back to this idea of building trust. Because it’s easier than ever to start a business, people have a ton of choices in terms of which businesses they support and where they spend their money. So not only does transparency help people determine which businesses are legitimate, it also helps people feel connected.”
The common denominator of the way we communicate online is the ever-evolving level of connection. Individuals and larger groups alike are learning to grow with this evolution, but it is a process that takes time.
Being able to constantly connect and express allows users the potential to optimize their content. It’s up to those that create to determine what will happen next.
Daniel Johanson (he/him) is a journalist and digital media specialist living in Chicago, Illinois. He serves as Editor-in-Chief at Scapi and in that capacity manages all things content, including writing and editing articles and producing digital content. His most recent work includes the docuseries Heart of a Nation: Tracking Socialism in the Midwest and co-hosting the podcast Scapi Radio. He spends his free time with cats.