When Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion earlier this year, many of us (myself included) were blown away. Yes, Instagram was emerging as a new social media darling and seems to be where social is going in terms of combining mobile and social, but considering it was about 1 year old when it was purchased… whoah. Then I heard a quote by a pundit (apologies for not remembering exactly who) that brought things in focus for me. It went something like this: “Facebook is about connecting with friends at the moment, but Instagram is about capturing experiences.” Much thanks to my mystery muse for the tidbit of insight, I’d link to your quote if I could.
It’s debatable whether Facebook overpaid for Instagram or not. After all, how hard can it be to add filters to photos taken with the Facebook mobile app? But that’s not what this post is about. I want to focus on Instagram’s ability to capture experiences and amplify their power to influence others. The best way to start the discussion is to begin with an example:
Following violent protests in Israel, Instagram user Ori Taub shared photos to protest the violence. His photos exercised the beauty of the Instagram platform wonderfully and provided a service to the community by articulating an emotion or common point of view that resonated more powerfully than any text-centric article or political blog post could. As a result, Ori provided the impetus for hundreds of political allies to leverage their creativity and the instagram plaftform to follow Ori’s example.
Here are a couple examples courtesy of No Camels:
There are a couple factors that make Instagram a great platform for this kind of activity:
Instagram Significantly Lowers Barriers for Creators & Joiners
The book Groundswell by Charline Li and Josh Bernoff introduced us to the idea of social technographics. Technographics in a nutshell are a way of segmenting social media users by their behavior. In their 2007 publication Charlene and Josh use technographics as a foundatoin for designing an approach to designing a social media presence for companies. The research that Charline and Josh conducted provides a great reference point for understanding why certain tactics work by looking at the behaviors of a target audience.
In most cases when we think of joiners, we think of people that ‘like’ our Facebook posts, reply to our Twitter posts and so on. Instagram is unique in that the level of effort to submit content they feel represents them well (thanks to instagram filters that make us all feel like artists) is close to the level, if not lower, than the degree of effort it would take to post a comment. This broadens the target audience for user generated content from 13% which are usually thought of as creators (anyone who creates original content in the form of blog posts, images, video etc.) to 32%!
It should be noted that Forrester’s research on these segments is a.) outdated and thus an extremely conservative estimate and b.) varies by demographics – younger users and users in Europe and Asia trend heavier toward’s “Creators” than their US counterparts
A Meme For A Different Core Audience
Memes take many forms from visual memes to video. They all play off a common concept just different mediums. The underlying idea is that memes make it easy to contribute to or share an idea. Whether that idea is a running joke, a point of view, or an experience doesn’t matter – the important thing is that it’s easy to understand and easy to join in.
How Can Brands Replicate This?
Take a step back from product-centric conversations and the tendency to use social media as an amplifier. Instead, seek to tell stories with your target audience, hone in on the core motivations & psychology of your audience that brought them to you in the first place, and target the channels you plan to invest in based on why users are spending time on the platform to begin with.
Remember, the easy part is breaking down a result to the sum of it’s part. The hard part is applying these concepts in a new way and making it your own. On that note, I wanted to end this blog post with a little experiment. My goal is to spin up an original perspective on what’s occurring in emerging media. Let me know if you feel I’m on point!