Instagram Serves Up A Shared Experience
I've been dishing with friends about Instagram attributes since a recent Social Media Breakfast (#SMBMSP). The breakfast event focused on bacon (a must!) and Instagram, a platform that hosts 600M users, and prompted my first post in a series of Insta Exploration, An Appetite for Instagram. In that post I covered the how to's of an Instagram account: brand and theme, photo composition, content and story elements. I'm now ready to dive into the next course: the why's.
The number one reason why I'm attracted to Instagram is that it serves up a shared experience. To understand how Instagram delivers on this fully, it's worth comparing and contrasting it with Facebook, a most common denominator in social media channels. Join me as I explore the factors of shared (mostly positive) experiences as they relate to Instagram and throw the occasional Facebook reference into the mix. These factors include: searchability, perceptivity, inclusivity, visuality and narrativity (note: some of these terms might only be found in the Urban Dictionary).
Instagram encourages sharing through use of hashtags that allow for search and open accounts that allow people to like or comment on individual posts without following the account itself. The Instagram culture operates on the value of sharing real-time experiences, which highly suggests that users have an open account to participate in that value proposition. On the flip side, we might never imagine a Facebook practice of liking a post of someone we haven't friended. The point is is that each platform has set that tone in its structure. People widely accept those privacy and non-privacy attributes of each or choose to increase their restrictions in Facebook or have a by request only Instagram account.
If you choose to have an open account on Instagram, you're in prime position to search (and be searched) by hashtag and enrich your life (and others' lives) in some way. My followers are both friends offline and online only connections who might simply have found one of my photos through a hashtag search. Hopefully, if they found me through a hashtag term they checked out my feed to see of context and correlation then decided follow (or not) accordingly.
This process suggests that rather than afraid-to-disengage Facebook friends held hostage to my posts that are only interesting 10% of the time, my Instagram followers qualified their interest level by a quick browse of my feed first before following. If so they are more apt to be genuinely interested in the content I share. Thus, in my experience, Instagram offers more correlated, enriching content and an easier, care-free posting and engagement process.
Two side notes: 1. Instagram search allows my Goldendoodle, @Copperdoodleroo, to find his people. Were he to use my Facebook 700+ pool, he'd realize less than 1% of his puppy pal potential. 2. Facebook enables hashtag posts and searches too, but as a friends first, content second platform, I don't seek hashtags on Facebook nor would I like someone's photo that popped up in a hashtag search if I wasn't friends with them.
My filter process for posting on Facebook is much more weighted than Instagram, partly because of the afore mentioned qualified interests process. Because my friends on Facebook are all people who know me personally and my content pops up in their feed, likes or non-likes seem more personal than they do on Instagram. This Pew Research report focused on Facebook, while 2014 and a bit dated, qualifies the negative feelings people have about Facebook.
Fact is, we might not have much in common interest-wise with the majority of our Facebook connections beyond our inner circle of 50 or so. So what happens to our self-image by seeing posts by our outer circle? Are we viewing those posts through the context of our perception of that person and what Facebook tells us about that person? Of course we are. Does it feel better to see a compelling photo on a somewhat-stranger's Instagram feed? Sometimes yes. There is a definite appeal to inserting yourself into backstory-free Instagram photos like this one by @noellenotnoel, who I don't personally know, but can appreciate that she's a travel editor/writer. Her posts are directly related to my interests and aspirations without personal perceptions clouding the experience.
On Instagram people post about brands they interact with, what they like about them, an experience they had at a local restaurant or an event they're currently experiencing.Founded on the value of in-the-moment content, Instagram says, "Join us now!" whereas Facebook says, "Look at the great time you missed last night." Instagram says, "Look with me! You can enjoy this too!" whereas Facebook says, "Look at me! You can't have this!"
Try this test: Consider how you would feel seeing the same content posted by an outer circle Facebook friend and an anonymous, yet qualified interest person you follow on Instagram. What feels more inclusive? Just asking...
An additional key attribute of Instagram over Facebook for me personally is the photo composition, or visuality. My 11 and 13YO's don't allow me to take or share their photo much and I try to respect their privacy. Facebook, a lover of family and people photos, just doesn't align with the type of content I am allowed to post. So Instagram, lover of foodie and action shots, helps me blur those lines and share what I want to share in an invitational way that draws people in versus turning people off.
Plus the photos are oh-so-much better on Insta when it comes to quality and piquing curiosity (see filter and composition discussion on my previous blog). I am a lover of Italy. I could look at my glossy table book of Rome photography for art appreciation anytime, but what really gets me dreaming is a photo of gelato with a macaron in the foreground with Trevi Fountain backdrop. It's a personal story that makes it more accessible somehow. Which brings me to my fifth and final factor: story, or narrativity.
A compelling image tells a story, no caption needed. Conversely, words without an image can easily skew negative. How does story play out in Facebook? In Instagram?In the former, images are often shared images of someone else's original content and a link elsewhere. It's not the poster's original content although they might post a note about why they're sharing it. The latter doesn't allow links in the copy for each post and although posts from others can be shared (through Repost app, etc), most photos are original and beg for that person's story to be shared. I always come back to individual stories as a way to cultivate empathy (Follow @EmCapacity on Twitter for more insight) and shared humanity. I just happen to think Instagram serves it up way better in this category.
End of story.
In closing, I'll offer up the Huff Post's Best Instagram Accounts in 2016 article that's worth a look, perhaps a like and potentially a good follow.