The Cult of Instagram

The Cult of Instagram
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Facebook has become, to me, a freeway. Noisy, strewn with garbage, packed with distracting billboards you can’t avoid seeing. Twitter is a bar, at Friday happy hour –everyone crammed in, talking at once, getting sloppier as the night wears on.

Instagram, however, is like an art gallery, on a quiet midweek afternoon.

The lighting is soft. The people are beautiful. The backgrounds are torn from the pages of a shelter magazine. [Okay, so that might be due to the infinite number of filters and adjustments you can apply to photos]. Even the video clips are short, snappy and to the point – not long and pointless, like so many on Facebook.

But most of all, Instagram does what Facebook and Twitter cannot: lets you escape from the noise, crowds and the grit of life.

Certainly, I’m generalizing – you can follow feeds on Instagram that deliver just that: grit and noise. But the beauty of the platform is, you don’t have to.

What Instagram Offers [that other platforms don’t]

Your stream is all your own. Follow whomever or whatever interests you, and stick to that beautiful stream. Keep your own stream as private as you wish by individually approving anyone who wants to follow you.

Is your view getting a bit stale? Do a bit of a search, find what catches your fancy and introduce that. Don’t like it after a while? Unfollow. Goodbye. It’s quite a closed little loop that you control.

It’s for this reason that as a viewer, I’ve become obsessed with Instagram over other social platforms. And I’m clearly not alone in joining this cult.

All Hail the Growing Network

“For quite some time it has been apparent that Instagram is the fastest growing social network,” writes blogger Jesse Wojdylo.

Glamour magazine even put out a list of “15 Reasons Why We Think Instagram is the Best”. Examples: photo filters, pets, food, shopping. [What’s not to like there?]

And this chart, from late 2014, reinforces the platform’s incredible growing dominance:

Growth of Instagram

Up-and-comers love it, too

I’ve found that an increasing number of small businesses and startups – especially in the creative space – are turning to Instagram as their primary platform. Facebook is a distant second – if used at all – and Pinterest and Twitter are in the mix, but Instagram is where it all happens.

I was at a street fair recently, and noted that the upcycled clothing and antiques stall I loved was on Instagram. Not Facebook. At the farmer’s market, the boutique jams and chilis stall has an active presence on Instagram. Not Facebook. That hip pop-up kids’ clothing store that opened recently? On Instagram. Not Facebook.

These up-and-comers use the platform for everything from selling wares [“comment below with size and quantity, and your email!]” to announcing they need to close early [“the wee one is sick, so sorry, closing at 2 today”] to sharing a photo of the stall they’re manning [“great crowds this morning at the market, come soon before we sell out!”].

This grassroots embrace of Instagram gives it a fresh vitality and cache – a sense of discovering something before anyone else does. Opportunities exist for businesses that are able to harness their visual appeal to participate in the experience rather than detract from it.

Instagram gets it, too

Kevin Systrom, CEO of Instagram, captured my sentiments as a user perfectly when he said in December 2014, “As more people join, keeping Instagram authentic is critical— it’s a place where real people share real moments. We’re committed to doing everything possible to keep Instagram free from the fake and spammy accounts that plague much of the web.”

Hear, hear.

In our next post, we’ll take a look at some of the steps Instagram has taken to balance the needs of users who want to enjoy the view, and brands that want to pay to join the party.

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