On an average day scrolling through Instagram, you may come across some perfectly lit selfies, maddeningly picturesque latte art, and hazy beach sunsets captioned with “take me back.” It is easy to dismiss Instagram as a social platform used by millennials to nourish narcissism the way fertilizer bolster a plant’s growth. On the other end of the spectrum, some posts are less rosy, displaying challenges, struggles, and uncertainty. Whatever the Instagram photo may be, it provides value to researchers and brands because the user is communicating their perspective or offering a snippet of their life. A picture is worth a thousand words, the adage goes. With Instagram, a picture is worth more than a thousand words — it is also worth valuable social insights.
We’ve identified several best uses for Instagram for researchers and brands:
- Visual storytelling
- Community building
- Influencer identification
Instagram almost serves as a blogging platform, only more visually focused. We’ve identified three main stages of dieting that people Instagram—discovery, experimentation, and transformation. For every step of the way, people share photos of their changes. From documenting their discovery of a new vegan food to fully embracing the vegan lifestyle, Instagram empowers people to tell their stories.
Instagram fosters community. Communities form from people bonding over shared interests on topics ranging from craft beer to cruelty-free beauty. Instagram users in those communities exchange thoughts with each other, and sometimes, these interactions are taken offline through events organized on Instagram like Boston Portrait Meet for photographers.
For example, the craft beer community is bolstered by Instagram, where craft beer companies interact with craft beer consumers.
The reasons people drink craft beer is strengthened on Instagram. People unite over how craft beer is alternative, taking a defiant stance in the face of macrobreweries. Others find themselves resonating with the origin story of craft beer companies. The innovative craft beer scene provides a wide range of beers for people to sample. Lastly, people value the ability to learn from other craft beer enthusiasts. The sense of belonging is critical to craft beer drinkers, who find that sharing their knowledge through photos fosters interactions with those holding similar interests.
People used to make profits from sponsored YouTube videos—once you’ve garnered a large enough subscriber base, brands contact YouTube vloggers to promote their products. Now, Instagram has emerged as a channel for brands to identify people who could effectively raise awareness for their products.
Influencer identification factors in the content people post, how many followers they have, and what networks they belong to. Analyzing these characteristics is made easier with Crimson.
For example, pet food is a commonly discussed topic. After all, many people share photos of their cats and dogs. But there are Instagram users who can better promote a brand of pet food better than others. They are the ones with high mention strength. Just like determining popularity in real life, the people who are more connected through digital networks are more likely to be good social influencers for brands. In the chart above, the Instagram users with the largest bubbles are the more influential ones. The differences in color represent the different digital communities they belong to.
We were now well past the point of asking whether or not Instagram will survive as a social network. The question has shifted to what Instagram’s core competencies are and how the data can help researchers and brands understand how people use products.