Instagram: A Social Network and a Content Community

Ben & Jerry's Capture Euphoria

Instagram has greatly evolved from when it first launched in 2010 as a mobile photo-sharing platform. In March of this year, it was reported that Instagram had reached 200 million active users. “Meet Content” writer Georgy Cohen attributes Instagram’s success to the fact that it allows users to combine personal moments, real-time publishing and community, all of which are extremely powerful for crafting successful content. As Stephanie Frasco mentions in her recent “Social Media Today” article , Instagram is more than just a mobile photo-sharing and editing platform, it’s a great way to build community. “Instagram users want their pictures seen.  They want them liked. And they want you to comment on them. By liking and commenting on Instagrammers’ posts, you’ll see them return the favor,” she said.

Instagram’s use of hashtags makes it easy for both users and brands to like and comment on those photos that interest/pertain to them. For instance, if you’re trying to target fashion bloggers, you might want to try #ootd. If you’re trying to target people who frequent outdoor music festivals, you might want to try typing #coachella, #ultramusicfestival or even #edm, just to name a few. Through hashtags, Instagram makes it easy for people to connect with others who share similar interests, even though they likely have never met these people before. Utilizing hashtags and keywords that represent your brand will allow others to find your photos and possibly even repost them for their followers to see.

Many brands have also used contests and question-and-answer sessions to increase user engagement. ABC Family’s hit show, “Pretty Little Liars” selects a “liar of the week” to feature on its Instagram page. To enter, users simply visit the Pumped for PLL app and show off their selfie. The show then selects one of its fans’ pictures to feature on its Instagram. Ben & Jerry’s ran a successful Instagram contest last year called “Capture Euphoria,” in which it asked its Instagram followers to “use #captureeuphoria to share photos that best depicted the exhilarated feeling that comes from eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.” Ben & Jerry’s featured the winning images in custom-made ads with a shout-out to the original Instagrammer. Celebrities conduct question-and-answer sessions on Instagram to better connect with their fans. They’ll choose a few select questions and answer them either through a post or through a video. Those lucky few who get chosen are likely to share their excitement via other social networks as well.

Instagram is both a social network and a content community. It allows both brands and users to tell a compelling story through photos, engage their followers and post their photos to other social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. The key to having a successful Instagram is, of course, original content.