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Thursday, 27 February 2014

Cracking the code of Instagram

Recently, I spent some time with a friend who has just plunged into the joys of Instagram. An avid photographer, it is not surprising that she took to the visual social media app as a duck does to water. What interested me was that her Facebook activity almost came to a stop as she explored her newest obsession.

She tells me that she is connected to a completely different set of people on Instagram - local and international photo enthusiasts (including some celebrities of the design, advertising and photography world). She would have never met them on Facebook - they are not her friends. Yet the visual intimacy of Instagram lets her get a very close look at the kind of people they are and the work that they do. 

Instagram is definitely an intriguing place to be, reminiscent of Flickr in the good old days, but unlike Flickr, not bound by rules of what good photography is or is not. Liberated by non-intimidating smartphone cameras, the modern breed of photographers are click happy and impulsive, aiming to capture the moment rather than the perfect shot. This lends the photography on display at Instagram a living, fresh quality - it is an extension of the user's life and personality rather than a display of craft. And this is what fascinates and hooks the Instagram user. The fact that it is mobile friendly in access, and the next upload is just a click away, only makes it even more compellingly addictive. 

When I went onto Instagram, I made an interesting discovery. The same people I interact with on Facebook, look very different through the lens of Instagram. They share different stuff - for instance a  friend of mine is always sharing only tech posts on Facebook. But his Instagram account reveals the persona of a traveller with a keen eye for detail and an unerring ability to capture the spirit of the cities that he travels to. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the pictures that people upload say a LOT more about their personalities than we can glean through their verbal posts. And often reveal an other dimension of personality altogether. A fascinating area of exploration for a qualitative researcher who seeks to profile online audiences! This is the power of understanding the target audience through pure user generated content.

Of course, the very different nature of Instagram is what represents both a challenge and an opportunity for the marketer. A brand needs to absorb and adapt itself to the sensibility of the medium - transferring your ad (re-sized) onto the site will make it stick out like a sore thumb. The good news is that your creative team is likely to 'get it' very fast, and get addicted too.

Right now, a bunch of very creative and eclectic fashion brands and designers are on Instagram including India Circus, Manish Arora, Masaba Gupta, Sabyasachi etc.

It might pay a brand rich dividends to be on Instagram if they are ready to explore their creative side.