Should you be using Instagram?

June 30, 2011

Instagram is a social tool that has had steady rather than meteoric growth, probably because it’s only available for (and best suited for) iPhone. Its beauty is in its simplicity: It’s about sharing photos with your followers, who can then like or discuss them. Like Twitter with images instead of words. What makes Instagram special is the built-in effects (along the lines of Hipstamatic) and the forced square format that give images an old-fashioned feel, and make them look better than you’d expect from an iPhone camera (which is actually pretty good these days).

I really like Instagram for its culture, which, as with all social-media tools (and all societies in general), is still evolving. The bulk of the people I follow on Instagram share images because they’re interesting, or cool, or funny, or different, not as self-promotion like you’d see on Facebook. (At least, not as much.) The focus, I would say, is more on the photos than the subjects. That’s the niche they’ve found and they’re doing it well.

Which is why I had mixed feelings reading this story from 10,000 Words on four ways news media can use Instagram. They are:

1. Give Users A Behind-The-Scenes View

2. Display The Work Of Photographers

3. Share Breaking News

4. Crowdsource

I like all of these ideas, in the right context. But I think all of them need the caveat that it’s really all about the photography. If you have fantastic photos to share, Instagram could be the right social tool for your brand. If you’re more interested in sending out news, information and links, I don’t know that it’s the right fit.

Do you use Instagram? What do you think about its use for media?

(Pictured: Part of a wall of magazines at the Vancouver Anthropologie.)

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