Is Instagram even about the photos?

Foursquare, Quora, Color – the next Facebook, the next twitter….  Anyone who’s involved in technology knows to be very wary of the hype cycle but occasionally you do come across something that feels different.  You use an app and it feels useful, fun, different or exciting – whatever, the fact is that you start to give it more attention than just the initial 5 minutes sign up, never to be used again (Empire Avenue anyone?).

I’ve started to feel like that about Instagram, the iPhone photo sharing app that’s getting so much attention (it helps of course when you have such heavyweight backers).  On first glance, as with many apps, it’s seems a bit pointless, a jumble of good and bad (some very bad) photos, many quite heavy on the filter use (back to that in a minute) but increasingly, these days I find myself checking my Instagram feed before Twitter.  While accepting that my next statement makes me sounds like a bit of a twit…it really does feel like the earlier days of twitter; a smaller community, more spontaneity, less extraneous stuff to clutter it up.  Of course I’m far from alone in my love of Instagram.  But what I’ve seen much more recently is an increase in the number of blog posts from people saying how much they like it from a community point of view rather than a ‘isn’t this great technology, fun, quirky’ etc.  Greg Povey’s post on just that and ‘when an app feels like the world from‘ Will McInnes both sum it up nicely for me.

An then I had an interesting conversation with Kate Bevan on twitter who feels equally as strongly about Instagram but from a slightly different point of view.  You can view the conversation on Storify but the short version is Kate hates the overuse of filters on Instagram and feels that it spoils the photos and undermines truly creative, quality photography (she’s definitely not alone in this).  This conversation made me appreciate that I look at it from a completely different perspective, which I’d sum up as follows:

- I don’t so much care about the quality of the photos, I don’t use it as an app to find lovely images (flickr is of course, much better for that) but there is something very simple about images, much more so than words; you respond to them immediately, unconsciously – you like them. Or you don’t.  Simple (and satisfying).

- Granted there is quite a lot of ‘Instagramming absolutely everything I see’ but that’s just like twitter is/was.  Excessive tweeters – excessive poster = unfollow.

- Perhaps most importantly, I come back to my point that, like twitter, it’s all about who you follow.  I follow people that I find interesting.  Some of them I find interesting because of the quality of their photos but many are for other reasons – I like to see what they’re up to, they’re perceptive, funny, witty or show me something from a different point of view.

So maybe Instagram’s success will ultimately be nothing to do with the images themselves and everything to do with the community.

* photo is a completely unrelated Instgram pic of mine

*UPDATE 6/7/2011 – I now have a instagram vanity URL  followgram.me/katiemoffat

4 Responses to “Is Instagram even about the photos?”

  1. Dirk Singer says:

    Excellent post Katie, and I agree – it is about community and feels like an early Twitter to me too. Without (for the moment at least!) the follower envy and league tables.

    Like you, I also check Instagram before Twitter. Indeed, both @brideyrae and myself were saying today at Rabbit that we’ve started tweeting less since Instagram came on the scene

  2. I’d been meaning to post something about Instagram for a while, but you pipped me to it.

    I signed up out of curiosity, a slight victim of the hype cycle. I have to say, after initial reservations, I quite like it.

    I’d like it more if my mates were on it – yes, agree on points about community – and am a victim of over-filtering (then hate myself for it because it does kind of make all photos look the same).

    To me though, the killer feature is just being able to post on multiple networks, so I can write a really quick blog post, tweet, update Facebook or Flickr… though thankfully for my viewers not all of those on every picture.

  3. [...] As Katie Moffat says in a post, it is actually as much about the community than the pictures. And I am with Will McInness in that it reminds me of an early Twitter….just much richer. [...]

  4. [...] has it been the success story of 2011?  I think UK social media and PR practitioner Katie Moffat got it right  when she said Instagram is really as much, if not more, about the community as about the photos. [...]

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