Instagram is fascinating. The service is bare-bones and decidedly lacking, with the most important features only available through mobile. Yet it has become amazingly popular with a certain segment of the population, namely the segment that seems to have their eyes glued to a little mobile screen and their fingers perpetually texting – preteens (and to a lesser extent, teens).
Instagram is all the rage with these kids, who were born into a digital world, where over-sharing is the norm and privacy is not an issue. They share everything – their meals, their new manicures, their clothes. They snap a photo, and in a matter of a few seconds, it’s uploaded to Instagram, for all their friends to view.
In many ways, this was the vision behind Twitter – the Twitter founders envisioned people sharing their lives via Twitter. But Twitter is not as big as it used to be, in fact it was never as big as its founders likely hoped it to be. These days, individuals have pretty much lost interest in Twitter, leaving it to celebrities, news outlets and corporations. Twitter is still useful for following news and celebrities and connecting with your favorite brands (and if you’re a brand, as a cheap marketing tool) – but it seems to me that most individuals don’t really use it for sharing their daily lives. Instagram manages to do what twitter apparently failed in – it causes users to report on every single thing they do.
Why has Twitter failed where Instagram has succeeded? It’s all about the medium. Twitter, even with the more recent addition of photos, is still all about text – and a very limiting, abbreviated text. Instagram, like Pinterest, is about images – and people love images. I can see it on Facebook when I post for clients – I consistently get the most reaction to my posts when they’re accompanied by a clear, beautiful photo.
So, if you’re a brand, should you be on Instagram? That depends. Generally, when it comes to social media, you should hang out where your potential customers hang out. So, if you’re a brand that caters to the preteen crowd, I would say definitely be on Instagram. But if you’re more of a grownup-oriented company, Instagram might prove to be a waste of time and resources, especially since it’s not brand friendly – you can’t use your domain name as your username, and the photos you post do not link back to your website. So in terms of being a marketing tool, Instagram is limited.
Oh, and if you’re a B2B company, don’t waste your time on Instagram – just like Facebook, it’s not exactly the place where corporate decision makers hang out looking for solutions.