Instagram is to be said one of the most influential social media out there. With technology advancement, Instagram has changed the social media game of digital sharing and consumption on a different scale comparing to other social media platforms such as Facebook or WeChat. Instagram has tremendously and unconsciously affected the social culture, economy and politics.This essay will critically analyze Instagram with its powerful impact on society. With the first part of this article being the overview of Instagram operations, following with the second section studying Instagram’s historical development and its transformative effects. The third section would be the business model and following with the internet ecology and lastly, this essay will discuss about the role and impacts of Instagram towards the society.
Picture showing Instagram app
Image: Grinvalds, Getty Images/iStockphoto, all rights reserved
What is Instagram?
Instagram is a free photo and video sharing application that allows people to upload photos or videos and share them to their followers or their friends. Moreover, they can also view, share opinion or like posts (Instagram, 2020). Instagram cannot be defined just as one thing, it’s is an application which uses a series of programs and algorithms; it is also an enormous database of images, videos, captions, comments, geolocative tags, location tags, likes, emoji and an ongoing process of improvements over time (Leaver, Highfield & Abidin, 2020). An interesting approach to Instagram (Leaver, Highfield & Abidin, 2020) mentions that Instagram is a collection of personal data and also an application program interface which allow different application, platforms and partners with establish rules to be able to access, add, remove data from the Instagram database; a series of ongoing decisions and developments to create different versions of the application to establish best user experience. From this, it’s clear that Instagram is a very powerful tool of social media.
Instagram’s history and development
Instagram was first launched back in 2010 with founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. It was initially an application not focused on photography rather it was inspired by the development of location-based check in apps (Leaver, Highfield & Abidin, 2020). It was initially called ‘Burbn’ before Instagram, it was originally based on locating and sharing details of bourbon locations. However, after some time, the app was not doing well so the two got back to the basics to photos, comments and likes and called it Instagram. It then rose to fame with its iconic symbol of polaroid camera and its instant photography within square frames, filters and lastly the ability for followers to like or comment on images.
Instagram was targeted with a lot of investors such as Twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey that offered US$500 million but was quickly turned down by the company after receiving further US$50 million from investors. Mike Zuckerberg on the other hand successfully managed to own Instagram by 2012 as he doubled the price to US$1 billion dollar even though Kevin and Mike clearly showed that Instagram was not on the market (Leaver, Highfield & Abidin,2020). In addition, Instagram was 18 moths old with a total of 13 employees only and 30 million iPhone users and a week old of Android version of the app when it was bought by Zuckerberg.
Picture of Successful Timeline of Instagram
Image: https://ucppr2k2q2u3lbr9b2ah3a31-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2018/12/lyft-timeline.jpg, Apptunix, All rights reserved
Since Mark Zuckerberg took over, Instagram game changes. While Facebook user count has stalled in the United State and Europe, Instagram on the other hand was still growing fast with new users; wildly popular with younger people (Isaac,2018). In 2013, Instagram rolled out advertising tools globally for all businesses which attracted sponsorships and advertising outside the platform’s tools. Instagram gradually became a platform where younger users use to express their personal lives, or showcase their business online whilst Facebook is home for the older demographic. With Instagram being part of Facebook, it still has its own unique features that makes it different from Facebook (Leaver, Highfield & Abidin,2020).
Instagram innovative business model
According to Gobble (2014), business model is based on content, structure and governance; how an organization creates, deliver and captures value such as innovation and sustainability. Instagram business model is based mostly on advertisement, same as Facebook. The organization is driving its revenues high by giving businesses an opportunity to increase brand awareness and also an increase in offline sales and website visit (Probasco,2014). Probasco (2014) pointed out that big companies such as Nike, Starbucks and other well-known organization promoting their product or service on Instagram with targeted users, the social media platform is really a money machine for Facebook.
Picture showing Instagram business model canvas. Image: ”How Instagram works” by Apptunix, All rights reserved
Not only that Instagram is making money for their company but it also has helped small businesses grow from nothing but online marketing. With Instagram user-friendly interface, users can easily grow and manage user base, offer easy and effective formal advertising and be something or someone on the social media platform. This is supported by Miles (2019) where he talked about Instagram power. Marketing through this social media site is amazing because Instagram will help you grow your business by giving out some practical and step by step instructions on how to use them to promote whatever you are trying to showcase. Not only that it could help business grow, you can make yourself a ‘product’ to sell; not physically selling your body but selling your popularity in exchange of promoting products. There are a lot of celebrities and influencers who started on Instagram as a nobody but now they could use their platform in order to make a living out of it. An example of an influencer who made it big on Instagram is Huda Kattan; @hudabeauty, making $33,000 per-post (Lansat,2018). As Instagram is a free application to use, many celebrities or actors take this opportunity to advertise their movies in order for the users to get a glimpse of their movie and also make money out of posting on Instagram (Gardner,2015)
Picture showing Huda Beauty’s Instagram page. Image taken 17th November 2020.
Instagram’s Internet Ecology
Internet ecology could be defined as an organized system where related agents confide with information technologies to influence and support one another in their operation in order to gain social, economic and cultural advancement (Looi,2001). Instagram stands with it’s on going strategic transformation as one of the huge influences towards sharing economy industry. There are a lot of factors that take part of this social media internet ecology. As Facebook owns Instagram, Instagram introduced Instagram partner programme which allows advertisers to get into set of experts to help their business to grow, now they have more than 50 Instagram partners helping clients around the world (Instagram, 2016). As a top social media platform, it has also some competitor that they need to look out for such as TikTok, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook themselves with Facebook being the top chart of the most used social platform (Iqbal, 2020). Instagram practices self-governance over its service in order to regulate its users. With more than 35,000 people from all around the world working on safety, security and content removals (Reality Check, 2020). BBC (Reality Check,2020) also mentions about Australia’s ‘Enhancing Online Safety Act’ created by eSafety Commissioner with the power to demand social media companies to take down harassing, abusive post and also revenge porn.
Figure showing the Ecosystem Map of Instagram, Created by Farah Yaputra
Instagram and it’s transformative and disruptive innovation towards society and the Internet
Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms out there that changes society and the Internet through creating a social structure and media sharing. In the context of how it changes the way people relate socially, of course there are a lot of controversies leading to cyberbullying which includes body shaming, mean comments and many more that brought out negativity. Instagram is a ‘lie factory’ as many posts only the good side of their life with their perfect life, making others feel inadequate as this social network is full of abusive strangers that come together and may ruin someone else’s life; some ended their lives (Hern, 2018). As this site encourage its users to present an attractive image of their lives, it may look very misleading to others or ‘fake’ and also makes you worry that everyone is perfect- except you. Leskin (2019) noted that Instagram does have an impact towards social change, as Instagram removed ‘likes’ from its platform, influencers are fighting for attention. Instagram initial plan by removing likes was to build a better community that is also improve the live of consumers to be more authentic and true selves. On the other hand, many actually were bothered by this as people need validation, not only influencers. However, in contrast to this, by removing likes, it actually made Instagram a better community.
Video about Social media Vs Reality
Source: DitchtheLabel, Youtube
On the other hand, of course there are positive changes in society with the help of Instagram. It became the most influential app of our generation, as it encourages creativity and actually pushes people to make their lives worthy, creating a opiniated community, a supportive community that actually helps others and people actually make a living out of it by collaborating or sponsoring brands; influencers (Trait, 2020).
As Instagram allows businesses to promote their products online, they also changed the way people shop which is one factor of their business model. With a total of more than a billion users, it has become the most powerful force in shaping commerce aside from Amazon (Halzack, 2019). It is not a secret that this is now a new form of consumer marketing and its influence on spending is far beyond expectation as it is also powered by trends. Not only that Instagram affected consumer buying but it also affected restaurateurs to adapt lighting to their dining in order to achieve an ‘Instagram able’ scene in order to attract more customers (Halzak,2019).
Not to mention, during the Covid-19 pandemic this year, Instagram as a platform that influence the social and cultural impact of social media. Desaulniers (2020) reported that health officials repeatedly stressed that the millennial generation is the core group that is going to help stop the spread around the globe with the power of their social media and their voice. An example would be influencer marketing agencies in the US are focusing on coronavirus related campaigns in order to ‘manipulate’ many to stay home and follow the Covid-19 guidelines. He also discusses about Xomad’s CEO Perry where he works with Bangladesh’s Information and Communication Technology Division to create assemble 500 influencers. The group main target focuses on initiatives across health, education, technology and the environment; mainly Covid-19. The primary role of the council regarding the pandemic is to deliver as an ongoing information distributor for the government to promulgate crucial messages, and for them to keep the government informed about their concerns or misunderstanding that usually circulate the public.
In conclusion, Instagram has become one of the most influential platform of Internet transformation and has influenced the development of social culture, economy and politics. Not only that it allows voices to be heard but, it also changes digital sharing on another level. Not to mention, Instagram also built a lot of movements using hashtags like #metoo movement in order to build awareness. To keep up to date with trends and even current political and economic situation, Instagram is a great way to gain information. However, users must be aware of what they are getting into; cyberbullying may occur.
- Desaulniers, S. (2020, April 10). How Instagram influencers are trying to slow the spread of coronavirus. CNBC. Retrieved from : https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/10/coronavirus-instagram-influencers-try-to-slow-covid-19-spread.html
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- Lansat, M. (2018, September 27). The 75 celebrities and influencers who make the most money per Instagram post, ranked. Business Insider. http://search.proquest.com/docview/2408530394/
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- Leskin, P. (2019, September 6). Influencers are fighting for attention as Instagram tests removing likes form its platform: ‘There’s no audience applause at the end of a performance’. Business Insider. Retrieved from: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/instagram-influencers-removing-likes-impact-2019-9?r=US&IR=T
- Looi, C.K. (2001). Enhancing learning ecology on the Internet. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, (17), 13-20. Doi: http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2729.2001.00155.x
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- Probasco, J. (2014, July 14). “Instameet” Loyalty Could Make Instagram A Money Machine For Facebook. Benzinga Newswires. http://search.proquest.com/docview/1544870891/
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- Trait, A. (2020, May 3). How Instagram changed our world. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/may/03/how-instagram-changed-our-world
Multimedia Reference List
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