Instagram transformations: new platform and features for social media experiences

"One of the fastest-growing social media platforms". Image: SmedersInternet, CC BY 2.0 license

As social media is one of the most competitive and fastest growing industries worldwide (Musonera, 2018, p. 7), Instagram is considered as one of the fastest growing social media platforms and has more than 500 million active users which is higher than Twitter. Instagram continues to be one of the most popular social media and has shaped the business industry and rise of influencers as now Instagram use influencers as their marketing tool. This essay will include a critical analysis of Instagram, its business model as well as Instagram’s internet ecosystem. Furthermore, I will focus on how its transformation affects the understanding and the use of the internet as well as its effect on the economic, political, social, or cultural worlds.

Instagram created a different point of view when using social media, it gives an opportunity for users to be creative which has a transformative effect on the use of the internet as convenience encouraged people to use the on-demand digital technologies. In terms of economics, Instagram provides free platforms for individuals to be creative and build a brand community. Through Instagram, individuals are able to develop businesses as well as earn income in different ways. Politically, Instagram increases the exposure to politicians, political parties, and campaigns through the use of hashtags. Social and culturally, Instagram provides an easy-to-use and convenient social media app and allows individuals from different cultures to access different features they have. Furthermore, it also offers opportunities to address social and cultural issues around the world.

What is Instagram?

Instagram is a relatively new form of communication that allows users to easily share their updates by taking photos and videos, posting it to their feed and through their popular feature called “Instagram story”, and tweaking them using filters (Hu et al., n.d.). This American-app based was started in San Francisco and was acquired by Facebook in 2012, it is not only a social network platforms for individuals but also a tool for businesses to develop and grow (Rouse, n.d.). Instagram is one of the top leading social media platforms that allows users to socially engage and after Facebook purchased the app, Instagram got the opportunity to make it a big player in today’s crowded social media industry (Musonera, 2018, p.2).


 “What is Instagram?”, Video: Common Sense, All Rights Reserved. 

History and Development of Instagram

Instagram was launched in 2010 and was found by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. Before it was sold to Facebook, it has attracted millions of users worldwide. Moreover, it has attracted more than 150 million active Instagram users with more than 16 billion posts shared after its launching in 2010 (Hu et al., n.d.). First, after Systrom learned to code, he created a prototype web app that was inspired by his taste in whiskeys and bourbons, named Burbn. The Burbn app has features similar to Instagram, it allowed users to update, post, and share photos through the app.

After meeting with venture capitalists, Systrom, and Krieger focused on developing Burbn and differentiate the app by creating an app that allows communication using images. Initially, they just focused on photographs that can be applied with various choices of filters (Blystone, 2020). However, social media sharing capabilities were not considered and was lacking. Therefore, they decided to combine the two features together to provide an app that can give a remarkable experience for users.

“Instagram won an award”, Image: Scott Beale, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Now Instagram has developed various new features where it allows users to share photos or videos in their feed or Instagram story with the use of location or hashtags. Instagram has updated its application to be more convenient and user-friendly, allowing users to interact and socially engaged with others easily. Through the development of its features and uses, Instagram has a massive transformative effect.


“The Beginning of Instagram”, Video: ColdFusion, All Rights Reserved. 

Instagram’s Business Model

Instagram serves as a social media platform to keep people connected to each other, it is a smartphone app that allows users to capture and share photos and videos in an instantaneous way (Hu et al, n.d.). Instagram is a tool for social interaction and entertainment and has been utilised by young people in selling and buying activities (Kamali, n.d.). It is an easy to use platform that can keep images for a longer time compared to other social media network (Wally & Koshy, 2014, p. 4). Moreover, it allows effective interaction between people who share and connect and is available on IOS and Android in personal computers and smartphones. By providing opportunities for businesses, Instagram was able to generate higher income. Instagram generates money from advertising impressions and revenue growth has to exceed Facebook (Simon, 2020) and in 2019 they have earned $20 billion from advertising. Furthermore, according to Bloomberg Intelligence, Instagram’s worth is more than $100 billion.

Instagram’s Internet Ecology

Competitors

TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Pinterest are the direct competitors of Instagram as they offer similar services in the same market where users can post and share photos and videos also connect with each other.

Users

The main users of Instagram are personal users, influencers, business people who want to develop businesses, making start-ups, or wants to develop e-commerce. 13.9% of active Instagram users are women aged 18-24 years and more than half of the global Instagram population aged 34 or younger.

Suppliers

Instagram’s main sources are personal users, influencers, and business accounts. They are the ones who post contents on Instagram that made Instagram’s impressions and engagement increase.

Owners

The co-founder of Instagram is Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and now Instagram was bought by Facebook which gave the opportunity of increased app usage in the competitive industry as mentioned above.

Regulators

Instagram has its own terms and regulations like any other social media. According to ACCC, there are not specific consumer rules in place for social media as social media platforms have the responsibility to create rules for content posted on their page.

Partners

Instagram introduced Instagram Partners where it helps drive brand and performance objectives across a wide range of businesses. They started the program with 40 partners and one of the partners is Smartly.io in Europe and they get a higher ad return from partnering with Instagram. Furthermore, paid partnerships on Instagram are targeted for influencers or brand advocates to share a post or story that tags the business account they are partnering with. This partnering supports Instagram utilises influencers and businesses as a marketing tool.

“Instagram’s Internet Ecology”

Economic Effects

Instagram is free of charge app which is not an issue for start-ups (Alkhowaiter, 2016, p. 61). As they provide a platform for individuals to be creative, social influencers have brought attention to new marketing channels (Kim et al., 2017). Influencers are influential in the purchase decision of young female users as they are considered credible and are trustable (Djafarovaa & Rushworthb, 2017). Furthermore, brands such as Nike or Starbucks use influencers to advertise their products to gain more impressions and build a brand community. A finding shows that Instagram is the best platform for business owners to start their businesses (Latiff & Safiee, 2015, p. 13). Moreover, the new shopping feature on Instagram provides more opportunities for businesses to sell and advertise their products. Instagram now has more than 1 million monthly advertisers, 8 million business profiles, and 78% of influencers prefer to use Instagram for paid-promotion, brand collaboration, and sponsor campaigns (Musonera, 2018, p. 3).

“Pix Footwear, an e-commerce start-up in Indonesia”, Instagram: Pix Footwear. 

Politics

Instagram was used by major party candidates during the 2016 presidential election to voice their message (Duffy, 2016; Sander, 2015) and leaders in more than 70% of countries in the United Nations have Instagram to interact and increase presence (Burson-Marsteller, 2017). Instagram provides many features for political advocacy and as images have the potential to influence public opinion, it may change political behavior and individuals’ point of view (Parmelee & Roman, 2019). Instagram provides a platform to build political image and it revolutionised political campaigns (Maella et al., 2019). Furthermore, celebrities used Instagram to participate in political contestation and celebrities who are running in political parties use Instagram for their campaign in 2019 (Maella et al., 2019).

“Trump’s Instagram page that is used to share his messages”, Instagram: Realdonaldtrump.

Social & Culturally

Instagram is a free user-friendly app that helps users to reach more people and the increase in usage allows people from a different culture to use all the features they have. Saudi women entrepreneurs use Instagram to start their small businesses as they can easily generate content and promote their products to target customers worldwide (Alkhowaiter, 2016, p. 60). Furthermore, Instagram is also used to address the high female unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia as it helps create new job opportunities (Alkhowaiter, 2016, p. 59). Kahlid Al-Khudair, founder and chief executive officer of a female employment organisation said that “social media provided venue for women who undergo some social restrictions” (Alkhowaiter, 2016, p. 60).

Instagram also addresses social issue like the “Blackout Tuesday” campaign as users uploads a solid black squares with #BlackLivesMatter hashtag to show support and awareness. Moreover, just like other social media platform, Instagram utilises hashtags to address social issues such as #BlackLivesMatter or #ASLIceBucketChallenge, as an easy-to-use platform that requires users to post photos or videos in feeds or Instagram story, it helps to raise more social awareness as people tend to see pictures than just writings.

“Hashtags contribute to the increases in social awareness”, Instagram.

Influencers as a Marketing Tool

After critically analyse the effect of Instagram on various factors, influencers are used by Instagram as a marketing tool to increase exposure and usage of this leading social media app. Influencer marketing on Instagram is credible and they help build trust between consumers and the brands (Biaudet & Sofie, 2017). Through this, people who want to shop usually rely on influencers and Instagram before they do purchase which increases the usage of Instagram. Besides that, Instagram provides paid-promote program for influencers and this helps reach more users.

“Instagram Influencer is a popular marketing tool”, Video: Oberlo, All Rights Reserved. 

Scams & Fake Online Shops

The increase of Instagram ads and influencers has also lead to many people being scammed by questionable ads as the products they bought never arrive or it’s different from the advertisement. Advertisements often show high-quality products but they actually sell cheap knockoff products and it is hard to identify which advertisements are real. Furthermore, influencers sometimes post fake sponsored content to gain more credibility and to attract more sponsors.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Instagram plays a role in an individual’s life and has been influential as its transformation increased the usage of digital technologies, shaped the business industry, and contributed to the introduction and rise of influencers. Politicians or political parties are able to reach more people through the Instagram campaign, furthermore, influencers have been influential to public opinion. Economically, Instagram business account features help build start-ups, and social and cultural issues obtained more awareness. Influencers are now a marketing tool as they are able to build trust with users and businesses, however, there is also an increase in scams due to fake ads and online shops.


Word Count: 1,815 words

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