instagram: a picture-perfect social media tool?

The women's hockey team prepping for a big game, as told via Instagram filter.

Many folks — including me — have developed a new social media obsession with Instagram, an app based on photos and connectivity. The free app captures the appeals of people looking to tell stories via taking, editing and posting pictures … while commenting on and connecting with others doing the same.

I could share how close I was sitting to the stage for our student honors production.

I could share how close I was sitting to the stage for our student honors production.

At the most basic level, Instagram is photographing and filtering software. When taking iPhone pics via Instagram, I appear to gain greater iris control and focusing flexibility. When you take the photo, you can apply one of a number of filtering tools — which make it look like anything from an old Polaroid to washed-out contact sheet to monochrome. The filters may not quite as cool as paid app Hipstamatic, but quite a few add more flair and visual appeal to photos. It could be better integrated — clicking on a photo posted to Facebook whisks you to the nothing-special Instagram site — but I wouldn’t be surprised if more improvements appear on the horizon.

I like the washed-out old-photo filter a lot.

I like the washed-out old-photo filter a lot.

But the really neat part is the ability to share it within — and outside of — the Instagram community. After you take a photo and apply (or don’t) a filter, you can post it Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr and/or Foursquare in one fell swoop. It even offers its own location-based option. And by default, pictures are shared with the Instagarm community. Looking through my Instagram feed on a recent night, I felt like part of a greater narrative of what people were doing. Even though my Instagram community is small for now, members were out watching two college hockey games, enjoying a romantic night in, reveling through a night out, spending quality time with the kids and exploring artistic endeavors. As a body of work, it’s a compelling snapshot (sorry) of a few hours of 21st century life.

Looking through the lens (sorry again) of the 5+1 Keys to Social Media Platform Adoption, Instagram posts some high scores:

  • Usefulness: Allows you to take, edit and share photos in a novel way; lets you enjoy pics from others.
  • Usability: Very simple. Its basic menu is five buttons: Feed, Popular, Share (where you take photos), News and Profile — pretty intuitive.
  • User Interactivity: You can comment on or like photos friends post. Not sure if other friends are using it? You can easily look through your Facebook and Twitter contacts. Want to make new friends? Browse the popular pics and follow those whose styles or activities you enjoy.
  • Sharability: Great sharing options to five popular platforms as well as within the Instagram community.
  • Sustainability: As long as you have things you want to document and/or you are interested in your friends’ photos, this can sustain your interest.
  • +1: Critical Mass: OK, Instagram isn’t there yet. But the ball is rolling, and I seem to pick up at least a follower a day among my friends adopting it. And I think it’s such a great app that I expect the social sharing and positive word of mouth to keep building the community.


Filed under Web

2 responses to “instagram: a picture-perfect social media tool?

  1. Deborah

    I was very interested in Instagram when I first saw friends on Twitter using it. Looked like a great way to share with others! Wish I could join, but since I’m an Android user, I can’t join their social community. 😦

  2. I’m sure they will have an Android app out soon. In the meantime, have a look at It’s an “unofficial” Instagram directory that showcases user photos.

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