journalism, social networks

Instagram, a community for igers and microblog for the media

Instagram was launched in 2010. After a year, 10 million people were using it and on September 2015, this platform recorded 400 million monthly active users. In the United Kingdom, 14 million people use Instagram every month.

Instagram numbers

Initially, Instagram was used to share memories such as selfies, dogs or food images outside Facebook. However, now it can be used either as a gallery or microblogging, where people record their life as a journal with short posts.

Usages by instagramers in Birmingham

Some Instagram users in Birmingham have explained why they use this platform and shared some tips for beginners:

Dave Musson tries to shoot nice pictures from different angles and points out the importance of participating in the community:

“The Instagram community is amazing. Through going on InstaMeets and browsing local hashtags I have made so many friends and local connections.”

Tips:

  1. Work on the composition to get better photos.
  2. Post once a day: show off the best photo for the day
  3. Get involved! with your local instagramers!

Curvy and colourful #igerslondon

A post shared by Dave Musson (@davemusson) on

Sean Patrick loves photography and participating on the Instagram community by sharing and seeing other people’s life.

I love the Instagram community because many of them in Birmingham are a great friendly bunch of people who have a similar interest and regular meet ups, which is fun.

Tips:

  1. Use a lot of hashtags in order to reach more people
  2. Make nice comments on other photos and gain respect

Linda Spurdle, Digital Development Manager at Birmingham Museums Trust, set up an Instagram account for the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery three months ago:

When we first started it was more about behind the scenes, putting exhibitions together, conservatives doing work, people coming in and out, etc. They are often very visual.

Tip: Start using and playing with it.

Instagram as a community

IGers Birmingham is the official IGers account of Birmingham lead by Fraser McGee. Igers means Instagramer (people using Instagram), a network around the world that comes together for InstaMeets, where people come together to take pictures as a community. The most recent InstaMeet was on 28th November in Harborne.

Harbourne High Street for @igersbirmingham @brumpic #igb_meet_nicklin – Not much changed here since 1960

A post shared by Tim Cornbill (@polyesterpowdercoated) on

McGee tries to connect people through Instagram to “take photos of Birmingham in Birmingham”. What makes a picture good enough to be reposted? Users need to have good skills at photographing.

Why should the media use Instagram?

Sue B. Zimmerman, who teaches entrepreneurs on how to use Instagram and get tangible results, says that Instagram holds trending news everyday:

“There are usually 16 trending hashtags daily where you can explore stories around content that is curated by a global audience.

  1. Every business has a visual story to share
  2. Newsworthy content gets tagged and more people see it
  3. Instagram is used to get information (for education or entertainment)
  4. There is a strong sense of community around hashtags and the media can choose to be part of it

Emy Kane, Instagram Officer of the Red Moon theatre in Chicago, says that stories on Instagram could work for the media because:

  1. It is another way to reach and inform the audience
  2. Instagram news feed allows sharing news in a more authentic environment
  3. Content is easily spreadable
  4. Makes the media more accessible though build an authentic community and informing without sponsors

David W. Massey, the man behind Brum Hour, says that the media should involve the audience in both breaking and in depth stories:

  1. Share images with people that might only see them through this platform
  2. Demonstrate a reaction about some immediate story
  3. As a diary for past or coming events
  4. Connect with the audience through their images and feedback

Posting stories without enough online presence

Microblogging seems to work for non-breaking stories with visual impact, and these posts can easily be embedded on online articles. A good example is Neil Shea, contributor to National Geographic Magazine and other magazines, who uses Instagram as a storytelling tool.

Makhmour, Iraq — In the motor pool a truck is waiting. Already the soldiers have taken their seats. They check rifles, swipe phones. Few people have returned to this pale yellow city and all around the emptiness rings. An officer wants me to see something. It’s very important, he says. Get in. The tailgate is held shut with a rusted nail. There is no armor, no seat belts. Most of the vehicles here were captured from ISIS, who captured them from the Iraqi Army, who got them from America. A seat is open beside the young soldier with the widest grin—the one who was gassed. The truck rattles out through the wheat fields and past the farmhouses, abandoned in haste and still dark as caves. Someone once said that wherever wheat grows men bleed. Or it sounds like something someone would say. At a small frontline outpost the young soldier dismounts and crunches through stubble to a scrape in the earth. It isn’t much, hardly a dent, but it’s here, he says, that ISIS attacked with chemical weapons—old Russian rockets fitted with mustard gas. Jagged fragments lie on the ground, ugly little facts. The soldier stares at them, nudges them with a toe, tells how the white cloud drifted like a ghost. There was a strange scent as it passed over him. He didn’t understand what it meant. Later, the skin on his back turned black. Blistered. Peeled. Painful, yes, but he was lucky. He looks up. They have shown they are just like Saddam, he says. Now our consciences will be clear. Now we can kill them all without remorse. Below my feet the facts darken with dust. It isn’t the first time a soldier has said this. But today, for the first time, I agree. – #iraq #kurdistan #makhmour #mustardgas #chemicalweapons #gas #halabja #peshmerga #soldiers #kurds #arabs #islam #religion #isis #daesh #everydaymiddleeast @everydaymiddleeast | in a series: #kurds2015 #theotheriraq2016 – #onassignment for @natgeo with @tator_hmmm @hawrekhalid @yurikozyrev @mariamdwedar @tgerber63

A post shared by Neil Shea (@neilshea13) on

However, as Josh Sternberg says on this article, newspapers’ role on Instagram is still not clear because the platform lacks of embedding live links or monetizing.

Journalists may have come up with many ideas to take advantage of Instagram, such as galleries, a platform to find leads or short posts with voiceless stories. However, this new journalistic approach to microblog might not be successful unless the platform becomes more flexible and manageable.


Below is a visual representation of useful apps and websites to find users, edit pictures, schedule posts and see the analytics.

Instagram

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