Instagram is a monster
Instagram is a monster.
A big thing I saw during our time there was this. People both doing it for the ‘Gram and checking the feed. Another interesting observation was usage crossed various ages, genders, backgrounds, cultures, and countries.
Ultimately I kept asking myself:
What insights does this illustrate about humans fundamentally?
What does the hyper usage mean culturally? Creatively?
And what happens next? Does this lead to new products or behaviors? Do people burn out of the same feedback loops?
I want to take a moment to take a few quick dives into some key items I mentioned in the video.
The fundamental human behavior insight
On a very fundamental level, what Instagram does for users is:
Provides a medium for a visual showcase
Shows a “peek behind the curtain” of the life and times of various humans, cultures, and social extravaganzas (news, entertainment, meme culture, etc.)
Video/audio stimulation that’s in line the cultural norms of the moment, spiking engagement and sharing stimulus
Feedback loops: Likes and comments
We can can deduce, in looking at the usage data of the many humans on Instagram, that creating a visual environment that offers the above items creates usage, and even stimulates creative content production from users. And some of those users are even superstars (aka influencers) in their own right. More on that in a moment.
Instagram is akin to a magazine on steroids. Magazines used to fill the role of the first two bullets above. What is fascinating to think about is how magazines are ALL on Instagram because they have to be. One of the premier powerhouses in Vogue does one of the most viral celebrity-driven events of the year in their Met Gala creative projects.
But, Instagram has built on this behavior because of what mobile technology offers. It has presented is means for a feedback loop for both users and platform to curate a preferred “news feed” experience. This added element (feedback loops) has sparked a massive shift in how we digest, share, discuss, and make visual stimulations and storylines.
Instagram is setting the ground layer for an always-in-beta virtual reality
Social networks are virtual realities in beta. Every single networked community has taken its own shape and form in terms of the modes of behavior, communication, and rules of engagement. What you say on one platform experience (say Twitter), you would not necessarily say on the other (Instagram). That’s because the community and platform owner/operators set certain parameters for certain modes of dialogue and communications.
To think about it another way, a good analogy is all social networks are just like virtual reality goggles. People put on the goggles to visit these platforms so they can curate a reality aided by digital visual stimulation, communication, and feedback loops. And then they sign off for whatever their IRL experience is really about.
A big example proving this point is the power of Lil Miquela. A virtual reality influencer that hasn’t just garnered over 1 million followers, but has fashion collaborations with Prada and Nike and every major publication has interviewed her. Everyone can’t seem to get enough with the new virtual influencer.
This is a fairly big signal proving Instagram and other social networks are virtual realities already.
YouTube is doing something similar. Children discover it now at a very early age. They’re watching episodes of mundane living. People mirroring neighbors eating, living, or opening presents. The kids eat it up. I’m sure there’s a psychological explanation for this and I don’t have time to look it up right now. Needless to say, YouTube in a way is also a virtual reality in its early stages.
Uncertain questions of the future
What happens next? How does Instagram keep evolving? Will Instagram always be only about mobile? Does Instagram create IP that you can only buy via the app for the big screen?
What other products outside of Instagram can be built to capitalize on the behavior and is a net-net better user-experience?