Every year has its buzzwords and neologisms. May I suggest that for 2018 we choose something that is both. My vote goes to “instagrammable”.
The first time I heard it was from a food blogger friend, who told me that the “instagrammability” of food was one part of how she chose her venues. As in the sentence “no matter how good the food, if it’s not instagrammable, there’s no point going there.
Even clothing, a selfie, your mother and your pet can be more or less instagrammable.
What is certainly changing is the nature of photography. Countless traditional photographers find themselves out of business, while 10-year-olds with the right camera phone suddenly have a million followers.
In fact, Instagram has become the leading platform for the younger generation to develop a following and their own, personal brand. And personal brands are increasingly important in an age of visuals.
But Instagrammability is not just the question of whether your product is likely to make an impact on Instagram and be liked and shared a lot, nor is it an indicator of the expressiveness or beauty of an image.
It is indicative of a sea change, a massive shift from text-based information transfer to images, videos, holographic images, AR, VR, and whatever comes next.
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Why we are switching to images
The growth of Instagram is truly remarkable. In a few short years, it has reached over 1 billion users worldwide, despite the competition from Facebook, Youtube, Snapchat etc.
Researchers have known for a long time found that drawing pictures of information that needs to be remembered is a strong and reliable strategy to enhance memory. The more you are exposed to images from an early age, the less willing you will be to read through complicated text description, and the quicker you are absorbing image-based information content.
Take food for example. It is no wonder that foodies are one of the mainstays of Instagram. Eating is a very sensory experience, and an image of the food you are going to receive conveys a lot more information than the simple title – or even the recipe – of the dish in writing.
The same is true for fashion, luxury items, and other products with high visual appeal. These types of brands dominate Instagram and the platform has become an integral part of their inbound marketing.
Content Marketing Reinvented
But not all brand stories are that simple. Some have managed to reinvent themselves on Instagram with brilliant content strategies. Especially adventure athletic brands are making great use of a mixture of user-generated and professional content
But even B2B brands in the industrial sector have discovered Instagram as a platform for creative visual outputs. Just look at GE, Siemens, or Kuka Robotics as wonderful examples of what can be done with Instagram in this space.
The initial reaction of managers will be skeptical: how much do such exercises really do for the bottom line of an industrial company? The answer is that it does not matter: millennials, the first generation that really grew up with images and videos more than text are entering the workforce.
And some of these companies use their Instagram accounts more to foster cohesion in a global workforce than to generate business.
We learn easier from images and videos, and the more we are exposed to images and videos from an early age, the faster we can absorb information from them. Thus a younger person taking one look at a motherboard, a robot, or a technical drawing may understand the information content of that image much faster than someone reading a detailed description.
Another reason why we are moving to images is of course purely technical. We have never had more computing power, more gadgets, more touchpoints where still images and videos are so readily available. Uploading content to Instagram is fast and easy – much quicker for example than Facebook, allowing users to document their lives, hobbies, interests or professions almost in real-time.
Read more: So What is Content Marketing Anyway?
Images Mean Business
Instagrammable also means marketable. Over 80% of Instagrammers are outside the US, so it is a truly global platform. Over 75% of people under 35 get purchasing ideas from Instagram. While overshadowed by Snapchat for US teens, Instagram is now twice as big as Facebook in terms of content consumption for that age group.
In the general population, Facebook and YouTube are still far bigger, but even on these and other platforms, there is a clear trend towards images and videos. For YouTube this is self-evident, but while Facebook has been a text-based platform for 10 years, it is now increasingly a video consumption platform. Taiwan, for example, shows that over 80% of Facebook users watch television programs on the platform.
The fact that Facebook moved the video button to the center of the control bar in 2018 is indicative of this development.
This trend will continue, as more and more brands and stores discover the power of image content in all industries.
The Future of Content
There are, of course, a number of problems with this trend towards more and more immediate, user-generated image and video content:
- Young, fit, or generally photogenic people are more likely to produce video content, leaving behind one or two generations of business owners who are unwilling to engage visually.
- In-depth content is still necessary to extol the virtues of products, services, and technologies.
- A number of studies have now shown that pupils in schools don’t remember information presented purely in image or video form, throwing into question the strategies of certain companies to move the classroom toward much more tech-based solutions that favor images and videos.
- There will still be a large number of people who simply prefer text.
- Images can be misleading and tend to oversimplify difficult concepts.
- Virtual reality hasn’t taken off yet at the scale we initially expected. For one, it involves cumbersome gadgets, and may also cause health problems.
- Legally binding information, detailed instructions, and any kind for argumentative content will remain text-based. This is why even with the most Instagrammable images, we still have text-based comments, expressing opinions in the simplest form: natural language.
- Danger lurks in technology, as sophisticated algorithms are being used to manipulate images to disseminate false information.
Finally, the Instagram craze may be temporary. As we develop intricate and powerful voice interfaces, more and more versatile screens, haptic gesture computing and, last but not least, the Internet of Things, the importance of Instagram may yet wane as quickly as it grew.