Democratizing visual expression

towerbridgeinstagramAs someone who only recently discovered Instagram when the Android version of the popular iPhone app was released a few months ago, I’m a compulsive snapper at any moment that I can whip out my smartphone.

The beauty of Instagram is the amateur-ish treatment of photography with the app’s so-simple methodology of letting (no, encouraging) you to tweak the look and feel of your photos by applying filters.

You can get an idea just by glancing at the Instagram pic here and my pretty amateurish Instagram collection.

Not only that, you can also connect your pics with other content, people or events with the universally-popular connection method – the hashtag – which also increases your opportunities for discoverability.

Take a look at the possibilities in business with two really imaginative cases in point:

  • Spanish hotel chain NH Hoteles, Wake Up Pics and Instagramers – a compelling combination of user-generated content and brand engagement. A four-way win that includes the users.
  • US conglomerate GE and its use of Instagram photos to “feature the ground-breaking research and technology that GE has been developing since the days of Edison.”

In an op-ed piece in AdAge.com, Steve Rubel nails it in his assessment of a new visual landscape that’s rapidly emerging where tools like Instagram form one element of a rich story-telling cornucopia that’s within reach of anyone with a mobile device that can record images.

Just point and tap, as it were. There’s nothing else you need to do – your device will automatically take care of online publishing and sharing.

Photography, rather than video, is fast becoming the lingua franca of a more global, mobile and social society, says Steve, who offers a caveat for business that I hope people heed:

[...] The growing appetite for photography bodes well for marketers. The field inherently attracts visual storytellers and creative types. However, it’s not a slam dunk yet.

To succeed, we must adopt a beginner’s mind. This means abandoning the preconceived notion that good creative is art.

Visual storytelling today is blissfully cliché. Photos are deliberately over animated, over filtered and even over exposed. They ignore all the rules. Just as the proliferation of texting arguably made the written word less formal and YouTube did the same for video, the ubiquity of smartphones has changed the expectations of what’s considered “good” photography.

There’s already a rich ecosystem of third-party apps that make Instagram in particular such an attractive tool.

Think of more possibilities, too, if or when the Facebook-acquired Instagram comes to the web, as rumoured, rather than being only an app on your smartphone.

Disruptive democracy in action. Are you ready for it?

About Neville Hobson

Entrepreneurial business communicator with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Co-host of the weekly business podcast For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. Also an occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.