Instagramming NYFW

New York Fashion Week via The Verge

A frequent topic over the past year on the FIR podcast that my co-host Shel Holtz and I have pondered and discussed is the rise of visual communication.

A key reference point for us was the interview we did in August 2012 with Brian McNely on Instagram as a medium for image-power and his research with case histories on what brands do with Instagram.

Today, video has come up alongside static images with tools like Vine and Instagram’s video feature that make it incredibly easy and simple for anyone to capture six or fifteen seconds respectively of action on a smartphone and instantly share it with a small group – or the world – online.

This theme grabbed my attention this week when I saw what was happening on and from the catwalk at New York Fashion Week.

Take a look at a short video by brusselssprout_in_manhattan who says:

For New York Fashion Week, @tommyhilfiger introduced the first ever runway show InstaMeet. I was happy to be one of the 20 Instagrammers chosen to attend & document the event.

Check out the video:

As The Verge noted in its report:

[…] No one should come away surprised; fashion tends to bring the amateur photographer out in people, and the runways are by now no stranger to the blue glow of smartphone screens. Official attendees needed only to guide where those photos went to try to make them more meaningful.

Bold text is my emphasis.

There’s no better example of that guidance The Verge speaks of than this video report by retail, and shopping obsessive Racked in its video report, All Hail the Screens: How Instagram Has Shaped NYFW:

Screens, whether on phones or pads, have become ubiquitous in the front row at New York Fashion Week, especially since Instagram’s launch in 2010. Faced with a wall of screens at every show, Racked journeyed to Hilfiger’s NYFW ‘InstaMeet’, went backstage at Kenneth Cole and spoke with industry longtimer Mickey Boardman of Paper Magazine to see how the industry is reacting to the glut of social media, and how sharing sites might be changing fashion week for the better.

Imagination applied. Along with a great deal of structure and guidance.

Instagram ups the game with video

Video on Instagram

The stakes in the market for quick-video apps on mobile devices were raised a few bars yesterday with the release of a new version of Instagram that enables you to record video clips.

Twitter-owned quick-video app Vine captured imaginations when it launched earlier this year for iPhones with the ability it gives to anyone to record short six-second videos of anything their smartphone camera sees. Business-focused users were quick to see its potential in marketing communication, with many users telling some imaginative short stories in just six seconds.

Instagram ups the game with this release of its hugely-popular photo-sharing app for iOS and Android – Facebook-owned Instagram now hosts 16 billion photos for 130 million users worldwide – that adds video-recording capability alongside its core function of taking and sharing photos.

With the new software release, you can record fifteen-second video clips – that’s nine more seconds – including audio, and share those clips across the social web.

It’s almost a no-brainer to see how this new functionality will almost certainly have universal appeal. The ease of use is breath-taking: point your phone’s camera, tap and hold the video-record button, and shoot your video for up to 15 seconds. Then, add a filter if you wish – the new release includes new filters especially for video – and share. That’s it.

How easy is it? Take a look at my first two Instagram videos since I updated the app on my Samsung Galaxy SII smartphone earlier today:

Mr Tea CakeCool Xerox Ducati

Where I found Vine a little too fiddly and complex, Instagram video-making is simplicity itself. Just point and shoot!

Unquestionably, though there is space for both of these apps and perhaps others that may come along, especially given recent studies and reports that indicate the growing trend for video-creation and -sharing. And to understand what’s different about them – apart from the clip-length – TechCrunch has a simple comparison of Instagram and Vine.

The potential for imaginative brand communication and other aspects of marketing are huge. And Quartz magazine has an interesting perspective in its article published late yesterday entitled It’s no accident Facebook made Instagram’s new videos exactly as long as a television commercial:

[…] An Instagram with 15-second videos is right in the sweet spot for Facebook: It’s mobile, it’s video, and at that length, it means that advertisers can drop in their short television spots without even modifying them. This is an important but overlooked feature of online video ads, when compared to other kinds like banner and search: the ability to re-use the same creative on which advertisers have already spent so much money. That’s an extremely appealing advantage to ad buyers.

Hmm, maybe Facebook just changed the game, never mind upped it. And maybe 15, not 6 (and maybe not even 5), is the new 30 seconds.

While others speculate and wonder how Facebook is going to make money from Instagram, and Twitter from Vine, give the new Instagram a try yourself and see what you think –  grab the iOS or Android version from the iTunes Store and Google Play respectively.

I’ll be doing more. Perhaps a nice little video of my cat next…

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Are you going to quit Instagram?

keepcalmandbackpedal[Update Dec 21:] Instagram announced a reversal of its plan to implement changes to the terms of service in regard to advertising – an issue at the heart of the current kerfuffle. Details at the end of this post.]

To many people – including me – one of the most exciting apps on your smartphone is Instagram, the online photo-sharing and social networking service initially popular on the iPhone and which exploded out into the mainstream during 2012.

I discovered Instagram when it released its mobile app for Android devices earlier this year.

Since then I’ve been the archetypal ‘happy snapper‘ where I find myself looking at my world through the mobile lens of opportunity in wondering how what I’m seeing will look with an Instagram filter applied to it.

Like much of the social web and the tools and services you can use, it’s a free service: you install the mobile app, sign up and off you go. You might have paused and decided whether you wanted your pics to be open to anyone on the net, or just to people you approve connections with beforehand.  Most people are open, whether they’re Instagrammers for personal pleasure or whether they’re curating and publishing content on behalf of their organization or brand.

Either way, you have that choice. Which brings me to the primary point of this post: choice.

A few days ago, Instagram announced changes to its terms of service that will come into effect on January 16, 2013. The changes have provoked howls of protest on Twitter and across much of the social web. Indeed, I’ve joined many of the voices in saying that it may well be time up for me on Instagram next month.

There are two specific elements in the updated terms that have caused the most disquiet among users, me included:

Instagram can share information about its users with Facebook (its parent company) as well as outside affiliates and advertisers.


You (your identity) and your pics could star in an advertisement without your knowledge.

natgeoinstagramIn a clear sign that the new terms are rattling some influential power users in the mainstream media, National Geographic magazine in the US said yesterday that it is suspending new posts to Instagram.

In its announcement – made as an image posted to its Instagram account – the magazine said “We are very concerned with the direction of the proposed new terms of service and if they remain as presented we may close our account.”

Lot’s of ‘we may…’ in there but the concern is plain to see.

I interpret the new conditions including the ones I highlighted above as meaning, in essence, that Facebook-owned Instagram (or maybe Facebook itself) claims a perpetual right to license all public Instagram photos including mine to any company or other organization it chooses, without any prior notification to me or any kind of payment, attribution or recognition.

If continuing with Instagram means going along with that, then I would choose not to.

If that’s what it does mean – and plenty of credible voices say indeed it does – then I intend to close my account. It’s such a pity as I think Instagram is pretty unique – it beats Flickr’s mobile app for Android and experience hands down – and I will be sad if I do stop using the service for reasons like this.

However, I’m not making any hasty moves as nothing will happen before January 16. Well, actually, a lot might happen before January 16, eg, Instagram possibly changing its mind in some ways in response to a growing backlash such as National Geographic’s position.

In a blog post yesterday, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said “We’ve heard loud and clear that many users are confused and upset about what the changes mean,” saying that the company will modify specific parts of the terms to make it more clear what will happen with users’ photos.

Specifically, Systrom stated:

Advertising on Instagram From the start, Instagram was created to become a business. Advertising is one of many ways that Instagram can become a self-sustaining business, but not the only one. Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.

[…] Ownership Rights Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period.

Very encouraging, a testament as to why listening to online conversations and then joining those conversations appropriately and swiftly is so key to social business success today.

So I plan to keep on snapping as I pay attention to developments between now and January 16. I’d recommend that stance to anyone, whether an individual Instagrammer like me or a business user like National Geographic. Take a look, too, at some thought-provoking points from Dan York on things to think about before you click that ‘close account’ button.’

I’m more optimistic than I was yesterday about a continuing relationship with Instagram.

(The ‘Keep Calm’ image at top courtesy of Mitch Joel who posted it to – where else? – his Instagram account.)

[Update December 21, 2012:] In a blog past yesterday, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said that the proposed changes to the terms of service in relation to advertising would not happen next month.

There was confusion and real concern about what Instagram’s possible advertising products could look like, he said, and how they would work.

[…] Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010. You can see the updated terms here.

Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work.

You also had deep concerns about whether under our new terms, Instagram had any plans to sell your content. I want to be really clear: Instagram has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did. We don’t own your photos – you do.

Finally, there was also confusion about how widely shared and distributed your photos are through our service. The distribution of your content and photos is governed by our privacy policy, and always has been. We have made a small change to our terms to make that as clear as possible.

This is good news for users and for Instagram. It’s also testament to Systrom’s leadership in listening and making a swift decision to change course based on what customers had said.

I think such action has given him a huge benefit of trust – an important element in his company’s overall relationship with users when it comes to other related issues such as privacy and the updated terms of service concerning that.

Yesterday, I started experimenting with EyeEm, a startup based in Berlin, Germany, and a good alternative to Instagram. Their Android  app is very good – there are versions also for iPhone and Windows phones – offering different filters and some things I think are better than Instagram.

My thinking was that, while I’m in wait-and-see mode regarding Instagram’s proposed changes, I would look at what competing services are out there in case I did decide to leave Instagram by January 16.

While I will continue exploring what EyeEm offers – here’s my EyeEm page – I’m willing to give Kevin Systrom my trust and continue as an Instagram user.

  • If you’re a WordPress user, check out DsgnWrks Instagram Importer, a plugin that lets you import and backup your Instagram photos to your WordPress site. The latest version compatible with WordPress versions 3.1 to 3.5 was released yesterday, December 20. The developer says the plugin includes robust options to allow you to control the imported posts formatting including built-in support for WordPress custom post-types, custom taxonomies, post-formats, and more.

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Ideas for Instagram web profiles

Instagram, the popular photo-sharing app for mobile devices, has finally come to the web.

While the app continues to be one you use only on a mobile device – currently iOS or Android devices – to take photos, manipulate them with filters and share them online, at least you’ll now be able to see all the photos shared by a particular Instagram user, all in one place on the web known as the web profile.

Instagram announced the phased rollout of the new feature earlier this week to users worldwide:

[…] Your web profile features a selection of your recently shared photographs just above your profile photo and bio, giving others a snapshot of the photos you share on Instagram. In addition, you can follow users, comment & like photos and edit your profile easily and directly from the web. It’s a beautiful new way to share your Instagram photos!

I use Instagram and now have a web profile, as you see:


Your web profile will show all your photos with some of the recent ones in the large area at the top of the screen, above your profile photo, which periodically cycles through the photos to give an animated display. It’s nicely done, with the overall appearance looking a lot like the timeline feature in Facebook (no surprise with that, I guess, as Facebook owns Instagram).

Why has Instagram launched this feature? They say:

[…] We’re launching web profiles to give you a simple way to share your photos with more people and to make it easier to discover new users on the web.

It’s a good idea – but you’ve been able to do that for quite a while with a wide range of third-party apps and services. Statigram, for instance, which I use:


Statigram and other services also give you useful analytics and other tools for managing your photos, connections and online sharing.

Will ‘official’ web profiles from Instagram lead to the demise of some of these services? BetaBeat thinks so.

Some observers have raised concerns over privacy issues with Instagram’s web profiles, where your profile can be seen by anyone on the web unless your account is set as private.

Here’s what Instagram says:

[…] If your photos are set to public, anyone will be able to see your profile by visiting[your username] on the web. You do not have to be an Instagram user to view a public user’s profile on the web.

If your photos are set to private, your photos will be visible only to logged-in Instagram users you’ve allowed to follow you.

Seems quite clear to me, and well explained in the Instagram announcement – but perhaps ought to be explained as well in the Instagram mobile app itself (which it currently isn’t).

As for making use of your new web profile, what might you do with it? A good question, one that my friend Jill O’Herlihy asked.

Much depends on what type of user account you have, ie, are you a personal Instagram user or do you have a presence there from a business point of view?

There are plenty of great ideas from the business perspective. For instance, here are two imaginative uses I wrote about a few months ago where I could see web profiles fitting in:

  • 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.”

SocialFresh asks do the new Instagram web profiles mean anything for your business? – and offers some answers. For instance:

[…] Web profiles will allow brands to seamlessly connect their mobile and web experience by offering the community an online destination to showcase Instagram content. Brands are able to direct their audience to their web profile allowing their larger community to view their photos all in one place. The web profile functionality is also a great way for brands to build awareness of their Instagram account and grow their following.

I agree although as I mentioned earlier, you can already do this (and more) with third-party services like Statigram.

MediaBistro has some great ideas on why Instagram’s web profiles could benefit news organizations, such as:

[…] One way news organizations will benefit from Instagram Web profiles is through increased content discovery. When journalists or news organizations have shared Instagram shots to Facebook or Twitter, for example, Web users have only been able to see that one image—so if a user wanted to see a full gallery of images, he or she would need a mobile device to see more.

Leading users to exploring more content can lead to three desired outcomes: likes, comments and shares. News organizations are on Instagram to build communities and then to engage these communities. Giving users a new way to interact with a platform can lead to greater opportunities for exposure to new audiences.

Great ideas indeed, ones that can also work for businesses not only news organizations.

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FIR Interview: Brian McNely on Instagram as a medium for image-power


Brian J. McNely, an assistant professor in the Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Media program at the University of Kentucky, posted a pre-publication draft of a study he conducted on the use of Instagram to build an organization’s “image-power.”

The methodology resulted in a classification schema for the kinds of images organizations post – a schema that could be useful as organizations continue to strategize their approach to social visual communication (also labeled “visual marketing”).

FIR co-hosts Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz spoke with McNely about his research and some of the conclusions he has reached. The actual research paper is available at the end of this post.

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About our Conversation Partner

brianmcnelyBrian McNely is an Assistant Professor in the Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Media program at the University of Kentucky. He primarily researches and teaches professional and technical communication in digital environments and research methods and methodologies.

His empirical work is diverse, exploring professional communication genres and practices among software developers, playwrights, Roman Catholic Priests and parishioners, and media researchers, among others.

Brian’s recent work develops the notion of ambient research methods, a systematic, qualitative approach to the collection and analysis of ubiquitous social software data. In ambient research methods, social software genres are surfaced and traced as the infrastructural and coordinative work mediating the everyday practice of many contemporary knowledge workers.

Connect with Brian on his website and on Twitter at @bmcnely.

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(Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)

Brian McNely’s draft study:

Shaping Organizational Image-Power through Images: Case Histories of Instagram

Instagram mainstream at US political conventions


The biggest media events in four years take place this week in the US with the Republican Party convention in Tampa, Florida, followed by the Democratic Party convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, next week.

In the year when a new American president will be elected – or the current one continues for a second term – these political gatherings take on huge significance and, hence, attract huge media presences (along with some withering commentary about such presences).

Wherever you are in the world, expect to be saturated with reporting, opinion and commentary across all media, mainstream and social.

As we saw at the 2012 Olympic Games in London a few weeks ago, it’s an opportunity for great innovation, imagination and experimentation with digital communication for global-scale public events, where the evolution of new digital tools and channels, how they’re used and by whom constantly moves forward, breaking down barriers of what people think they’re used for and who uses them.

Take this example of what the Associated Press plans for using Instagram, the erstwhile hip photo app for the iPhone and now Android – acquired by Facebook and heading towards 100 million users including many businesses – that clearly has crossed the divide into the mainstream today:

The AP’s staff photographers covering the upcoming political conventions in Tampa and Charlotte will not just be shooting for the wire service with their high-end DSLR cameras, they will shoot separate stories using iPhones and uploading the images via Instagram.

The opportunity to share on Instagram will allow the journalists to produce different, “candid” images says Shazna Nessa, Deputy Managing Editor for Editorial Products and Innovations.  The photos created with the Instagram app will appear as a multimedia page on the AP and on the pages of the wire service’s customers and members.

See more details on what the AP has planned for sharing its content “across all media platforms via a wide array of digital tools and innovations” in the coming weeks.

If you want to see those pics, follow the hashtag #associatedpress on Instagram, and keep an eye on the AP’s website. Instagram itself is only for your mobile device so now would be a good moment to set up one of the many web-based third-party services that enable you to view and interact with photos and their takers.

There are plenty of services to choose from; my favourite is Statigram, a web viewer for Instagram that offers useful tools like analytics and detailed information about your pics, plus a variety of methods for easy sharing. You can follow Instagram users like me without joining the service yourself. You can also create a montage of your Instagram photos for your Facebook timeline. And if you subscribe to your own photos via RSS, you’ll have copies in full size.

One other I like is Followgram, a service that speaks for itself.

Good services, plenty of choice.

[Later:] Take a look at what the Wall Street Journal is doing with WorldStream, a hub for mobile video shot via smartphone by the WSJ’s 2000 journalists around the world. The platform launched yesterday in conjunction with the Republican convention. Mashable reports:

[…] Every video posted to the page undergoes editorial review. Nothing that appears will be over a minute in length, reinforcing the focus on quick snippets of video and audio information shot while on the go. San Francisco-based video-sharing startup Tout powers the processing and publishing of clips on the back end. The videos will also be incorporated into other content.

WSJ WorldStream is the newest piece of WSJ Live, the media company’s video initiative which has launched four shows over the past year.

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