Book Review: Instagram Power

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 Instagram Power, an instructive how-to book written by Jason Miles, provides a guide for small business owners on how to best utilize Instagram to promote one’s business and increase one’s client base. Just this year Instagram passed Twitter in the number of daily active users, and is even utilized by over 50% of top brands. By providing the reader with this statistical information, Miles begins his book by demonstrating to the reader why Instagram is a worthy investment for a small company. Based on the observation that mobile devices are the “new place to be” in the “marketing battlefield,” Miles focuses on this mobile-specific and portable app as a useful marketing weapon for growing businesses (Miles 3). Miles presents his points through a mix of bulleted lists, graphics, and straightforward written sections.

      The first four or so chapters serve as a very basic instruction manual on how to create an Instagram account, develop a profile, utilize filters and hashtags, and participate in the general Instagram functions of “liking” and “following.” He also provides an introduction to what Instagram is at the core, describing it as a media centric—a term we’ve borrowed from Ellison  and boyd—“mobile native” platform that uniquely demonstrates both the shelf life of YouTube and immediacy of Twitter (4). Instagram focuses on visual content and the messages that such content conveys, rendering it a very useful visual marketing tool. In order to provide the reader with a thorough understanding of the positive and negative aspects of Instagram, Miles also creates a straightforward breakdown of its advantages and limitations.

      In giving small business owners advice on marketing via Instagram, Miles places a lot of emphasis on presenting the backstage of a company through copious visuals. This is actually my favorite aspect of following a business on Instagram, so I appreciate and commend him for promoting this action in order for customers to gain a behind-the-scenes look into a company. Goffman’s concept of the backstage and front stage aspects of a performance serve to explain the reasoning behind Miles’ advice. By allowing viewers a glimpse into the backstage of what occurs in creating the front stage, business owners can create an authentic presentation of their company and “engage mentally and emotionally” with customers (49). This would thus attract more attention to the company, which ties in the concept of attention economy as discussed by Tufekci.

         The majority of csmtwerk noted that Miles’ marketing tactics invokes the concept of attention economy. Michelle brought to light the fact that the book is centered on the goal of increasing the value of an Instagram profile. This value is quantified by measuring the number of followers, likes, and comments a profile has. Miles explains that one can increase these numbers by following, liking, and commenting on other’s pictures—participating in attention transactions. These attention-seeking actions also serve to create strong ties from any weak or latent ties, as additionally noted by Nicholas and Michelle and further discussed by Ellison, Vitak, Gray, and Lampe. Miles explains that by liking and commenting on other pictures and bringing attention to yourself, those profiles that you interact with will be more likely to follow you, and subsequently their friends will be more likely to follow you too after viewing the interactions. In directing the reader to do this, Miles is providing sound advice on how to acquire a large number of followers in a short period of time, an important aspect of increasing awareness of your product on social media. As a part of this discussion he also warns the reader of becoming overactive in liking and commenting on people’s pictures, as it may come off as spam and result in a deleted or blocked profile.

      Throughout the book Miles uses his small business, Liberty Jane, as an example of a real life application of his guidelines. My and Ray’s issue with this is that there is no real variety in his examples. The reader receives a very limited explanation of the guidelines only as they are related to a customized doll clothing company, something that is very difficult to relate to. Were Miles to provide examples of how larger or more widely known companies also demonstrated similar tactics to his, that would ensure that the reader gains a comprehensive understanding of how certain marketing tactics could (or couldn’t) work for diverse companies, creating a more satisfactory learning experience.

      This book is a great tool for those who are completely new to Instagram and want to promote their business’ brand. Although Nicholas saw the first few chapters as useless—since those chapters consisted simply of instructions on how to use Instagram—I believe that, considering the audience, the instructional chapters are necessary in that they provide the somewhat older and less tech-savvy reader with the basic Instagram knowledge required for them to optimally use the book and see results. I would have liked to see advice on how to promote the self as a brand—something that would be useful for artists—but Miles concentrates solely on small business by using his own company as an example. Claire and Skyler both mention a concern with this limiting issue as well. Of my group members’ criticisms, I was struck by Victoria’s observation that Miles missed an opportunity to discuss performativity, something I hadn’t realized that brings up a very good point. Given the visual nature of Instagram, the platform is a perfect channel through which to perform any desired persona. It would have been very helpful for business owners or artists to convey a certain identity that would allow them to better reach out to customers. Although there’s no way Miles can know exactly what kind of businesses are using his book and thus what kind of identities these owners should display, he could have explained the importance of developing an online personality and performing this to best appeal to desired clientele.

      I do wonder, along with Claire, Skyler, and Michelle—who have also brought this into question—how Miles would approach the new video feature as a marketing tactic. I feel he would most likely be in support of such an extension as it could provide an even greater in-depth look into a company’s backstage area. If Miles were to create an updated edition of Instagram Power, I would like to see his view on how to utilize the video feature to reach out to customers, promote the brand, and reap the marketing benefits of Instagram that the pictures may not have offered. I would also very much like to see his take on how someone could use Instagram to promote themselves as a brand. What kind of changes would this make to his strict marketing guidelines for small businesses? Overall I think Miles’ book is very helpful for those within his niche audience–the older, more so technologically impaired small business owners. Although I wouldn’t use this book myself, it still definitely has an audience that could make great use of it. 

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One comment

  1. […] by weak ties (knowledge, opportunities, connections) will help you reach more customers. Yasmace also suggests discussing the attention economy (Tufekci) to explain how how attention is a rare […]

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