Instagram Power Book Review

Instagram is one of the newest social media platforms that is up-and-coming, being based on the simple concepts of shareability and visual appeal. The social platform was recently just bought by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012, and as of August, it even surpassed Twitter in number of daily active users, as Yasmeen mentioned, just to give a general idea of how quickly Instagram is growing.

Jason G. Miles, author of Instagram Power, runs his own company called Liberty Jane Clothing, which specializes in clothes for dolls. He uses business strategies and examples that draw from Liberty Jane Clothing in Instagram Power quite often, in order to explain how Instagram can be used to specialize in building a brand, reach more customers, and be used as an advantage for small businesses. I didn’t have an Instagram account until I started reading this book (if i’m going to reading a book on Instagram, I should probably get an account, right?), so I thought this would be a good introduction to the platform, and maybe even apply some tactics from the book to the app.

Overall, I feel the book did a relatively decent job in explaining the ins-and-outs of Instagram, but at the same time, I did have some reservations about some of the concepts explained (and lack of explanation) within the book. I also felt the book was directed toward an older audience who might not be as tech-savvy as millennials; csmtwerk found that Miles does not directly state who his target audience is for the book, and we inferred through the content and style of explanation that it would probably be geared towards older small business owners that are not too familiar with social media and have a service or product to sell that need to build or maintain an audience. Even as a never-before-user of Instagram, I still found the first 3 chapters to be very self-explanatory and almost like general knowledge– at least, for a millennial (explanation of what a hashtag is, how to download the app, how to create a profile, etc). Saad makes a great point that the manual-esque and detailed step by step instructions definitely made the book seem geared for an older audience who may not have experience with social media.

Also, because of the undefined target audience which we as readers had to assume were an older audience, I think with the wide amount of topics he covered, the book should have been either much longer in order to explain further some concepts, or have a more honed focus instead of attempting to cover everything in just two hundred pages. Victoria also felt that generally, the book was helpful in a basic level and that they act as good guidelines, but don’t really strive much further than that.

There were of course, some aspects of the book that I thought were well-written and explained; Carolyn, Nicolas, and I all noted that Miles does incorporate basic marketing techniques like AIDA(Attention, Interest, Desire, Action), and I think he provided a good breakdown and description of marketing strategies in general, as the AIDA model is crucial for a business on Instagram(and any business in general…) to convey to their customers. Attention is one of the most valuable assets for a company on Instagram (Tufecki, attention economy), and several of us(Nicolas, Skyler, Ray, Carolyn, and Michelle) agreed and recognized that the attention economy is an integral part in relation to Instagram as a social platform. Miles does discuss briefly about the importance and value of attention on Instagram, and Michelle recognized this as one of the main goals of the book; the number of followers, likes, comments ultimately determines the success of an Instagram profile, as mentioned by Carolyn and Nicolas. The latter half of the book was definitely more useful and helpful in terms of understanding the marketing side of Instagram, and Miles’ chapter on the AIDA model I felt explained general concepts of marketing that could be applicable to Instagram and even tapped into concepts like the attention economy as well as backstage-front stage (Goffman, Presentation of Self in Everyday Life). His emphasis on attention and backstage as two aspects that highly influenced the other were noted by Skyler, Ray, Carolyn, Michelle, and I, and especially with a platform like Instagram that is so visual-based, a behind-the-scenes, backstage concept certainly plays a large role in getting more traffic to your profile.

One of the most important aspects about Instagram and that was discussed repeatedly throughout the book was the concept of media multiplexity (Nancy Baym), which Nicolas, Saad, Ray, Michelle, and I took note of. This is especially important for Instagram because as a fairly new platform, it is crucial to transition existing customers to the company account, whether that be from Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Miles segments the marketing process into The Anchor, The Offer, The Visual Curator, and Chemical X which are all good aspects of a basic marketing plan, but I think The Offer would probably be the most crucial step, because the number of weak ties (Boyd & Ellison) there is enormous, where existing customers “will find and follow their friends when they create an Instagram account, and then they will find and follow you (Instagram Power p.47).”

While Miles does touch upon these underlying concepts for both marketing and social platforms, I still think he could have expanded on several areas of his book, and discuss further about the actual social aspects and norms of Instagram (as noted by Michelle), like what a user can do to be funny or witty, and to comment a lot, but just enough so that commenting isn’t overused and undervalued. He does briefly mention norms like integrating humor and “unique product photography,” but his statements a  very vague and general (“Never Be Boring,” “Reveal your passion for good design,” “get interesting and unique product photography,” etc). I would have liked to see more examples of these statements, or a further explanation of how to achieve not being boring or being unique on Instagram. Social norms aren’t really discussed much, and although it’s understandable to not dedicate a large portion of a business book to consumer behavior and social norms of a platform, I think it is still very necessary and essential in order to create a well-rounded, more thought-out presentation of his arguments and examples. It’s important to highlight and discuss the role of the consumers and their growing influence on businesses and marketers, as it is better to have an understanding of both sides so that the reader could also be aware of the role of the consumer. After all, a business won’t go anywhere if they can’t read their audience and behave according to the social rules of a given platform.

I think Miles wrote a book that could be useful to older small business owners who have a niche product or service, but it wouldn’t be exactly beneficial to majority of millennials or individuals who have experience with technology. He accurately describes basic marketing strategies for business, but doesn’t delve into a deeper explanation of the social side of Instagram, which I think would have greatly improved the book. As someone who didn’t have Instagram before reading this book, I don’t think it could have helped me as much as I expected, but there were still some aspects of it that were insightful and applicable, more notably near the latter half of the book. I appreciated the easy read, and the well-structured format of the book that also featured pictures to demonstrate his points, and although I probably wouldn’t recommend this for another social media class, I think the book certainly could be of use to an older generation or those not as tech-savvy.

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