Every day (or almost every day) I enjoy clicking on a small icon on my phone screen labeled ‘Instagram.’ I am welcomed into pages and pages of photos; some are my friends’ updates on their weekends; others are random popular users posting about their dog (which I gladly follow); still others are my favorite companies branding their products and their holiday gift guides in hopes for a good sale this Christmas. To be honest, I am always surprised when I see users without a popular dog or some sort of animal for pet lovers, who have 10+ thousand followers on Instagram, and admittedly, jealous, too. So it happened naturally that I wanted to read Instagram Power and learn about the power of building ‘your’ brand. The author, Jason G. Miles, provides a marketer’s guide for small businesses to expand their brands through a photographic social medium.
Instagram Power is an in-depth guide for inexperienced social media users looking to augment their brands and create relationships with customers via Instagram. The book, more of a manual, provides a very thorough ‘how to’ on every Instagram tool as well as integrates the author’s company, Liberty Jane Clothing, a company that designs and sells clothes for toy dolls and its strategy of expanding their social media presence through Instagram. However, #csmtwerk has agreed that this book was catered for an older audience, one not in our generation. According to Marketing Charts, the largest demographic for Instagram ranges from ages 18-29, but we felt that Miles did not address us, which was perplexing, since building a brand should be about reaching the largest demographic for the respective SNSs. That said, Instagram Power would be useful for amateur users and blossoming entrepreneurs (although, even then, I can’t say it’s the most helpful read).
One thing Miles highlights as a method to gain followers is to create a “tribe” of possible customers and fans through the use of effective hashtags. This will bring together people with common interests and followers who will be interested in the company’s products. One such example the author used was the hashtag #McDStories, and how it began as a way for McDonald fans to say heart-warming things but instead became a hate tag where customers posted insults towards McDonalds. As Nicolas, Skyler, Michelle, and I mention, it is important to use the right hashtag and to use it appropriately so as to avoid incidents like those. Further on, Miles points out the importance of what Terranova deems as “affective labor” in her article Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy, which touches upon the right way to go about reaching consumers. Affective labor can be best described as the immaterial labor that is executed to produce cultural content for a product and thus evoke an emotional response from the customers to eventually purchase the products. As Miles puts it, “There are powerful emotions at play when we see mages on Instagram…” and then goes on to report the “12 Common Buying Triggers Found on Instagram” (location 1440 [Kindle]). Some of these were more obvious, such as desire and curiousity, but others were ones I hadn’t thought of prior to his reading, such as “desire to collect, storytelling, urgency, [and] exclusivity”.
Miles reiterates the importance of photos and states that Instagram was “designed to do one thing very elegantly – share photos. That simplicity of focus has real power” (Location: 312); and it is through these simple photos on Instagram that companies seek for a sliver of the high demand for attention. Our group all came to a unanimous conclusion that what Shifman calls the “attention economy” (Memes in Digital Culture) is one of the most important purposes of the book; as Tufekci explains, in modern-day society, your success is measured by your popularity online – the number of “likes” and followers you have determines your worth as an online presence. As Michelle mentions in her notes, the attention in demand is no longer about “quality over quantity,” but rather, the opposite. Personally, I’ve seen this to be true – Instagram itself determines who gets on the ‘Explore’ page by the number of likes a user gets in a matter of minutes – the more you have, the likelier the chances of reaching the page and thus receiving more likes and more followers. It’s a repetitive cycle.
After seeing the validity in Miles’ points, I returned to look closely at his company’s online presence on Instagram. As an ‘expert,’ I expected more, but Liberty Jane Clothing was rather disappointing. With not nearly 4,000 followers and only 176 posts, this account had minimal likes on photos, ranging 150-400 likes per photo and a couple comments, if any. I have friends that get more likes with less followers than him, so needless to say, I was not very impressed. If we’re going by the standards according to Miles and the readings our group and class integrated into this assignment, I cannot say that this company is successful in its online performance. Furthermore, Miles states that companies should post 2-3 posts daily, whereas LJC’s account had days without posting a photo. I didn’t feel as if I was seeing his own methods being fully executed for his own company. In addition, another unanimous concern that csmtwerk had was the quality and content of the photos presented. We all agreed that it seemed as if Miles was going with Goffman’s concept of frontstage versus backstage (Presentation of Self in Everyday Life), by providing an insider’s look at Liberty Jane Clothing through what we implied as backstage photos. However, generally, an agreed definition of backstage photos from celebrities are behind-the-scene shots at photo shoots or social outings; in Miles’ case, we felt that some photos were inappropriate in that it had little to no relevance with the company.
[Screenshot taken by myself]
For example, the above photo is an image of two women, after a long hiking trail. There is no mention of LJC and though it is a sweet picture, this is one of many that we thought to be irrelevant to the company. An appropriate photo that was posted though, is this, we agreed:
[Photo taken by myself]
This is a “sneak peek” at one of the jackets for the dolls.
The backstage content, although it is less ‘official,’ should still be relevant to the brand and should promote the products.
Lastly, Miles did not seem to address those without a product to promote; his book did not address micro-celebrities who had nothing but themselves to brand, and this was a fallout for csmtwerk. After discussing our expectations for this book, we had originally wanted to see how companies, celebrities, or ourselves could market the individual to gain followers and online popularity, but unfortunately, Miles did not touch upon that concern. Overall, though, the book itself was a relatively enjoyable read. It is not that the book itself was poorly written, but simply that it did not seem that Liberty Jane Clothing and Miles’ methods were aligned. Instagram Power was written for an older audience, and I would recommend it to new users who have never used this platform before, but for a younger generation, I would say it was a lot of already known facts and functions. This said, I did definitely learn some new tricks on Instagram thanks to Jason Miles and am glad to have learned a few new things of my preferred social media platform.