Content Communities and Social Media. Is Instagram a Different Animal?

I personally like the overall transition from social to content. I think that people have become familiar with social media so much so that meeting people online has become commonplace. It also fosters a really diverse, expansive community that is truly limitless. What better a social mechanism is there than a content community where you can come together with like-minded people? Coming together in content communities is no different than joining a local club for a particular interest.

Content communities are somewhere where “visitors search the content communities by keyword, hashtag, can subscribe to individual users or brand pages, and provide comments on the content.”

According to this article on Lithium, social networks are held together by pre-established interpersonal relationships between individuals. Content communities are held together by common interests. Most people on social media connect with those directly connected to them, where in content communities, new members do not know most of the others in the community.

Ann Handley wrote in her article “Why Instagram Matters to Marketers” that Instagram, at its core, allows you to tell stories visually, but with a simplicity and immediacy and elegance that’s hard to beat.” She goes on to talk about how due to its layout, the platform essentially trains users to search for content.

Instagram is a different animal. In fact, it is bit of a hybrid; part social media and part content community, but entirely entertaining.

I would describe Instagram as a high content and high community platform. It is far and away my favorite form of social media. The photos and videos are engaging, but not overshadowed by annoying status updates or arguments that consume newsfeeds.  Content is easy to browse, search for, locate and connect with. Additionally, it is a great way to discover new things or stories; it’s my visual version of StumbleUpon. With Instagram growing at a rate of more than 2 million users a month, it is easy to imagine how many content communities there are within the social channel/content community.

Instagram can be seen as a content community in that has several defining features like the hashtag for filing photos and that users self-identify with others to connect. Instagram is basically an online database of multimedia content that is shared in a social media setting personally while also allowing personal accounts and media to be open to new members like a content community.

Hashtags are proof that there is enough like content out there to be sorted through hashtags that individual communities can pop up. The best example I can think of would be fitness.  This goes to my second point that Instagram is a content community based on self-identification with others.

Fitness enthusiasts, or “fitspos” as they like to be called, often find each other on Instagram through hashtags, sharing, commenting, and tagging (all of which are characteristics of content communities as mentioned in this week’s lecture).  Fitspos often follow other fitness enthusiasts, dieticians, personal trainers, fitness competitors, and inspirational pages.

By “following” another user on Instagram, you are essentially subscribing to their social/content network. Users often connect with new followers through other users that they have previously identified as someone with common interests. Blogger Nicki Hicks says that with the fitness community, Instagram has become a way to increase accountability. I agree 100 percent. The social community that inspires, teaches, and holds others accountable- well, that must be a new age content community.

Additionally, with integrated marketing communication so invested in involving different channels, it is hard not to imagine Instagram as a content network when it is often wired back to Pinterest through “pins” or to Flickr and Facebook through Instagram sharing preferences.


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