Integrating an Interface: Instagram

Instagram is an application created solely for the purpose of sharing videos and pictures. This application was originally designed to accommodate smartphones only so that users can take and post their pictures instantly. Like most social media sites, Instagram’s intention is to connect users with their friends, families, and public figures. Additionally, Instagram also serves as an entertainment application that offers users an all-free and enjoyable experience as content creators, story-tellers, video makers, and especially photographers.

Features and Affordances:

The first affordance of Instagram that it is free to share pictures and videos. Users can post pictures and share stories relating to the picture with a limit of approximately 300 to 350 words. It is convenient for people who prefer to write journals or write daily diaries online (and it comes with pictures too! How convenient is that?). Besides sharing pictures, Instagram allows users to save posts from other users into personalized albums or in a general user’s album. This function resembles Pinterest in a sense that it allows other users to create an album, save pictures to it, comment, and like the picture. Instagram makes it easier for users to navigate pictures by utilizing “hashtags”. One downside of the caption feature is that users cannot post a hyperlink in the caption. This is why a lot of people have to paste the link in their profile biography, and post a picture promoting the said link. This seems to be a hassle in the first place, but it seems convenient for users in a sense that they can view the picture or a short video cut of the content, and see if they are interested enough to go further with the full content.

The second feature of Instagram is a 24-hour post called Instagram Story. The users have the ability to post pictures or videos on their profile, but the content only stays for 24 hours. After that, the content will disappear and is only available for the owner for viewing.

Figure 2: The Instagram bubbles showing unviewed stories from other users one follows.

Instagram used to make the content not available for owner after 24 hours. Thus, offering users a chance to review the contents categorized by day adds in another good feature for people who likes to write journals and daries. Personally, I believe this is a perfect feature to have for Instagram as it allows people to focus more deeply about the moment of the day without having to care about the likes of the post, and any comment or thoughts on the picture or video will be shared privately between the users.

This story feature is highly utilized by users for its convenience and variety in activities, such as adding a question, a poll, a quiz, stickers, gifs, locations, and time (see figure 3). Instagram has also accommodate the ease of spreading awareness amongst the COVID-19 pandemic by putting Stay home and #ThanksHEALTHHEREOS on top of the activities board along with the choice to call for donation (see figure 4).

The third and newly introduced feature of Instagram is the Instagram TV feature (IGTV). This feature enables accounts to post videos that are longer than a minute. This feature is helpful for users as it allows them to cast a wider net of entertaining activities for their followers. At first, I love this feature because I’m not bombarded with ads like watching a video on YouTube or Facebook. This led me to think that IGTV videos are demonetized, but I was actually inaccurate. For more information on this, please see the Advanced Users section.

The fourth feature is Instagram professional vs. personal profile. The features of a business professional profile will be elaborated in the Advanced Users section. As Instagram users, we are all familiar with the personal profile mode. For Professional profile mode, it is split into two categories: Creator vs Business. A Creator’s profile is best for public figures, content producers, artists, and influencers, where the user only needs to showcase their products akin to a portfolio and/or build a set of fans or followers. While for a Business’s profile, the user can learn about their customers and create promotions targeting their customers.

To me, the main difference between these two modes is promotional advertisement. Within the Business profile category, there are other categories one can choose from, such as Personal Blog, Art, Musician, Grocery Store. Besides informing users about the business’s main field, this categorization does not have any significant impact on user’s interactions or promotions.

The fifth feature of Instagram is the “Search” or “Discover” page. This page is specifically tailored down to an individual level based on what a user “liked” before. This allows people to find more interesting contents from hashtags or categories (see figure )

Constraints:

About the constraints of the application, Instagram’s Search and Discovery features limit users’ ability to discover new contents in a variety with its algorithm. Some people can only discover similar contents or profiles to the ones they had previously liked before or followed. While this might be the More Like This feature on Netflix, it does not help to broaden user’s experience and discoveries.

Moreover, the Instagram website is not as functional as the Instagram mobile app.

Figure 6: Instagram on website (feed to the left of the screen and stories to the right of the screen)

A user cannot view their direct messages through the website. This defeats the purpose of staying connected with each other, but it has almost all of the functionalities for users to utilize. Another downside of the Instagram website is that the users cannot post any contents on their profile or stories; instead, they can only view the contents that are already posted.

Advanced users:

Instagram is a multi-dimensional social media, which means users can maximize its features by monetizing their contents, such as Instagram TV or posts, just like YouTube’s contents. However, within the first 18-month period of producing Instagram TV on the content hub, producers are not allowed to include interval ads in their videos. Because Facebook runs the same “interval ads” concept with 55 percent cuts for users’ videos, Instagram TV’s ad interval may have the same rate. With minimum monetization, content creators have to look for sponsored contents or product sponsoring to generate funds.

As I mentioned earlier in the post, I love the fact that the Instagram TV does not have ad intervals. I have seen lots of artists posting their videos on Instagram TV so that their followers don’t have to switch to another app. I benefit from this feature as I can move the video bar to any point of the video I want to watch, unlike a video post on Instagram where I have to stay for a whole 1 minute if I missed the part I need to watch.

Accounts on Instagram are deemed “free” and users might not need to pay a special pass to get access to features that are accessible to advanced users, but Instagram divides its users into classes like “personal profile” and “business profile”. For Instagram, they utilize followers and likes as a monetary medium from users. People choosing “business profile”, Instagram offers the account chances to promote ads to gain followers and increase interactions. The ads will be “personalized” based on the content users have searched for or liked on Instagram. More than that, Instagram ads collect user’s data from caches and cookies for location and interest to generate ads that best fit the user’s immediate interest.

The ad bares a resemblance to an ordinary Instagram post, but it will have the word sponsored beneath the user name, and occasionally a phrase Learn More beneath the picture or video. Personally, I dislike these personalized ads as it makes me feel like my privacy is being violated. I can understand the ads, but it should not project the things I visited. Rather, the ads should address products that are of similar concept as the products I might like, so I can have better choices of products as a consumer.

More than that, Instagram has sponsored mostly beauty-related businesses for online promotion and direct shopping features called “Instant Shopping”. This feature applies for Professional Business profiles only. I have never used this feature at all, but I have utilized this feature to browse and reference most of the profile’s products before I actually get on the website to buy it. Because pictures posted on the Instagram about the product is either a “review” picture from a real buyer, or a feature of an influencer, I can see the different lightings of the products and have a better insight on how it is used.

References:

Monetization of Instagram TV: https://techcrunch.com/2020/02/06/igtv-ads/

Hello! I’m a senior at UIC majoring in Communication. Welcome to my blog.