Colin Deval

An Instagram user in her natural habitat

By Colin Deval on June 13, 2013

There was a girl. On a train. With an iPad.

She was sitting to my right and we both faced the back end of the train.

There was a man across from me arguing about apartment rentals on his mobile phone, in a mixture of what seemed like a Balkan language and colloquial English, the kind you use when you’re trying to show off the new skills you’ve acquired.

My friend and I had just landed in London and were on the Heathrow Express on our way into the city. I was tired, but eager to read the scenes around me. The girl sat with her father next to her. He stared, dully, out the window. She was next to him, across the aisle from me, but in a completely different world.

Where was she and why am I telling this story?

This photo, shared by @JaneSomers is extraordinary.
This photo, shared by @JaneSomers is extraordinary. Look at the “likes” and comments. I shared it on Twitter and there were, at least, an additional 17 retweets, extending the audience to thousands and thousands of people. The power of imagery.

This girl, in her teens, was online. Not in the traditional sense. Down the rabbit hole. Her iPad took her away from where she was; a boring train with boring people.

At that very moment, she was using Instagram – in a way that opened my eyes. She flew through picture after picture after picture, pausing just long enough to look and double-tap each one to “like” it. I use Instagram, but I’ll tell you right now – I’m a little more judicious in my “likes” than that girl. I’m sure it has something to do with the 20-year age difference, but that’s beside the point. She was gobbling up whatever was out there.

Not every company is marketing their goods or services to a teenage girl. Even if your audience is different, even if you feel your goods or services don’t mesh with a new social tool, the point is people are there. People are using these tools. Social media – the new digital experience – gives us incredibly valuable tools to help build and maintain an experience with our audiences where they are and when they want to be there. The experiential rabbit hole.

Look, I love Instagram; I think it’s brilliant. It’s an incredible way to connect with people’s creativity, character, interests and not-so-hidden secrets of their lives. It puts you in the know with people, places and things in a way the supermarket checkout line quality of Facebook just doesn’t achieve. I see more “likes” and conversations happening on Instagram every time I use it.

Why? Because it resonates with people. Forget the filters. Sure, that’s in there – photo filters to dress up that sunrise, baby, dog, party, #AlleyShrimp or, most assuredly, your amazing dinner from that amazing restaurant. That’s in there. But its entire design – and the connections it provides to what people, places and things stand for – is incredibly compelling. Remember, Steve Jobs said design is how things work. Instagram works in a compelling way that makes people want to use it because of the doubly compelling visual content that is there. It’s a person, place or thing’s story in an instant, an artful snapshot that is easy to share or “like,” and leaves you wanting more.

Is it right for your company? Will it help you build your brand? Maybe. Probably. But, above all, it’s important to recognize its power. The power of the image and the power of digital design and experience.

How you make your company and brand a part of that experience will help you give your audience another chance to connect with your organization’s values. And it can give you a fun way to creatively express those values.

So have at it.


Colin is a PR and social media specialist at Core Creative. Follow Colin on Twitter @colindeval.