Instagram is one social networking site that rose straight to the top among other popular sites like Facebook and Twitter ever since it's launch in 2010. When it first came out it was exclusive for iPhone, ipad, and ipod touch users and it allowed its' users to upload photos and edit them to their liking through digital filters and enhancements. Today, anyone can create an instagram profile and users can also upload video content as well. Considering the fact that I am a visual person, it is safe to say that Instagram is definitely my favorite social site out of them all.
Throughout the past three years, Instagram has gone through some changes and enhancements (including being acquired by Facebook for $1 billion) in order to sustain it's popularity and continue to compete with other Social Networking Sites. It appears as though Instagram has transitioned from a social networking site to a content community. I believe that Instagram is more of a social networking site as opposed to being more of a content community site, but the uniqueness about Instagram is that it could go both ways. In "Community vs. Social Network", Michael Wu, Ph.D, Lithium's Principal Scientist of Analytic, says "the single most important feature that distinguishes a social network from a community is how people are held together on these sites. In a social network, people are held together by pre-established interpersonal relationships, such as kinship, friendship, classmates, colleagues, business partners, etc. The connections are built one at a time (i.e. you connect directly with another user). The primary reason that people join a social networking site is to maintain old relationships and establish new ones to expand their network". His analysis supports the reason why I believe Instagram is more of a social network as opposed to a content community site. For example, when you first got on instagram who did you follow or allow to follow you? I know for me personally, I added all of my friends and I follow all of my friends. Instagram was a quick way for me to see what was going on with my friends in real-time each day, every day. Most of my followers on instagram and I were connected by a "pre-established interpersonal relationship". I've also been able to establish new relationships with friends of my friends on Instagram.
Now, while I do believe Instagram is more of a social network as opposed to a content community site, that is not to say that I don't believe it can't be considered a content community site either but I believe it has less characteristics that would qualify it as a "content community" site. Dr.Wu tells us "Communities are held together by common interest. It maybe a hobby, something the community members are passionate about, a common goal, a common project, or merely the preference for a similar lifestyle, geographical location, or profession. Clearly people join the community because they care about this common interest that glues the community members together. Some stay because they felt the urge to contribute to the cause; others come because they can benefit from being part of the community." As far as Instagram goes, the common interest is that we all like to take pictures. While, I know there are hashtags that can link Instagram users together, I wouldn't say the hashtags bring Instagram users together because of a particular preference for a similar lifestyle. In my opinion, the hashtags on Instagram are much like a Google Search Engine, and they provide users with photos based on key words. I don't think any of us are really contributing to some cause by being on Instagram...other than creating a database of memorable photos that highlight events in our life. However, I will say, I do see how people can benefit from being a part of the Instagram community and this is one of the characteristics of Instagram that I believe would qualify Instagram as a "content community" site. For example, I am inspired and motivated to continue and pursue my rigorous workout routine and maintain my clean eating habits by following influential fitness experts on Instagram like @Mankofit. We both share a passion for fitness and Instagram brings us together through this common interest.
Now, with Instagram adding video and the ability to share and email photos and videos on the site to other people, I can definitely see where people are considering it to be a content community. Perhaps these enhanced features will lead to instagram having various groups focusing on areas of common interest within the specific content.