Article in Marketing and Growth category.
What These Weird and Creative Instagram Accounts Can Teach You
Instagram is a great example of a relatively simple feature used a myriad of ways by different users to promote, market, fundraise, and create art.
If your Instagram feed is the typical feed of friends, family, and some artists or internet celebrities, you are barely scraping the surface of what’s out there. Among the social media giants, Instagram is the platform least reviled. Perhaps this is because it demands very little of the user: you can scroll, maybe pause to like, but there’s no real imperative to have a conversation or speak your mind. “Here is a garbage can I saw,” is a popular sentiment on Instagram. “This dog agreed to let me take its picture.” The interface has been adopted by all kinds of people and organizations, and is a great example of a relatively simple feature used a myriad of ways by different users.
Facebook's little hobby, Instagram, grew out of a startup, Burbn, designed to act somewhat like Foursquare, allowing users to check into places and post photos of their meals or experiences. The founders scrapped Burbn and reinvented it as a competitor to photo-filter app Hipstamatic, only with a social function. In the end, the public photo feed is the feature that made Instagram a giant. Today, the company is worth a reported $35 billion, but let's look at why.
We’ve gathered a short list of Instas that are trying something a little out there, whether it be experiments in narrative, raising money for a good cause, or digging into the strangest depths of the human psyche. The one thing they have in common is a will to push the boundaries of the photo/photo-story — proof of a solidly designed product that holds endless appeal to new users.
The Future Is Visual
Artist Keith Larson sees faces in everyday objects. You might have seen other faces-in-things accounts on Instagram (@facepics, @thingface, and @seefaces are just a few), but Larson takes it to the next level by creating digital art from his rough findings. The rare account that splits the difference between hand drawn art and photography, Faces within Places highlights the strange way our brains work.
Yes, OFSDS is an account filled with adorable snaps of doggos (the original and still the best social media strategy), but it works as a landing page for a nonprofit. The organization works as a sort of retirement home for elderly pups. Located near Nashville, this enterprising nonprofit is gunning for one of IG’s biggest draws in order to raise money.
Greg Reitman uses Instagram as a showcase for mini psychedelic trips. These videos are strange at first, but each is its own short film, containing obscure social commentary and striking imagery. Tbh we were skeptical of the pivot to video until we discovered this exploration of the medium. The absurdity of the videos actually feels like it makes more sense than half the thinkpieces out there in 2017. Check out some of Reitman’s #videoarte below:
Shield Five is an experimental serial narrative delivered via Instagram. Each post is a 15-second episodes or static image installment in a crime thriller that unfolded over the course of a month. It’s no longer active, but worth viewing to see just what kinds of storytelling Instagram is capable of as a platform.
This one a wacky parody of both celeb worship and food porn accounts. It manages to be both and neither, combining photos of Meryl Streep with some of tasty snacks. Proof that there is never enough Streep content on the internet, this account also follows the cardinal Instagram rule of using a strict formula.
This one is for your inner (and outer) design freak. Simply a gallery of the oddest and most labored- over labels, each image contains relics of a lifestyle that is slowly fading. These labels are of course used to convey information and display brands, but it is a testament to the creativity and willingness to get weird that smaller creators and brands still have.
No surprise that the art world has been at the head of the pack when it comes to using Instagram, but MoMA and its compatriots (@tatemodern, @lacma) offer a deal of content streamed live through their “stories.” Lectures, Q&As, and tours of exhibitions function almost as MOOCs for the casual learner and go partway toward "democratizing" art.
If you spent the ‘00s checking The Sartorialist to see if your “street style” made the cut, you’ll feel fashion writer Alice Gregory’s feed. A progression from Humans of New York/The Sartorialist’s plaintive journaling, Gregory offers something that feels like real life, with enough zeitgeist thrown in to feel like she is capturing the moment.
The image-based vernacular is often what the most popular Instagrams have spoken in. Yet some accounts (Texts from your Ex) are bringing back the printed word. While the aforementioned account mines text messages for humor, Punk Flower Child presents modern poetry with a barebones aesthetic. The words are all that exists here and they let poetry and the power of spoken word live on well past their expiration date.
As you scroll through your Instagram feed, the variety of offerings has definitely broadened since the heyday of hot-dog legs and #brunch pics. Companies like Glossier have launched using the platform as a showcase for their beauty products, photographers are using it as a portfolio, and fitness apps are big business in the age of Sweat Like Kayla.
But these accounts show that a well-designed platform is always ripe for experimentation, and for new uses.
What Is Instagram Good For?
- Portfolio for artists and photographers
- Advocacy and news releases for nonprofits and media outlets
- Marketing of retail products (beauty, clothing, books) and destinations (travel)
- Influencer marketing - grow your following and add subscribers
- Online learning run by museums and public resources
- Fundraising and activism
- Multimedia news and art
- Personal brand building