Insta-famous: How Instagram makes for Authentic Publications


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Instagram, a relatively new form of social media, popped onto the media scene in late 2010. According to their homepage, the app now hosts over 30 million users and has already had 400 million shared photographs. Instagram is already well on its way to leading the social media pack.  Claire Hird said, in her academic dissertation on social media marketing, “Online social networks that support visuals are some of the most up and coming outlets that are being utilized by everyone.”

Instagram’s founders hoped to accomplish three goals according to the Instagram homepage.

  1. Helping average users produce professional looking photographs
  2. Creating a quick and efficient posting process
  3. Helping you to share across all platforms in one click

Instagram has achieved these goals according to AAAI technical report on Social Media Visualization. They say, “Instagram, the recent fad in mobile photo sharing applications, provides a way to snap photos, tweak their appearance, and share them on various social networks with friends, family and complete strangers.”

The dominant benefit is the sharing. Not only are users uploading and sharing on Instagram itself, but they are publishing their “instas” to Facebook and Twitter. James Borow, CEO of SHIFT, explains this in an article on the Social Media Examiner, “Brands create Instagram videos, share them to their Facebook pages and then boost them into paid media that hits the Facebook news feed… brands to reach Facebook’s 818 million monthly active mobile users and Instagram’s 130 million.”

Among the many industries that have hopped onto the Instagram bandwagon for marketing, are magazines. Magazines can use their accounts as a platform to talk and share with readers while also promoting their website and print publication. Like Instagram, magazines are telling stories through photographs even though magazines include more writings, stories, and literature. This is why Instagram is a success in the magazine industry; they are built on a similar structure- story telling. According to an InspiredMag blog post on how to use Instagram, magazines should “Narrate a story to them (followers) through your pictures. Tell them what your brand is about through this story.”

Although almost every big name magazine boasts an Instagram account where you can find published and personal photos and stories, TIME magazine comes to the forefront with their success on the site.

According to their account on the app, they currently have over 585,000 followers that are viewing, liking, sharing, and communicating with them on a daily basis. An article from the Content Marketing Institute talks about how TIME uses Instagram. “Posting photos from all over the world, the magazine provides candid, first-hand glimpses into the global issues that are covered within its pages on a weekly basis.”

They post covers of their print magazine, pictures from publications, and records of worldwide excursions. They extensively caption and credit each photograph, often linking it to the full story or publisher.

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TIME has had several successful Instagram campaigns that have increased their popularity and website traffic. The first was coverage of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. According to a Forbes article, the director of photography- Kira Pollack, recruited five photographers to photograph and publish coverage of the storm to the TIME Instagram. It can be viewed here. The campaign was a huge success. The set of pictures became one of the Magazine’s most popular series yet. Polack said,


“If there was still any debate about whether serious photojournalism can take place in the context of camera phones and cutesy retro filters, it’s over now.”



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To further the integration they bridged the series to the next print publication by utilizing one of the series’ photographs on the cover. Another successful campaign via Instagram was their extensive coverage of the most recent election. In the same article from the Content Marketing Institute they said,

“TIME’s recent real-time coverage of the Democratic and Republican national conventions was an impressive visual display that made readers feel like they were right on the convention floor.”

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Along with their photo series, TIME also hosts contests for their followers, encourages conversation, and promotes their other platforms. TIME has created the perfect combination for Instagram success. They have bridged print to digital via Instagram, and merged their readers and followers-what used to be two separate demographics- into one strong backing.


4 thoughts on “Insta-famous: How Instagram makes for Authentic Publications

  1. Instagram is definitely fast, easy, and a fun way for friends, family, and complete strangers to connect through photos. TIME magazine was smart when creating an account on Instagram because I feel people are constantly checking the Instagram feed. The Hurricane Sandy platform was such a great way to share instant news because it was such a devastating time where people wanted as much information as possible in order to help victims and understand the severity of the natural disaster. This was a great example of how important it is to make news instant because of how many people are connected through social media. I think it is cool that TIME has contests to encourage conversation and gain more followers too.

  2. Instagram is my personal favorite social media platform. It requires no thought, but rewards the user with so much information. You can find out what all of your friends, family, and favorite companies are doing by quickly scrolling through. That is what makes Instagram such a great platform for companies. I wouldn’t think a serious magazine such as Time magazine would use such a platform so well, but that’s great that they manage to get the word out. One magazine that I love to follow on Instagram is Good Housekeeping because they’ll post about behind the scene action and give you tips on things involving good housekeeping.

  3. I follow a couple magazines on Instagram such as National Geographic, and TIME, and I think they do a fabulous job! They are able to tell the story with an image, and maybe a quick description. They still encourage and entice the reader to read the full story by posting the link to their online magazine in the description, and I have been interested in reading several of their stories and seeing more of the pictures. TIME is a great example of a best practice for how a magazine company can excel on Instagram. Awesome post!!!

  4. I wrote an article on my food and social media blog about the power of pictures on Instagram, and I agree that it’s definitely a great medium for showing their followers their brand’s personal story. It’s interesting though, that you highlighted it’s benefits through sharing, because I was more focused on the power of appealing to human interest through the photographs for consumers to feel an attachment to the product. It just goes to show that the tactics in every industry overlap so much, but the marketers have to use different strategies as well. I love the way Times used it to cover stories. I read an article recently that was about what historical events would look like on Instagram if they were happening in 2014 and it was really interesting!

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