Normally, I wait until a paper is published before releasing a free and accessible version for download. However, because of the speed of change around Instagram, the popular, mobile photo-sharing application, I decided to release this one to the public well ahead of its October, 2012 publication.
I’ve been interested in how people use Instagram for a while now. And since I primarily study professional communication in digital environments (and particularly social software), I became increasingly interested in how organizations were using Instagram.
The 2012 IEEE PCS conference theme is communicating vision; while I didn’t have an in situ Instagram project in the works, I thought that some approach to organizational uses of Instagram would be relevant to the conference theme.
Rather than trying to design and conduct a new study in the midst of the four other studies I was running at the time, I decided to work on developing a coding schema that I and other researchers might use as an entry point for exploring the organizational use of Instagram.
This paper describes that schema by systematically analyzing several months worth of Instagram photos produced by organizations in three very different sectors: NPR, a prominent news organization; Heifer International, a sustainability-conscious non-profit; and ModCloth, a vintage clothing retailer with an impressive, multi-genre social software strategy. I used a content analysis methodology to produce case histories of Instagram implementation within these three organizations. This approach is necessarily limited, of course; I hope to follow up with an in situ study soon.
The paper has been favorably reviewed, and I expect revisions to be minimal. If you’d like to cite this paper before October, I've provided the basic details; otherwise, look for the official version with page numbers soon.
I hope this schema is useful to other researchers, and I hope that this exploration of Instagram in professional communication contexts is also of interest to folks who study social software. Let me know what you think!