How Instagram Is Transforming The Creative Industries
Sean McGowanApril 26th, 20175 minute read
Sean is a technical researcher & writer at Codal, authoring blog posts on topics ranging from UX design to the Internet of Things. Working alongside developers, designers, and marketers, Sean helps support the writing team to ensure Codal produces engaging web content of the highest quality. When not writing about the latest innovations in app design, Sean can be found cooking, watching old movies, or complaining about the shortcomings of his favorite Philadelphia sports teams.
Since its launch in October 2010, Instagram has morphed from simple photo-sharing platform to social media giant, an everyday essential for nearly all smartphone owners. This is no hyperbole—as of December 2016, the application boasts 600 million active users.
Instagram has not undergone this transformation in a vacuum—as the app has grown and matured, it has shaped the creative industries that use it as a conduit. Artists, designers, and models use Instagram as a channel for their practice, and in return their respective fields have felt the impact of Instagram’s meteoric rise.
Some of these changes have been drastic, others more subtle; some positive, others negative, and most too early to tell, for now residing in the murky in-between until their effects have been fully realized. What is clear, however, is Instagram’s staying power: this is no fleeting trend.
Perhaps no other industry has felt Instagram’s influence more than the art world. Throughout its history, Instagram has maintained a relationship with artists that is fraught with ambivalence—it has been both a blessing and a blight on how art is promoted, digested, and distributed.
At the most rudimentary level of the app’s impact, Instagram offers artists a level of exposure no gallery ever could. As a social network dedicated entirely to the visual medium, Instagram has made all art more accessible, regardless of the popularity or prominence of the artist.
Whether they be budding newcomers or already firmly established in the art world, Instagram has taken on the role of an art dealer for all. In 2015, Artsy surveyed a sample of collectors and found a massive 51.5% purchased work from artists they discovered via Instagram.
Of course, this increase in exposure, access, and ultimately sales for artists comes with a cost. Art plagiarism remains rampant across Instagram. At best, artists find their work screenshot and distributed without compensation; at worst, their work is stolen or duplicated outright.
Instagram and art’s marriage is further complicated with the former’s censorship policies. An age-old debate, Instagram has often taken the side of the expurgator, sometimes removing artistic content from their app for containing provocative messages or imagery.
Instagram’s role within the art world is an amalgamation of gallery, dealer, and censor. We can learn from its successes as well as its mistakes. With proper mobile app development, other companies occupying the art sector can fill the holes Instagram has left unattended in the art world.
While Instagram struggles in a wavering relationship with the art world, it seems that the app and the fashion industry are a match made in heaven. Their symbiotic relationship has led to Instagram creating a Fashion Partnership division in the company, led by Eva Chen.
“[Instagram] democratizes fashion. There’s a greater connection to the customer now. Instagram enables brands to build a voice and speak more specifically to their audiences. Designers are not just thinking about the people at the shows.”
Chen’s claim is corroborated by her company’s quantitative data. Back in September 2015, when the fashion industry’s spring 2016 collection debuted, Instagram posted skyrocketing engagement numbers: up to 44 million unique accounts.
An impressive statistic, and one that supports the notion of Instagram bringing fashion to the masses. But perhaps a greater indicator of the app’s impact on the industry is not increased engagement, but rather the birth of an entirely new entity in fashion: the insta-model.
The millennial's answer to the supermodel craze of the 90’s, the insta-model describes someone who has cultivated their personal brand (via Instagram) enough to be paid for promoting products and sharing content.
And by paid, I mean paid. Like standard modeling, the insta-model field is both limited and lucrative—some insta-models are paid up to six figures per post. Companies are willing to shell out an astronomical amount to gain instant access to an insta-model’s millions of followers.
Insta-Model Infographic (Source)
Fashion retailers are recognizing the influence Instagram has on fashion, and trying to replicate it in their own mobile apps. Many hire an app development agency to create apps that capture the “Instagram experience” for their own brand: to make it more accessible to the masses, to promote, and to connect.
Among the millions of mobile apps in the world today, none have changed the landscape of creative industries like Instagram. It has acted as a complete role model, demonstrating it’s successes and failures for other creative companies to emulate and learn from.
Instagram remains social media’s pioneer of influence on the creative industries—it’s time for other apps to capitalize off the trail Instagram has blazed.