What makes one social network stand out from the rest in our techno-saturated, app-centric digital world? Instagram has taken the world by storm and created legions of devoted users and followers. 2017 saw its member base surge to 800 million individual users and 25 million business users. So what makes Instagram so special and so different from other social networks? And how can pastors and church communicators take advantage of this unique app?

Having Facebook as an adopted guardian might give any social network a boost, but Instagram was pretty special on its own.

Here are five traits that differentiate Instagram from other social networks:

Image is Everything  

From the beginning, Instagram made a bold statement that they believed sharing images was the central feature of a successful social network. Branded ‘the image sharing app,’ they understood that visual images share ideas and motivate users and followers instantaneously, and in a way that is different from words. Visual recognition and appeal are powerful. People value beauty and are inspired by it. This ever-changing, fresh, and continuous stream of compelling images from around the world keeps Instagram users engaged and have the power to instantly grab attention and communicate complex ideas.

Instagram’s social network also that feeds our insatiable appetite for devouring these images and videos by helping us share them so easily. Sharing and accessing images and ideas from around the world keeps the millions of daily Instagram users happy and coming back for more. Sharing images quickly, consistently, and from mobile screens is another one of Instagram’s keys to success.

Mobility

The new 24/7 plugged-in lifestyle revolves around one device, smartphones. Lucky for Instagram. Created specifically as a mobile app, Instagram is perfect for today’s busy and mobile lifestyle. It was made for capturing and posting content on the go and users love it for that reason.

Around the world, mobile phone use has easily surpassed desktop and laptop computer use for the last decade. Smartphones are being used in the most remote parts of the world where people are less likely to even have computers. Nearly everyone has a smartphone and these smaller devices easily integrate into people’s lives. Just slip it in or out of your pocket or your bag and go.

In recent years we were also told that our smartphones contain more sophisticated technology than the computers that took the first man to the moon. We have powerful microcomputers in our hands all day long. And with smartphones offering better technology at lower prices each year, camera resolution is always increasing and making it easier for users to share high-quality images and videos that grab more attention. This is great news for busy Instagram users.

Speed

Life is speeding up and apps that keep things moving quickly are appreciated. Since Instagram is both a mobile phone app and image-centric, posting becomes simple and fast. Post a photo and go. The short, one-word captions that accompany many images and videos keep posts short and succinct as well. Instagram posting can take less than 10 seconds, though many users admittedly give more time to crafting important content.

Instagram also makes use of another facet of modern, digitally-enhanced time: the short attention span. Users appreciate being able to quickly swipe through images and videos to catch up on what their friends and followers have been doing. Quick searches on a topic, brand or person can be done in seconds or minutes too.

Millennials learn and move through new technology and content at warp speeds too. If an app can keep millennials engaged it has a future. Instagram has captured the attention, energy, and momentum of millions of millennials who just want to have fun using their app. Quick, easy, and fun to use apps can become popular based on usability and speed alone. Throw in a thriving social network of snappy pics and videos and a star is born.

Simplicity

Instagram is all about keeping it simple. Download the app and start posting images. That’s it. Search and find what you want. Simple. Instagram’s new search by hashtag feature makes finding what you want even easier too. This keeps users engaged and the flow of information moving.

Want to post a photo or video with no caption or a one-word caption? Great! Perfect! The shorter the better. Everyone is in a hurry anyway. The app interface itself is also simple and streamlined, putting the images and videos front and center. These bite-sized, visual posts simplify the information exchange and keep the focus on the entertaining images.

Fun

Instagram has made it fast and fun to explore, research, follow, and connect with the people and topics we’re interested in. There is also something unique about the desire to share inspiring, moving, funny, and thought-provoking images and videos on Instagram that say something about who you are. This seems to keep the momentum of Instagram posts flowing in the direction of being enjoyable and entertaining.

It’s fun to learn about the things we like. It’s fun to create and share content we like. It’s fun to search and find content we like. And it’s fun to connect with and follow people that we like. There’s a world of fun and interesting information online. Combining compelling information with our social network makes it easy to find more of it.

Instagram’s algorithm also presents content to us that it thinks we might like or that our friends and follower might like. And yes, all of these fun information transactions on Instagram do also release dopamine and make us feel good and keep us coming back for more (see all of the latest research and conversations about social media addiction). Can we really help that using this app is so amusing?

Is Instagram Right for Your Church?

Some churches may still be unsure about whether Instagram is right for them. Pastors, church communicators, administrators, and youth and ministry leaders should review and discuss whether this social networking tool offers something their churches need right now. The data is clear that millions of people around the world enjoy using Instagram to build connections, gather and share information, and to communicate. Organizations and businesses are successfully advertising and selling on Instagram too. It might be time for your church to take a closer look at Instagram.

Learn more about Instagram and how your church can utilize this social networking platform to enhance your communications and outreach opportunities our Instagram ebook.