Beyoncé recently surprised us by announcing her new record was immediately available for download. She did this on Instagram. Buuuuuuuuuut that probably wasn’t where you found out about it.
Though Instagram has more (mobile) users than Twitter and Tumblr, you often discover Instagram posts outside of Instagram, on Twitter and Tumblr.
Why isn’t Instagram its own distribution?
- instagram doesn’t have regram (no built-in reshare social gesture like retweet/reblog/repin )
- child comments on instagram are second-class citizens, and especially unsharable ( 1) they don’t have their own URL, 2) they cannot be reshared with built-in social gesture like “retweet/reblog/repin,” same handicap as top-level posts)
People have developed workarounds for this, like tagging their friends in comments of photos they want to pass on. But that can’t quite overcome the structure of IG’s network design, in terms of discovering stuff you don’t directly follow.
On Twitter + Tumblr, it’s different. You bump into stuff you don’t explicitly follow all the time. Twitter and Tumblr each have native reshare gestures (retweet and reblog). And any “reply” post is as equally shareable as an original post. Replies are not a secondary post-type. (On Twitter, an @-reply is a full tweet that anybody can favorite, retweet, bookmark, or reply to. On Tumblr, the most common reply format is a reblog, which gets its own URL, ability to be reblogged itself, and Liked.)
This lack of native resharing on Instagram is why you found out about Beyoncé’s new album on Twitter/Tumblr, not Instagram. That’s why you saw more #selfieolympics excellence via Twitter (even when pictures were hosted by Instagram). It’s why we find creative videos like The girl who’s never been on a nice date, via a Tumblr reblog, even though it was first hosted on Instagram.)
I’ll stop short of saying Instagram must add regram. (There are costs and benefits to these decisions.) But it’s why things don’t spread there.
I’m sure somebody who’s studied lotsa network science knows the technical terms for these behaviors, but this post is mostly for other agency people. I have a similar conversation over and over about social gestures on Instagram: posts can feel like a “dead end” in terms of social gestures. (Not in terms of other good stuff. Instagram is great, etc. We love Instagram, etc.)