Social Media Mythbuster: Aesthetic

Instagram is a platform based within the premise of being a photo sharing network. Therefore, it is important to post content that is visually appealing. However, what’s visually appealing to some may not be visually appealing to others.

As a brand, social media sites like Instagram are the face of the company. For most followers, they will never met the people behind the brand, therefore, their only association with the brand is what they see online. As a result, consumers/ followers make up their mind about a brand based on what kind of content they see. This proves that the aesthetic of an Instagram profile as a whole has a huge impact on the perception of their consumers.

For insight on what makes a Instagram posts aesthetically pleasing, I looked at the data gathered by an analytics firm called Curalate.

“The research found blue-tinted images received 24 per cent more likes than images where the predominant colour was red or orange.” (Woollaston, 2013)

I tested this technique and used an image that was predominately blue.

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Image with a focus on blue aesthetic resulted in 92 likes and 1 comment.

However, the outcome wasn’t as expected. My target goal is over 100 likes per photo, as our account is followed by 2.6 K people. However, this post only received 92 likes which is substantially lower considering over 20% of the image is blue and in bright lighting.

I then turned to red, where the analytics firm stated that after extensive research, they found that images with red and orange received less engagement than blue.

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An image that focused on red also received 92 likes and 1 comment. 

According to the research conducted by Curalate, it was discovered “photos in which one colour in particular dominated the image gained 40 per cent more likes that multi-coloured images.” (Woollaston, 2013)

I used an image where the focal point draws the audiences attention to the red pants which contrasts the low-saturation blank space. Interestingly, I discovered that both images received the same amount of likes and comments.

For the brand that I am working with and the audience of my Instagram account, this theory has been disproved as a myth!

Using filters on content re-presents the world to the audience. In this sense, the audience are consuming content that is specifically created for them therefore reinforcing Jean Baudrillards notion of Simulacra where the edited copy replaces the original.

I then turned to Instagram guru, Danielle Marie and her tips on filters.

“Filtered photos are 21% more likely to be viewed and 45% more likely to receive comments, compared to non-filtered ones.” (Bakhshi et. al, 2015, p.7)

In order to achieve this aesthetic, I downloaded VSCO cam and browsed Pinterest for filter combinations that would allow me to achieve a low saturated aesthetic as it received 18% more engagement than vibrant photos. (Woollaston, 2013)

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The VSCO Cam filter I used.

I used this filter preset because it was low in saturation as used A6 which is a filter recommended by many Insta-famous micro-celebrities.

I produced this image using the Pinterest filter suggestion in VSCO cam.

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This post received 127 likes with a low saturated VSCO Cam filter on top.

I soon discovered that in order to achieve an image that it in likeness to the Pinterest filter board, the image itself needs to be bright and in high natural lighting from the outset. The image that I used was a quite dark and high contrasted image, so it didn’t look exactly like the Pinterest board but it did have a low saturated look that I was after.

The post surpassed 100 likes, which meant that it reached my goal. However, I wanted to test the theory of low saturation vs. high saturation.

I had posted an almost identical image of body painted dancers just 3 weeks prior without changing the saturation levels and without using Pinterest as a filter guide. The image I posted 3 weeks earlier was edited to compliment the high contrast between the background and the dancers and was high in saturation so the audience focuses on the colours and vibrancy.

This post received 143 likes.

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Both images were posted on a Thursday at 12pm, therefore, they were targeted at the same audience of that time slot.

Many Instagram accounts are different and target specific audiences. However, with the focus of my brand being around dance, lifestyle fashion and music, this emulates vibrant and static content.

Hashtags
As a whole, these images which are low in saturation or had one predominate colour collectively accumulated 549 likes. 
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A week later, I used images that were low in saturation but had more of a focus on colour throughout and these images collectively accumulated 658 likes. This proves that the audience of my brand respond better to colour. 
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This collection of images which are high in saturation and colour resulted in a collective 666 likes which is more than the previous 2 collections of images (low saturation and low saturation with colour). This proves that my audience responds the best to high saturation and colour. 

This comparison between the low and high saturation proved that for my brand’s audience; high saturated, high contrasted and vibrant content performed at least 8% better than posts with low saturation.

As a result, I have proven that low saturated content performs better than content focusing on one predominant colour. I have also disproved the myth that content with high levels of blue perform better than content with high levels of red.

It did take some time to find the perfect filter combination that works with the content. However, over time, it becomes easier to determine what content suits your Instagram aesthetic and which images react better to the Pinterest filter suggestion that you have chosen.

Concluding this investigation, I discovered that having a focus on aesthetic suggests that the only way that audiences fully engage with content is if it is mediated. Therefore, this investigation notes that without the interference with the original version of the image, the audience does not engage fully.

Here is my rating of this social media hack:

Timing: 3.7 Stars

Practicality: 4 Stars

Success: 2.8 Stars

Engagement: 3 Stars

Ethical: 4.5 Stars

Common Practice: 4 stars

Overall: 3.6/ 5 Stars

Instagram: @danceeditorial 

References:

Woollaston. V 2013, ‘Want more ‘likes’ on Instagram? Make sure your photos are BLUE: Images containing the colour receive 24% more attention,’ The Daily Mail, 9 Novermber, viewed 4 May 2017 <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2492885/Want-likes-Instagram-Make-sure-photos-BLUE-Images-containing-colour-receive-24-attention.html&gt;

Bakhshi. S, Shamma. D, Kennedy. L, Gilbert. E, 2015, ‘Why We Filter Our Photos and How It Impacts Engagement.’ Yahoo Labs <http://comp.social.gatech.edu/papers/icwsm15.why.bakhshi.pdf&gt;

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