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Professional Instagram pages: What’s hot and what’s not

September 17, 2020

Uta Rußmann, Senior Researcher at FHWien der WKW, analyzes users perception of images and videos on professional Instagram pages.

Uta Rußmann is Senior Researcher at the Department of Communication at FHWien der WKW. Her research focuses on digital communication, (visual) social media, public relations, strategic communication, political communication, campaigns and the public. In her contribution to the newly published anthology “Vernetzte Bilder. Visuelle Kommunikation in Sozialen Medien” she analyzes how images and videos on professional Instagram pages are perceived by users. She takes a closer look at two Instagram profiles of top candidates in the Austrian national election campaign in 2017.

Self-expression of the top candidates on Instagram

Instagram has become the medium of self-expression. It is therefore no wonder that political parties also favor this social media channel to push their top candidates through the election campaign. The image of the person is literally staged there and follows a certain dramaturgy through “management of self-portrayal”. Carefully selected pictures and videos intend to convey credibility, closeness and sympathy.

“Correct” decryption by followers is crucial

Whether the strategy of political self-staging on Instagram actually works, however, depends on the subjective perception and information processing of the followers. The “right” decoding can therefore be “distorted” by the users’ own perceptions. Therefore, professional Instagram operators should not reckon without their host.

Top or Flop Posting?

The results of Uta Rußmann’s study show in detail which posting categories are popular with voters and which of them they absolutely dislike. In a quasi-experimental setting, the test persons evaluated the Instagram postings of two top candidates after free surfing. The results confirm Instagram as a visual and emotionally charged channel in which text plays a minor role. Only if users are unable to decode a photo or video do they include image captions and comments. In particular positively perceived by users were pictures of conversations with citizens and touches like shaking hands. Negatively judged were Instagram postings that were too obviously staged or where the story behind the picture was missing.

Tips for practitioners: authenticity and storytelling

Operators of professional Instagram pages should therefore pay attention to authenticity and consider possible “decryption errors” on the part of the followers in advance. It is also important to transport a story and thus give images a context. Nothing is more annoying than having to read a textual explanation on Instagram…!

>> Book preview

>> Extract from Uta Rußmann’s research work