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Today most everyone in the western world has a smart phone in their pocket with a higher quality camera lens than most consumer cameras have ever had, and that combined with the interconnectivity of these devices means that photos and videos are now being shared at a rate never before imagined. This has many positive effects that help improve the transparency and accountability of a society by giving voices to many who would otherwise be voiceless, who can now film a misbehaving police officer or report any number of offenses with actual photo evidence of the occurrence. There are also no doubt, many negative psychological effects of constantly being connected and never having to think for a moment rather than entering your query into a search box, but we’ll leave that for another time.

Psychological, privacy and societal ramifications aside, being able to share, comment and even just like photos and videos of friends and loved ones brings more humanity in a sense to the web 2.0 class of social sharing sites. The difference between a stream of thoughts in your news feed and a stream of photos is the difference between having a soapbox for your opinions and having an online library for your memories. That isn’t to say, of course, that there is no value in non-photo-centric sharing sites but the value is in many cases supplemented by the fact that there is a forced relationship between these social networking sites once they become large enough to acquire one another (for instance sharing from Instagram to Facebook is easy enough to do now, but in pushing photos the feed on Facebook is then secondary in some respects, unless you’re wanting to show photos to friends on Facebook who may not follow you on Instagram). In having people share more intimately and freely with photos, videos, locations, and life events, there somehow is preserved more of a sense of “community” and interaction than in the early days of web 2.0 sites or chat rooms; this is apparent in work such as the Like Knows Like project.

Amanda Jasnowksi (who took the above photo) and Daniel Seung Lee are the most recent guest Instagrammers to work with us, and we tried incorporating their styles into the shots they’ve uploaded so as to leverage their inherent values and not come off as sales-man-y. People can follow and care about a brand if that brand exhibits values and shares content they care about (there are many great examples of people using Instagram for personal use and to promote brands organically such as our friend Lauren Lemon or one of our other favorites Theron Humphrey). There are also many major brands that have used Instagram effectively, such as The Onion, Whole Foods and Barack Obama. I recently wrote about Tom White’s tips for online branding which mentions one of Corduroy’s social media clients, OTG, who has gained a lot of attention lately with their iPad rollouts in airports. OTG understands their customers want to see fun and relevant content and not just a stream of written self-serving status updates, so we reached out to a few photographers we know in the NYC area to help provide a more consistent stream of quality, fresh content to post on OTG’s Instagram account.

This is a popular new trend called “guest Instagramming” where you can hire talented iPhone photographers to snap and upload photos on behalf of the brand’s account. In many cases a company acquires its social media handles in order to own the name for the long-term, but they may not know what to share or when. We at Corduroy have working relationships with a lot of these influential photographers, but you must find someone that fits the style you’re going for and try to make it as organic as possible so that they are sharing a photo with the certain shoes, bike, soda or whatever the product may be in a seemingly natural way. If the photographer is going to share a photo on his/her own feed as well, to help spread awareness and gain traction, it needs to be done in a classy way so as not to turn a photo stream into a billboard – which at this point in time can be like walking a tightrope for many, but a simple rule of thumb: if the work is questionable to you, it’s no good. This is true in product placement in film and television as well. There’s a balancing act in incorporating the reality of consumerism into the end result of an artistic medium without sacrificing intent. If it is solely content to be posted on the brand’s page, the brand should be having content produced that brings positive associations with their brand’s values and focus less on immediate sales, as is the rallying cry in another of my past posts: social media is not bullshit.