The photo-sharing app Instagram turns five years old this year, and its number of users has surpassed 400 million, with 80 million+ photos shared every day. We are reaching a point when this seemingly unstoppable force is fundamentally altering the way we engage with places, with considerations about how Instagram-worthy they are becoming one of the criteria in how much we enjoy a space.
We see an increase of places marketing themselves as destinations using Instagram. London Victoria Station, for example, uses Instagram to draw attention to pop-up events, new decorations or charity collections. With its own Instagram account, it can draw attention to the aesthetics of the space, framing itself as a place which is desirable in and of itself, not simply from what you may be able to utilise it for. Instagram creates a shift in perspective for the station from being a place people travel through to a place people travel to.
Two of the top ten most instagrammed destinations in the world last year were shopping centres, Dubai Mall, UAE andSiam Paragon Shopping Mall, Bangkok. Many centres are using their own accounts to harness this free advertising tool and tap into the potential of its massive global reach. Its consumer-owned status allows credibility when used as a platform to promote new openings, offers and events.
The use of Instagram plays a part in our interpretation of these places. These shopping centres are not famous only because of the quality or range of stores in them, but because it becomes somewhere exiting in and of itself, using social media to increase the ‘destination status’.
Other shopping centres could follow in these footsteps and aim to be ‘instagrammable’ – after all, they are trying to market themselves as a destination too. Their reputation partly comes from the stores that occupy their galleria, but is also related to the design and layout of the centre itself. Is the space of the shopping centre a place where people would want to be? If a shopping centre can market itself as a fun, stylish or desirable place, then it can increase its footfall.
The use of Instagram would shift consumers’ interaction with a space to further this agenda. As instagram becomes more integrated with consumers’ lives, it can be an increasingly effective way of reaching people. For shopping centres, this could be the new direction for drawing people in.