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Hashtagtics - A Study of Image Hashtagging Strategies on Instagram Team: Nadia Dresscher-Lambertus, Simeona Petkova, Tommaso Renzini, Nili Steinfeld, Charlotte Webb

During our recent investigations into the imagery of Kony 2012, we found that the #Kony and #Kony 2012 hashtags were attached to many images that contained no visual or textual references (parodic or otherwise) to Kony 2012. These unrelated images represented an average of 34% of our sample. Following this, we wanted to further investigate how images are tagged on Instagram, and whether we could identify a specific strategic repertoire for hashtagging on the platform.

Research Questions
Are any specific actions enabled on Instagram through hashtags?

Is there a specific strategic repertoire associated with hashtagging on Instagram?

We looked at the ‘top 100 most commented on’ and ‘top most liked images’ for #Kony and #Kony 2012. We categorized the images into the following:
Kony related images (in red on the maps) Unrelated images in terms of text or visual to Kony (in purple on the maps Meme images (in light blue)
We performed a hashtag analysis for each hashtag in each category.


There are several types of hashtagging related to the images (for both #Kony and #Kony2012 datasets). We found unrelated tags in all the categories

The top 3 most commented images showed no hashtags in the data set. We suggest this is because the users deleted comments in order to add further hashtags.

The API ‘remembers’ which hashtags were used even if they have been deleted by the user. (we can’t tell whether the comment was deleted because someone wanted to correct a mistag or to push an image). The cheated photos appears isolated on the 4 maps.

The IG hashtag has a longer life cycle than the Twitter hashtag, because it can be replaced in comments over a period of time. In Twitter, hashtags are “frozen” within the tweet and are not “retrievable” after two weeks. They are not editable by the author after time.

The IG hashtag is more dynamic than the Twitter hashtag in terms of ‘editability’. Other users, who don’t have to be followers, can also add hashtags to the IG post, but only the author can delete the hashtags in the comments.

Spamming on Twitter was found to be an intervention in the content stream (Grier, Thomas, Paxson, Zhang, 2010). On Instagram, we can suggest that the intervention is aimed at increasing and extending visibility, which may in turn increase the number of followers.

We found that hashtags have common and at the same time distinct strategic repertoires in Twitter and Instagram, according to the specific affordabilities of the respective platforms. The less specific the hashtag, the more the possibility for it to be used tactically

Common functions or gestures are operationalized differently due to the specific databases logic on Twitter and on Instagram (see the table below)

*Organize* *Archive* *Participatory actions the # enables*
*Instagram* #s organize images in a topical stream dynamic tagging
#s are also a way of organization. Although it is notable to mention that you can go back and add additional hashtags after the moment you’ve send the image on ig. It’s not frozen.

multi-user tagging/archiving
Other users (both followers and non-followers) can also “tag” images of other users.

retrieving tags
in comparison to Twitter where you can only search for tags within a maximum period of 2 weeks you can search for tags and find them.

the ig archive is more dynamic in comparison that twitter and it has the capacity to change during time because of above mentioned capabilities.

authors’ private archiving practices
Not only can the ig user use popular #s in order to get visibility in a specific topical stream, but the user can also create for specific #s in order to organize his/her own images in different categories in a personal way
the # on ig enables visibility on topical streams, this enables the opportunity to get “likes”

by finding an image through the # can enable indirectly commenting

Sharing other users’ images
share other users’ image internal through @username tagging

share other users’ images external through “tweeting”

adhoc publics
#s enable adhoc public forming around images (e.g MoveDC/Moby project).

*Twitter* #s organize tweets around a topic (in a topical stream) tweets are tagged at the moment the author creates these and are not amendable. Other users cannot edit a tweet from someone else and the #s are only retrievable within a period of two weeks. #s pushes the tweet on the topical stream and this can indirectly lead to “favoriting” the tweet or “re-tweeting” it.

if found through the # stream, the opportunity exist to reply to the tweet through the @ function

#s enable adhoc public forming around topics. E.g. #s associate twitter msgs with events
Topic revision: r2 - 25 Jan 2013, Simeona
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