What would you say is the most powerful social media platform today?
I was having this conversation recently with a good friend of mine and the conclusion we came to is that Instagram is the name of the game where social media is concerned, for several reasons.
There are, of course, a wide range of social media channels to choose from today; Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, the list goes on, and all have a particular take on what makes the social media experience a success. Where Instagram leads the pack, I think, is in its ability to offer a powerful mobile tool that is built on the visual experience. Instagram is very much a baby of the smartphone age and its toolset is designed to work in the palm of your hand and not on a computer screen.
This alone gives its users a sense of immediacy and makes the Instagram experience very personal, either as a content generator (as you take and post the pictures or video on it) or as an observer (you scroll such content). Posting or browsing through Instagram feels fluid and very now. It's easy to use and, because it's primarily about what you see when doing so, it feels intuitive and rewarding as a user experience.
That visual element (despite the text, graphics and comments which are also a part of Instagram) is what gives it a particular kind of power, making it a display window for those men and women that can present themselves well and who are happy to do so.
There's much talk at the moment about the power (perhaps diminishing power) of what are known as 'Influencers'. For those not in the know, influencers are those people who use Instagram (as well as other social media platforms) to promote themselves, along with brands which are motivated to be associated with such influencers, due to their usually high number of followers.
To give you an idea of the kind of Instagram reach we are talking about here; Love Island star Tommy Fury has 2.8 million followers, Fitness Trainer A J Ellison has half a million followers, NBC Titan Games contestant Davy Michael has nearly 300,000, NFL footballer Dan Vitale has 36,000, fitness coach Roger Snipes has 720,000, fitness model Craig Morton has 96,000 and bodybuilder Mousa Esmaeilpour Karimi has 727,000 followers.
And behind all of these gentlemen is a huge number of other guys coming up the ranks and building their following step by step.
All of these guys enhance their influencer status in one way or another by including in their pictures or videos those products, services or locations which enhance their image (and, by association, that of the product, service or location in question). It's a form of set dressing and endorsement which works both ways, putting brands before media-savvy consumers and lending credibility and reward to the person sharing such commercial love with their followers.
Such Instagram influencing grew fast and organically along with the platform and is now coming under a degree of scrutiny as questions are raised over when such activity tips into manipulation and undermines the authenticity of the influencer (which is at the heart of the influencers' value, of course).
In the fitness world, which is (let's be honest about this) built largely on visual cues and associated value, Instagram has become the channel of choice. I am on Instagram, many men and women I know in the sector are also on Instagram and, for slightly obvious reasons it works very powerfully for our community because it shows how great we all appear to look, or can look in certain filtered photographs.
For those at the higher levels of our community (the athletes, models, fitness competitors and elite personal trainers) Instagram is a natural complement to getting the body beautiful message out - and how! Essentially, if you have what it takes, if you've worked hard enough in the gym and you've eaten and rested right, Instagram is where your stage and audience is waiting.
As will be the opportunities to then influence via nutritional endorsements, fashion spreads, location shoots, and so on. It's a competitive market, but looking good can come with real rewards on Instagram, particularly for those men in the fitness community who have what it takes to get ahead.
Ready, set, go, etc.
The counter-argument to all this potential opportunity is that it encourages individuals to commoditise themselves and to treat their bodies as products for the financial benefit of the Instagram network and is thus to be resisted.
I'm not so sure about that.
To my mind, the drive to get ahead in the world and to use physical assets to do so in a highly competitive consumer market has been a feature of our society since time began, as well as a viable route to commercial success and recognition. In the modern era such male stars as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Channing Tatum and 'The Rock' have built or partially built careers on their physiques and fitness (and best of luck to them).
If God gives you lemons, make lemonade, as the saying goes.
As far as I'm concerned, building one's health, fitness and body to succeed on the sporting field or in the commercial arena is equally valid, as long as the person doing so acts rationally and in his or her best interests. Plus, there is nothing wrong in recognising the progress that has been made in fitness, or indeed in the beauty of the built form.
The human body is a platform to achieve great things, just as much as Instagram is.
How effectively either is used is up to each of us.