Curating a Global Instagram Community – A #JJ Case Study

Instagram is a great network for photographers to express themselves and reach a receptive audience around the world. But of the 40 million photos posted everyday, simply sharing quality shots is hardly enough to get noticed.

The Instagram team works to find gems among the community and features these on the official blog as often as it can. They’ve recently uncovered dailydoodlegrams, the whimsical portraits of Emily Call, the levitating ones of Junanto Herdiawan

On top of publishing these articles, they showcase the best of their community within their app, via the suggested users list. By featuring users who only share beautiful photos, and engage regularly with their followers and fans, the team highlights role models for newcomers to follow.

Curating a Global Instagram Community - A #JJ Case Study

 Photo courtesy of @dailydoodlegram

But there’s only so much that Instagram’s 4 community managers can do to unite their best users. This is where Instagram communities can help.

These communities have spawned around the world, with the noble goal to help deserving Instagrammers reach popularity within the app, and to make content discovery easier. Accounts such as @joshjohnson, @instagood, @instagramhub or @all_shots built communities from the ground up, and now manage a constant influx of submission on a daily basis.

I got to talk with Kevin Kuster, Community Manager at Josh Johnson‘s forum, to learn more about its history and organization. (you can follow Kevin on Instagram: @kevinkuster).

Getting the community started

Before starting a community, Josh Johnson simply was an early adopter of the photo app. A true fan of the possibilities offered to him, and a photographer at heart, Josh took his Instagramming to the next level. Back then, Instagram was still a nascent ecosystem, with fewer members and photos posted, but hashtags were already commonly used as a content discovery tool. So Josh signed his photos with his initials, #jj.

Soon enough the #jj hashtag became used by his followers too, then spread across the network.

Using a hashtag to unify photo submissions

Today, #jj is one of the most used hashtags on Instagram, totalling 45 million photos. For a community manager, having too many photos to sort through is a great problem to have. And on the plus side, the #jj hashtag continues to draw more members into the community.

But in order to cut through the noise and ensure the quality of the photo submissions, Josh came up with the idea of daily forums. Each forum has a theme, and is represented by a numbered hashtag (ex #jj_forum_0550). On a given day, an average of 10,000 photos are submitted.

So, how do Josh and Kevin manage to keep track of so many submissions?

Selecting photos and users to feature

The JJ forum follows a well structured organization: no less than 48 editors, located all around the world, search through hashtagged photos and select their favorite ones.Curating a Global Instagram Community - A #JJ Case Study

Image: Instagram Analytics from Nitrogram: Repartition of Instagram photos shared on #jj_forum_05500

As this map shows, Josh Johnson’s members truly are scattered worldwide. Hence, the importance of having an international editorial team monitoring submissions around-the-clock.

Once the editors’ pre-selection process is completed, Josh and Kevin validate the best ones and post them on the official account.

Building for the future

Kevin and Josh are constantly thinking of ways to favor their Community’s evolution. How to keep bringing value to their members in the constantly changing world of Instagram?

On this topic, Kevin says the development of a website presence is on their minds.

They are also looking at opportunities to bridge the online/offline gap with events and promotions. They recently ran a special theme in association with Alt Hotels from Canada, where Instagram photos from JJ were displayed on a wall in the Hotel’s lobby. The event was praised by JJ’s followers, and will be repeated soon, Kevin says.

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Photos (123) courtesy of Alt Hotels

In the end, they want to create new experiences that aren’t disruptive of their community’s main goal: to feature great Instagram content.


What opportunities do you see for JJ to grow? What other Instagram communities do you know of? Let us know in the comments section.

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About the author

Thibaut Davoult

Thibaut is managing content and community around Nitrogram: Advanced Analytics and Social Media Marketing Platform for Instagram. He's a contributor at KISSmetrics, Social Media Today and Business 2 Community. If your brand or company is on Instagram, he's probably following it already. He's so interesting that Soulja Boy follows him on Twitter.


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Following several communities. Enjoy #colorsoftheweek, #collectivecomprehension and #insta_magical to name a few, plus similar connections around #virtualinstawalk, #dailyemoji, #windowshotwednesday and #tellsomethingtuesday.


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Thank you so much for the article! :-)


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