The Underrated-ness of VSCO

VSCO Discovery

I’m one of those people who takes pictures of everything. Myself, my friends, my shoes, my food… really, everything. As a devout photo-taker, I am also a avid photo-sharer. My photos on Instagram and Facebook often follow suit in what people commonly share – photos from tailgates, sunset photos of the Res, and various other BC-eqsue scenes. I would consider myself a rather basic user of the more common social media platforms, and I rarely deviate from the norms. While I’m consistent with this trend across my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts, there is one platform where this changes.

I first learned about VSCO from a friend still in high school when I was on winter break last January. Full disclosure, we were stalking people who used to be on a sports team with us, when we noticed a VSCO link in an Instagram bio.
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*Random Instagram account, not person we were stalking.

Clicking on the link led us to their VSCO account page, and as we scrolled through, we found more pictures of the aforementioned stalkee. Though these photos were similar to those on this individual’s Instagram account, they felt somewhat more personal. There were scenes that seemed like they were from everyday life, and communicated a lot about the individual. Fascinated by this photo blog, we both decided to make an account and try it out.

My Initial VSCO Experience

It was confusing at first. VSCO wasn’t a place for my photos that I posted on Facebook or Instagram, and users tended to post several photos in a row. Scrolling through the Discovery feed, I came across professional and extremely artistic photos. Not only did I feel like my basic-ness didn’t have a place on this app, but the UI was so confusing. I could not even figure out how to upload a photo without having my friend walk me through the steps.

After a few months of not using the app due to mere frustration around the navigation, I decided to give it another try. I spent about 20 minutes looking for a picture, editing it, and uploading it. Though it didn’t seem like a lot, it was quite a feat, and I was proud of myself for getting into a community that seemed very different. My first post was a sunset, how committal and daring of me.
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Why VSCO > All Other Photo-Sharing Platforms

As my future VSCO posts improved, I continued to be curious about the platform and how it functioned. Unlike other social media platforms, VSCO doesn’t make money from advertising, rather it sells filters for editing photos. Another major difference is the target users and how people use the platform. While there is some overlap of users (people like myself) between traditional social media sites and VSCO, many VSCO users are using the platform to showcase their photography skills utilizing VSCO’s filters. I find this segmentation of users interesting, as VSCO’s value seems to be transferrable to completely different groups. VSCO is successful in not deterring any type of person from expressing themselves, however they’d like, without feeling out of place in the VSCO community.
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I think VSCO has done a great job of not committing themselves to one segment and creating an exclusive platform. As someone who enjoys taking photos, but is not a professional photographer in the least, it would have been very easy to feel out of place on a platform like VSCO. However, the company’s strong branding of the app as an inclusive platform gives it a lot of potential within many different segments. I’m very curious to see if VSCO will make a move to narrow down their target market, or they will maintain this all-inclusive user base.

Another huge differentiator of VSCO is that it doesn’t have an easy function to find your friends using the platform. This makes the platform much less social, and somewhat reliable on Instagram for discovery. However, this low-sociability aspect might be intentional. If VSCO wants the platform to serve people who care more about the quality of photos, rather than the number of friends they follow, they don’t have a direct need to incorporate an easy discover feature. However, this aspect can also deter many users who want to find their friends on the platform, who currently discover VSCO accounts through their friend’s Instagram accounts. Personally, I love the fact that VSCO is less focused on social connectivity, and it’s actually one of the reasons why I continue to use the platform.

There is something very powerful about posting something on the Internet, without reserve and without the pressure of it being “within the norms”. Often I find myself over-evaluating photos I post on Facebook, wary of the fact that my friends might not approve. However, VSCO is my outlet for the photos I take that I absolutely love, but don’t want to share to a wider audience. While I appreciate the moments, and want to collect and share them, I don’t necessarily want to push that content to hundreds of people I know. VSCO is a place where I can experiment with my photos, posting photos I normally wouldn’t. I can take photos of my everyday life, edit them with VSCO, and have a place to collect my favorites. While posting these types of photos on any other platform might be annoying to my followers, I only have about 20 followers on VSCO.
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VSCO is kind of a quirky social media platform, and it definitely doesn’t get the love that the more popular alternative, Facebook and Instagram do. So VSCO, if you’re reading this, I appreciate you and your patience with my plethora of pictures that I can’t put anywhere else, but please (I’m begging) make the app easier to navigate so my friends can appreciate you, too!

8 comments

  1. adamsmea89 · ·

    I have never heard of VSCO before, so this was an interesting read! I think that because every other social media site is so focused on connectivity, I can understand why you like VSCO for not being that way. It is true, with so many followers on facebook and instagram, you do feel self conscious posting photos because you know they will be judged by all of your followers.

  2. I had no idea what VSCO was before really reading this. My experience seeing it in use was similar to yours though, as I saw it in many girls I know by line on their instagram page. It is very cool that it gives people an outlet to post pictures in an artsy or personal fashion without being worried about getting “likes” or “comments” on instagram. All in all cool post about a piece of social media I didn’t know before

  3. alinacasari · ·

    Really interesting post! I frequently look at other people’s VSCO accounts that they post the link to on Instagram, but I don’t personally have an account. Like you, I tried it once before and quickly decided it wasn’t for me because of its lack of user friendliness. I will admit that reading this makes me want to try it out again so that I can post things without having all of my followers see them. I like the idea of something less social than Instagram, where I feel like there’s a lot of pressure to follow social rules (no double posting, the limited content that is socially acceptable, etc). I always feel like I take a lot of pictures that I love, but that other people might not. It’s an odd social construct how we can’t just post everything on Instagram, but one that I follow nonetheless. I think I’m going to give VSCO another chance!!

    I agree that the strong branding of the app opens the door to many different segments for VSCO. It will be interesting to see what the company does in the future.

  4. finkbecca · ·

    I’ve never heard of VSCO, but it sounds kind of cool. Is everyones profile automatically public? It seems like a good option for photo sharing. Similar to Flickr, but it looks a little more social media-esque and direct photo editing ability. Its really cool that this photo editing app transformed into a photo sharing one. The evolution of different social media and digital business apps is always really interesting, starting as one thing and changing to another. I’ll be curious how this changes over the next few years. Thanks for introducing a new app!

  5. emmaharney21 · ·

    This is a great post! I honestly clicked on it hoping you would have some advice on how I am supposed to engage this app as a user. I recently found out about this platform from my younger brother’s friends (made me feel wicked old). After they described it to me my response was, “so basically it is a lawless Instagram. I definitely think it allows creative freedom without worrying about the social constructs around a sharing platform like Instagram but as a user this freedom makes me nervous. I am lost without the unspoken rules about how many pictures to share, how many likes I should receive, etc. Also the app is horrible in terms of user ability and I too gave up haha. Thanks for posting this I really enjoyed reading it!

  6. adawsisys · ·

    I have heard of VSCO from two recent experiences. The first was when my friend was trying to show me photos from an Instagram account that was private; he was unable to do this so he went to VSCO instead. The second was yesterday, when picture’s of an America themed party in my friend’s house were posted in a group message. This was a group message from home and it was his younger sister, who is in high school, that had a party and posted the photos to VSCO. After these two experiences with VSCO I wonder what it is about the platform that makes people feel more safe about posting these photos. Why would an Instagram be private if many of the same photos were posted to a public VSCO account? Why post pictures of a party on VSCO if it would not be a good idea to post the same photos on Instagram or Facebook?

  7. This platform is a new one to me. It just goes to show that social media really isn’t a “one size fits all” and many different people are looking for many different types of experiences.

  8. sandytanny · ·

    Great post! I actually use VSCO and it is definitely a interesting app / platform. I mostly use it to edit photos since they have a wide range of filter options and other precise photo editing tools that are easy to use but also in-depth. It’s too the point that any photo I take, that may potentially make it’s way to my Instagram, goes through this editing process. I know for me, and lots of other users, we end up with lots of nicely edited photos that don’t always make it to our Instagram since it would be content overload (that weird unspoken rule that can you only post at most, one photo a day). But on VSCO, I am free to post as many ‘pretty’ photos which are nicely edited that would otherwise annoy my Instagram following.

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