How Instagram is gamified — an analysis using Octalysis

No matter how useful your product is or how important it is. The user needs some kind of motivation to not to get bored. This is where gamification comes into play.


Arun Karunanithi

3 years ago | 4 min read

Octalysis framework

No matter how useful your product is or how important it is. The user needs some kind of motivation to not to get bored. This is where gamification comes into play.

In this analysis, we are going to use the Octalysis framework which is proposed by Yu-Kai Chou (Gamification Designer & Author). The Octalysis framework is constructed of 8 core drives that motivate the user to complete a particular task.

1. Epic Meaning & Calling

Epic meaning is the core drive that makes the user feel that they are a part of something bigger than themselves & helping others or society.

Instagram doesn’t make use of this core drive much as the user can’t do anything great rather than connecting with their friends, stay updated, and show off.

But it’s a different story for businesses, actors, and models as they build their brands, get new opportunities through Instagram. But this core drive doesn’t motivate the user much.

2. Development & Accomplishments

This core drive motivates the user by showing their progress and rewarding them such as progress bars, status points, and level-ups.

Instagram motivates the user to a certain extent using follows, likes, and comments.

We get happy when our post gets more likes and comments & when our profile gets more follows. Whenever we post a photo we keep on checking for the number of likes and comments at least for the next 2 hours. What if there is no such thing as like. We post and we go back to Instagram for nothing.

Just because of the likes we feel appreciated and get motivated to use Instagram. As I mentioned earlier it’s a different story for brands and models.

3.Creativity & Feedback

This core drive lets the user use their creativity, view their results, and get feedback

Instagram uses this core drive to increase the engagement to a whole new level with all the different effects, filters, stickers, etc. You can keep experimenting for your whole life using these and Instagram keep introducing new features.

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Not just Instagram, also the users playing a major role in this core drive. People keep experimenting in showcasing their profile and coming with new ideas that inspire other users also. Take a look at the profiles below.

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4. Ownership & Possession

This core drive makes the user feel that they own something in your product. So, even if there are some other better products they won’t leave because of this core drive.

This is also an important core drive that makes us more attached to Instagram. This is how Instagram look when you log in for the first time.

Boring :-/ isn't it?

But we invest our time and energy to turn it into something that’s interesting. Something beautiful. This process makes us feel that ‘we own that profile’.

So, we won’t lose something that we own easily. We also have all our memories as photos and story archives. And of course, we have our friends in there too. It makes Instagram close to our hearts.

5. Social Influence & Relatedness

This drive incorporates all the social elements that drive people, including: mentorship, acceptance, social responses, companionship, as well as competition and envy.

And of course, this core drive should be there as Instagram is a social media platform.

We feel socially connected while using Instagram. This is done by various things such as follows, messages, mentions, etc., And another main reason we are using Instagram is everyone using it.

When I wasn’t started using it, I hear all my friends talking about the stories, posts, memes they saw on Instagram. It makes me want to get into it so badly. After all, just think how people look at you when you say “I’m not using Instagram”

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6. Scarcity & Impatience

This is the drive of wanting something just because we can’t have it.

Instagram doesn’t utilize this core drive much as you can have everything when the first time you are logging in. Nothing is limited or constrained. Yeah, we can’t get the blue tick in our profile easily.

But no one wants the blue tick on their profile unless they are a celebrity. Moreover, it is for verification purposes only and not for gamification purposes.

7. Unpredictability & Curiosity

This drive motivates the user by arousing their curiosity. And unpredictableness increases the can engagement enormously. That’s why people easily get addicted to gambling.

This is where Instagram scores another goal. Whenever we get into Instagram or refresh the feed we look for fresh content. We don’t know what the feed will bring.

So, we get curious. The search tab is another place that feeds our curiosity. It surprises us with the content we love and it keeps us engaged. The same thing happens when we search for something and follow someone.

8. Loss & Avoidance

This core drive is based upon the avoidance of something negative happening. On a small scale, it could be to avoid losing previous work. On a larger scale, it could be to avoid admitting that everything we did up to this point was useless because we are now quitting.

We spent hours making our Instagram profile look cool and connect with our people. Just because we don’t want all those times to get wasted, we don’t quit even if we want to.

Also, Instagram has all our stories, messages, posts, and comments stored. It makes it even harder because they are not just some pixels on our phone, they are memories.

These are the 8 core drives and how Instagram made use of them.

Octalysis graph for Instagram
Octalysis graph for Instagram

This is the Octalysis graph for Instagram and the Octalysis score for Instagram through my analysis is 429. You can create one for your product also by clicking here.


Created by

Arun Karunanithi







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