Instagram and political campaigning in the 2017 German federal election. A quantitative content analysis of German top politicians’ and parliamentary parties’ posts


This article compares the communication strategies of party and candidate accounts on Instagram during the 2017 German federal election. Building upon previous research, we conceptualize how the digital architecture of the platform determines its communication norms and how the actual communication practices implemented by parties and candidates follow or violate these norms. Therefore, we analyze how Instagram is used to implement different campaign strategies, focusing on (1) the use of network-related Instagram features-like Hashtags-, (2) text-integrated images, (3) dominant visual themes, (4) visual personalization, and (5) the addressing of policy issues. Since Germany’s voting system rewards both candidate- and party-focused campaigning, the country is an ideal case study for an appropriate comparison of party and candidate accounts. We conducted a quantitative content analysis of all 581 posts published on party and candidate accounts during the four weeks before the election. The results suggest that parties and candidates used complementary communication strategies instead of relying on a single tactic. We are able showing that parties in parts strategically violated Instagram’s communication norms to convey hard-to-visualize policy messages while candidates prefered to post professional personalized posts. The presented findings provide a starting point for future studies on the perceptions and behavioral outcomes of different campaign strategies.



Information, Communication & Society