This major research paper (MRP) examines the visual social semiotics of Canadian politicians’ Instagram accounts and their followers’ responses. As a qualitative study, it seeks to address the following questions: From the coded images in the data collection, which qualities do the Instagram followers prefer? From the coded images in the data
collection, which qualities do the Instagram followers prefer the least? What do these qualities reveal about the political actors in the data collection? To answer these questions, I coded the most liked and least liked Instagram postings between April 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015 from two of Canada’s federal party leaders, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. These images were coded through a visual social semiotics analysis under the following categories in my codebook: community outreach, competence, empathy, excitement, ideology, personal, symbols of nationalism, celebrity, and miscellaneous. This codebook was constructed from a literature review encompassing the public’s values of politicians in traditional media. The findings of this MRP expand on visual social semiotic theory in the social media context and build on research about audience perceptions of politicians. The results suggest that photo composition and the presentations of values in an image are important
considerations for politicians. Based on the findings, this study is relevant to how professional communicators can construct a persuasive image and story in the political context on a social media platform.