A Billion Dollars
“Hasn’t someone already made one of those?”
“What’s your advertising budget?”
“What’s your revenue model?”
“What’s your cashflow?”
“When do you hope to break even?”
- A billion dollars. What was the question again?
When Mike and I started Instagram nearly two years ago, we set out to change and improve the way the world communicates and shares. We’ve had an amazing time watching Instagram grow into a vibrant community of people from all around the globe. Today, we couldn’t be happier to announce that…
#Instagram: Wins, Learns & Changes
@incloco Thank you for sharing the post! What do you think of Instagram?
— Melanie Thompson (@MelanieAThomp) March 22, 2012
Hey Melanie, love your question, but I’m afraid I can’t answer it in 140chars. You had better grab a coffee and a comfy seat!
I find Instagram fascinating and significant on an historical, sociological level. Is that too pretentious? I’m serious: we are social animals, communication is how we socialise, and revolutions in communication have a lasting impact on our history and on our society.
So the wins, learns & changes I’ll consider here are from humanity’s point of view (even more pretentious?), not necessarily from that of the developers and investors. The Instagram team and their backers most likely need to do little more than keep on keepin on, and they’re on a collision course with billions of dollars. That’s great, but what’s good for dollars isn’t always what’s good for people. Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad the team will realise a significant return on the project, and I wish them all the best with that, but there’s something bigger going on here too. And even if I end this piece with a couple “Changes” that would mean the world to me, my single-word answer to your question would most definitely be “Win!”
1. Instagram is the largest mobile social network in history. The service connects millions of humans together, during moments of their lives that were previously spent in relative isolation.
2. Instagram brings out the best in people. The concept, the UX, the mobility and the demographic somehow encourage good people in good spirits to have a good conversation at good times during their day. On Instagram we witness record-breaking levels of engagement and positive sentiment.
3. Instagram brings out the creative side in all of us. As we spend more and more of our time interacting with machines, Instagram offers us hope that advances in tech do not preclude advances in art: art by and for the people, no less. It ain’t Great Art, but it is great therapy.
4. Instagram moved people to form “Instagramers” communities, under the Instagramers.com and meetup.com/Instagram umbrellas. Strangers in busy, famously-unfriendly cities (two of the biggest communities are in London and New York) became friends via their iPhones, enriching their ”real” social lives too. This point shouldn’t be underestimated: as a (somewhat antisocial) Londoner myself, I intuitively grasp that it’s a big deal.
1. Instagram went to market with a minimal concept, a minimal marketing push and above all a minimal UX. The developer & investor communities learned fast from its success - and by “learned” I mean “copied”!
2. Instagram proved once more the power of images to facilitate communication, empathy, self-expression and self promotion. It’s earned a place in a timeline that spans from cave paintings to Kodak, to Facebook, to this! Developers & investors learned (copied!) from this too.
3. Instagram became a sandbox for mobile, social, human interactions on a massive scale. Inevitably, we’re learning about the slightly-darker side of human relationships too: in particular image- and even identity-theft: not “identity theft” in the bank fraud sense, but the phenomenon of people pretending to be who they’re not. We’re still at the start of a learning curve on this one, but observing how it plays out amongst the community is fascinating, and I hope informative for future historians and even anthropologists.
4. Instagram did not attempt to build a new social network in isolation from the Big Two. On the contrary, it pioneered cross-network sharing, which formed the backbone of its (highly-successful) user-driven marketing strategy. Again, developers and investors learned from and replicated this.
1. Instagram adopted the Twitter follower model. This has proved incredibly effective and helps take social networking beyond the closed Facebook model. However, like Twitter’s, Instagram’s profile pages give prominence to “Followers” and “Following” counts. In my personal, somewhat-controversial opinion, this does not bring out the best in people. In “real” social interactions, we do not wear badges that explicitly state how many friends we have. We rely on more subtle signals. Were we to make such badges compulsory, I can imagine that people would adapt their behaviour significantly, and not for the best. This is what happens on Twitter and Instagram: each of us is conscious of the badge we wear, and we adapt our behaviour in order to affect what appears on that badge. I’ll expand on this point below, but note here that Tumblr achieved high growth (not as fast as Instagram’s, but high and consistent nonetheless) without displaying follower count as default.
2. Instagram places great emphasis on the “Popular Page”: it’s the first screen displayed to new users, and it occupies one of only five tabs in the UX. As in 1. above, this causes people to adapt their behaviour. People place importance on becoming “popular” as defined by the algorithm. Combine “Pop” with follower count, and I think you come to the root cause of many of Instagram’s problems. Let’s not go into subjective discussions of “good art” vs “popular art”, but rather focus on one particular bugbear of mine: Instagram has in my opinion failed to deliver on the promise of a curated, mobile, mini-web, through the use of our small but powerful friend, the hashtag.
When Instagram introduced hashtags in early ‘11, it was tremendously exciting for the “curated web” topic community. Give each internet user the power to curate content, and you move closer towards “the third Frontier of the Web”. Ok, that’s a relatively dated concept, and it’s not the same as allowing iPhoneographers to tag their #kittens, but it is a concept that remains close to my heart. Instagram’s hashtags, even more than Twitter’s, have been a kind of trojan horse, training mobile users in the principles and practices of content curation. Unfortunately thusfar the system has not led to best practice amongst the community, due to the following inbuilt self-destruct:
- a new hashtag brings new photos and photographers together
- the hashtag becomes popular
- other users want their photos to be “popular” and want to gain more followers, so they add the popular tag to photos that don’t necessarily fit the original definition of the tag
- the tag is devalued and loses its initial relevance
- irrelevant tags detract from other users’ experience on the platform, and indeed pushed the Instagram team into placing restrictions on the number (but not the accuracy) of hastags per photo.
- “Search” is not Instagram’s strong point
Thanks to the above, it’s only unpopular tags that survive intact. This may mean very little to non-Instagram users, but if you’ve spent much time on the platform, you’ll most likely know what I’m talking about. The fact that popular hashtags can advance photos to the popular page is an open secret and is a common “tip” from and to people who prioritise popularity over integrity.
It’s my belief that were a mobile network to de-emphasise follower count and popularity, it could ultimately be more successful in training up the next generation of web curators, and in leaving a more tidy and searchable legacy to future users of the mobile web.
However, follower counts and the popular page have succeeded in gamifying the Instagram user base, and are arguably central to the rapid growth and success of the network. This, I feel, is because they tap into something deep within the social animal: the need to be accepted (“liked”) by the community. And so I doubt whether the investors would consider dropping the popularity model. That’s a shame, in my opinion, but I like to hope that the next generation of mobile networks will learn from the mess that we’ve made here, and make a conscious effort to build something more collaborative, less competitive, and ultimately less exploitative of the human need to feel accepted by society.
Sorry, did I fail to tell you my favourite Instagram filter? It’s Earlybird. What’s yours?
@Salesforce on Instagram: how will B2B rock the mobile photo-sharing world?
Over the past 15 months Instagram, the mobile photo-sharing network, has become a new mobile home for the most social B2C brands. Yesterday Salesforce.com, the most social B2B brand (am I wrong?), joined the photo-sharing party, for the launch of their Cloudforce Social Enterprise Tour in San Francisco today. Their first post, unsurprsingly, featured the corporate colour blue. The first account they followed? @Burberry.
Given the loud social and mobile message around the Cloudforce tour, it’s not hard to see a use case for Instagram as a suitable engagement platform, to compliment the tour’s boarder social and mobile programme. The medium is the message… Beyond Cloudforce, it will be fascinating to see how Salesforce’s Instagram presence evolves, as other B2B and service brands look on, no doubt looking to pick up a few tips.
You didn’t try Instagram yet? The upstart social network was born in late 2010 as an iPhone-only, self-professed “Quirky”, social, retro, photography app. On a zero marketing budget (poetic license, please), through social “word of mouth” sharing alone, the network has atrracted 27 million users, and on the verge of its Android launch, is expected shortly to double its userbase again. Such spectacular growth has not gone unnoticed by fashion, travel and other consumer brands, who have been quick to adapt to this new visual environment. In a space where Starbucks customers share - and #tag - photos of their branded coffees, independently and with no incentive, customer-facing companies found a highly-engaged community and learned to speak its language.
At least that’s how the story goes. Credit is also due to the burgeoning cottage industry of Engagement/Community/Social professionals and agencies who have learned to navigate the new territory on the brands’ behalf. Strategy is in its infancy, and is somewhat homogenous across the market, given the limited available tools and expertise. “Soft” ROI may be in abundance, but other than tracking likes, comments and follows, there are insufficient analytics to declare any winners at this early stage.
In this environment, anybody is welcome to join the photo-sharing party. On Instagram, people meet people via their mobile devices. There’s no describing the happy reaction when strangers first “like” the photos on your phone - or the moment when you “Instameet” a virtual iPhone friend in person. That’s a new social consequence of mobile that we’re only beginning to appreciate.
What do B2B and B2C have in common? Join Instagram and you’ll soon find out! On your mobile device, talking about a photo someone just took on their mobile device, the conversation is Person2Person. And that, I think, brings us right back to the Social Enterprise: It’s about people, dummy! Every step of this journey is about people talking, listening, sharing, collaborating, driving creativity and innovation one conversation at a time.
How will Salesforce best position its brand on Instagram? - Same as everyone else: in the crowd, iPhone in both hands, trying to take the killer shot!
Instagram: Beyond the App
Hey Jackie, fantastic idea, and it looks great already.
I got to admit I lost count a while back now! The best list I know of is by @instagramapps on instagramapps.tumblr.com. Brought to you by “Teeny Tiles”, the list celebrates it’s first birthday this month!
You’ll find lots there, and probably you’ll be able to help them too. Good luck with your list and I’m looking forward to following it :)
Thanks @muenchner_kindl for adding http://instagramers.com/links/ LOADS of resources here :)
This last week was an apparent victory for opponents of SOPA and PIPA, but advocates of free speech and a free internet had best stay vigilant. As Mashable so aptly put it, “SOPA and PIPA are dead, but only in the way a zombie is dead.” Not only is the battle against the piracy of copyrighted…
by Matt Rhodes, FreshNetworks.com
“If 2011 was the year Twitter and citizen journalism came of age, 2012 is set to be the year that social photography comes of age. And it could be even more powerful.
Whilst we have been used to Facebook focusing on photography for some time, that platform is more often about sharing photos with a (relatively) close group of friends. Family events, babies, parties, special holidays. These kind of events are very personal and reflect the nature of Facebook – where you (broadly speaking) network with people that you know or that you have chosen to share personal connections with. The growth of photography in more public social networks and online communities is more nascent, but is one of the most interesting and powerful areas where social is developing… “
By Alexia Tsotsis on TechCrunch.com
“… The truth is that on any given day, I’d rather check in on Instagram then watch a movie. Today — from afar — I watched my friends visit Germany, take in the 49r’s vs. Giants game, traverse the Sundance festival and eat at a restaurant on my block. I probably opened the app between 10-15 times. And I watched absolutely no TV today.
Happy Birthday Instagramers.com! Many thanks and congratulations @PhilGonzalez and the IGers team for Instagraming the World :)
Help Us Win A Crunchie!
We’re excited to announce that we’ve been nominated Best Overall Startup and Best Social App for 2011 by Techcrunch! You can help Instagram win a Crunchie Award by voting for us, and you can vote once per day until Sunday, January 29th at 11:59pm PST.
Click here to vote for us as Best Overall Startup of 2011:
Click here to vote for us as Best Social Application:
We’re excited to welcome President Barack Obama to Instagram! We look forward to seeing how President Obama uses Instagram to give folks a visual sense of what happens in the everyday life of the President of the United States. In addition to sharing photos through the @barackobama…
As much as it pains me to say this: privacy is on its deathbed. I came to this sad realization recently when a stranger began leaving comments on photos I had uploaded to Instagram, the iPhone photo-sharing app.
After several comments — all of which were nice — I began wondering who this person was. Now the catch here is that she had used only a first name on her Instagram profile. You would think a first name online is enough to conceal your identity.
Trust me, it’s not…
”’Instagram is not about filters, said Systrom. “The defensible asset is the community, nowhere else would you find such passionate users.‘” (From TechCrunch)
inspired by the Postmodernism Manifesto (and with tongue firmly in cheek):
- The megapixel myth is past. What was true of photography tech yesterday is false today.
- The photography of today is defined and determined, not by artists, but by a new generation of curators, philosophers, intellectuals…
Today, we’re excited to announce the release of one of the largest revamps to the Instagram app since it launched nearly a year ago.
Since the day we launched, one core part of the app has remain largely unchanged: the camera. In the past, we’ve added filters & tilt-shift, but the base technology…