Instagram is the app that turned photo-takers into photographers. On Facebook, we were simply showing friends what we did over the weekend. On Instagram, we’re sharing our art with a community of like-minded artists. Now that these two worlds have collided, we’re left wondering: will Instagram change Facebook…or will Facebook change Instagram?
Even though this David-meets-Goliath deal between a famously public social network and a famously lean startup is the subject of much speculation, the two services are already closely intertwined. Instagram users can discover and follow their Facebook friends, and publish their photos to Facebook through the Instagram app.
So what are the opportunities for Facebook’s 850 million users post-acquisition?
The answer is more focus.
Focus on Mobile
Instagram gets the mobile experience. It’s fast and easy to use. Think about that sepia filter that draws negative attention from the app’s critics: the treatment is perfect for beautifying what could have potentially been just another blurry smartphone photo. With a single touch, users can focus and recolor a photo taken on-the-go. The instant sharing is also testament to Instagram’s excellent user experience – no need to navigate off to another app or sign into another account.
Facebook has been struggling to provide its users a better mobile experience; its services are too complex to optimize for mobile while reducing user friction. By teaming up with the mobile developers at Instagram, Facebookcan now see the mobile experience through a different lens, so to speak. Instead of translating desktop actions to mobile, Facebook can learn how to build a truly native mobile social application. In return, Instagram, which will remain an independent platform, will now have access to Facebook’s breadth of best-in-breed developers and resources.
Focus on Geolocation
Geotagging is another sore spot for Facebook. It was only back in December 2011 that Facebook bought location sharing service Gowalla, in an attempt to encourage more check-ins, despite the unpopularity of Facebook Places. For Instagram users, sharing location data is almost a no-brainer. But for the Instagram user, sharing location data comes in the context of sharing a beautiful photo. The motivation is there, to accompany a photo of a delicious meal with information about what restaurant serves it.
This motivation is precisely what Facebook couldn’t figure out. Facebook’s users are more than happy to share what they like or what they’re doing, but could never find a good reason to share where they are located at any given time. Geolocation doesn’t just provide a richer user experience – it allows Facebook and Instagram to become more profitable. The added information about a user’s location, is enticing for brands hoping to drive purchase action through social media marketing.
Focus on Organization
At the core of Instagram’s photosharing service is the ability to hashtag photos with certain keywords and categories. If I take a photo of a landscape and hashtag it “travel,” other users who are interested in and searching for travel photography will eventually find my photo. On Twitter, hashtags are used to bring people together around a conversation. On Instagram, they bring photographers together around a common subject. This subject is also known as metadata, or an Internet bookmark that helps people classify the endless pool of content available to us on the Web.
There is currently no organizational structure in place for a Facebook user to sort his or her photostream, other than recent uploads. There is also no solution for users to discover public photos uploaded by others. Adopting the metadata system put in place by Instagram allows Facebook users to consume content beyond their social network. And the move is mutually beneficial – Instagram becomes part of a social channel with over 850 million users and a photo ecosystem comprised of over 170 billion photos.
Facebook used to be an activity-centric platform; the old Facebook status prompt would ask: “What are you doing right now?” With the advent of Facebook Timeline, users are now encouraged to tell their story – to share thoughts and memories on content-rich personal web pages. Now Facebook users have the option to tell more beautiful, more interesting stories and bring focus back to what Facebook always championed as the reason for its success: our natural attraction to pretty photos.
Avi Savar is a pioneer in the convergence of marketing and entertainment, and founder ofBig Fuel, one of the world’s leading social media agencies. After a successful stint in television production at MTV and VH1, he built his own branded entertainment company. A short while later, he rebranded his company as an agency named Big Fuel producing and distributing branded content to targeted online communities. Publicis acquired a majority stake in his organization in 2011, and they are well on their way to becoming the world’s first global social agency with clients including T-Mobile, AB InBev, Clorox and The Children’s Place.