The hot topic over the past couple of weeks has been the purchase of Instagram by Facebook for $1billion. Photo sharing app Instagram was launched in October 2010 exclusivity for iPhone users, only launching its Android version of the app into the Android Market in the first week of April this year. As most will be aware, the app allows people to transform pictures via filters and frames to share with the world.
So what does the Instagram purchase mean for users? How will the two platforms integrate with one another? Mark Zuckerberg has already set out Facebook’s positioning regarding a merging of the platforms, stating, “we need to be mindful about keeping and building on Instagram’s strengths and features rather than just trying to integrate everything into Facebook”. Essentially, Instagram will still give you the option of whether or not to share through Facebook and you will still be able to share your Instagram activity through other social networking sites, “we plan on keeping the features like the ability to post to other social networks, the ability to not share your Instagram with Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people from separately from your friends on Facebook”.
From launch through to the end of March 2012, Instagram had acquired close to 30million users -all this when it was restricted to iPhone only and these users uploaded 1 billion images through the app highlighting just how much we like to share images with each other.
What about brands
For brands, the purchase of Instagram highlights the growing importance of engaging with users through the use of visual aids across social media platforms.
As the famous quote goes ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’, cliché maybe, be very true, especially if we are sharing through social networking channels. Photo sharing on the web has increased massively over the past couple of years thanks to the rise in smartphone use and the quality of their inbuilt cameras. We’re frequently on the go when we see something we like or that is of interest to us and it’s now easier than ever to take a picture and upload it to social networks to share with the world. Facebook itself moved toward more prominent use of visuals, with user and brand profiles being adapted to fit these user behaviours via Timeline; Timeline gives visual content even greater prominence relative to text and links only than before.
This trend is evident on other social networking sites; Twitter makes sharing and viewing images easier via embedded content in tweets on both desktop and mobile, then there is the rise of image led networks Pinterest and Polyvore where inspiration and social exploration is via images in the first instance.
So what does this mean for brand strategies? Brands are always trying to determine what actually makes their fans engage with their brand. Each brand is different and has a different personality, fans will respond to different types of content, but some are universally seen as more interesting or more worthy of attention. Your brand could have 100,000 fans but if they’re are not engaging with you then what’s the point? The rise of Instagram reinforces what we’ve suspected for a while: that people love sharing photos and this should help brands to focus on doing the same through social media.
Photo Credit: splatF