This post, co-written by Ryan Clifford & Instagram specialist, Steven Stretton
What’s the real significance of Instagram? Why did Mark Zuckerberg felt like he had to have them? And why should you join?
Simply put, Instagram is a mobile app that allows you to share photos from your phone and easily make those photos look cool- and by extension, make you look cool. That’s it. Pundits and power users consider it reimagined micro-blogging, because they can share their life through photos rather than words. But that doesn’t explain the significance, because we can already do that on Facebook.
Instagram’s success is reminiscent of Twitter, dating back to 2006. And like Twitter, Instagram’s significance is largely misunderstood or unknown all together. While Twitter focuses on social networking with words, Instagram focuses on social networking through photos. But the core similarity between Twitter and Instagram is their simplicity- anyone can use them, which has translated into massive adoption of both.
Simplicity and ease-of-use are the how, but making you look like a professional photographer is the why. Photo apps have always been a crowded space, but the magic of Instagram is that they made attainable what used to require expensive cameras, photography classes, and perhaps even a dark room. Now, the process takes a few clicks on your cell phone and a matter of seconds.
Despite all of that, there’s got to be more to it than that, right?
Facebook + Instagram= ???
Instagram did for mobile photo sharing what Facebook did for social networking. They made it easy enough, quick enough, and most-importantly- fun for everyone. The ability to do that on a large scale is why Facebook acquired them in a groundbreaking deal a few months ago. And it’s why you should be using it.
Just like most people, you might be wondering why Facebook bought it and does this young social networking site deserve the $1 billion price tag? (Editor’s note: sagging Facebook stock prices value the acquisition price closer to $800m today…still a TON of money) There are many theories about Facebook’s motivations: Installed mobile user base, data for the social graph, ability to execute in on mobile, a pre-emptive strike against a rising competitor, pictures of food, and many more. None of that matters, though.
We can speculate all we want, but we’ll never know the real reason why Zuck decided to buy Instagram. But that isn’t important. The signal is what’s important. The real message in this is that mobile is absolutely the future of communicating, computing, and essentially everything! For all of the criticism he gets, Mark Zuckerburg has tech chops. He and most of Silicon Valley it as a triumphant acquisition. But why?
Because they know that mobile is the future and any amount of money spent to lead the way there is worthwhile, even if it seems crazy today.
UPDATE FROM MARK ZUCKERBERG: In a fireside chat with Michael Arrington at the Techcrunch Disrupt conference, Zuckerberg discussed the logic behind the Instagram acquisition. He mentioned that he and Kevin Systrom, the founder/CEO of Instagram, had met many times, prior to the acquisition to discuss features and products that they could develop together. Apparently, the roadmap they created was so impressive and enticing that Zuck knew that Facebook couldn’t afford to lose them to a competitor (ie. Twitter or Google). Zuck also mentioned that they plan to grow Instagram to hundreds of millions of users. This signals big things to come, and even more incentive to learn and understand the platform.
Quit Fighting It!
Often we view new technologies or “flashy” acquisitions as a passing fad. You hear people say things like “it won’t last” or “it’ll never make money”, and they’ll back it up with past acquisition failures or formerly popular services that have gone by the wayside (ie. MySpace, on both counts). But what’s lost is the impact that those new technologies and businesses had on the future of technology, and that’s what Facebook’s investing in. They’re taking the long view and so should you.
Stop fighting the movement to mobile. Many of us yearn for the old days, but this transition is a reality. Yeah, that means you- guy with the flip phone. Once you accept it and embrace it, don’t be surprised if you start having fun. It’s even more important for those of us in business. Businesses need to be where their customers are, and with over 80 million users on Instagram, it’s safe to say that you have customers there.
Plus, why would you want to pass up the chance to make you and your business look cool? C’mon.
Ryan Clifford is the co-founder of Lingobox.tv. His career in the tech industry spans a number of capacities, and requires he keep a close eye on developing technologies around the world. He authors the Starting Now blog and would love to connect on Twitter.