Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Facebook and Instagram got together. Why can’t we be happy for them?

If you follow social media/tech news, Facebook buying Instagram was everywhere yesterday.

And really, we shouldn’t be surprised. There were signs of their flirtation. In recent months, share functionality between the two had gotten stronger and more seamless.

So, in a way, we saw it coming.

The acquisition is a big deal for 2 reasons, really.

It exhibits how the (social media) world keeps getting smaller. Instagram is Facebook’s first major acquisition in quite some time. It sets the tone for their impending IPO and begs the question – what more will Facebook seize control over once besieged with unprecedented amounts of cash?

It demonstrates the amazing value of social media. One quote I came across yesterday (and subsequently, re-tweeted) said it best. Today we learned that 551-day-old Instagram is worth $1 billion while 116-year-old New York Times Co. is worth $967 million.

Watch out, another handful of 20-something millionaires were born.

So two things we love got together. Why can’t we just be happy for them?

30k Feet Weighs In:

We like Facebook. We like Instagram. We just don’t like them together. And we can’t really explain it.

I guess we had come to appreciate Instagram as a bit of a social media refuge. As each Facebook redesign boasted more and more ways to share every aspect of one’s life, Instagram continued to fly below radar. Random, quirky, sometimes thought-provoking snapshots made beautiful through a variety of filters. It was the breath of fresh air that kept things simple.

Well, they’re together now – for better or worse. In that case, here’s…

…what we DO want to see:
Regular instagrammers can agree, while the mobile app is super-simple and easy to use, a more robust desktop experience would be nice. Click on an Instagram link shared via Facebook or Twitter and you’re taken to a single, isolated landing page:
Sample website UI. My profile. April 2012.
With Instagram’s current website, there is:
  • No profile view
  • No way to search through a follower’s image gallery – (much less your own) 
  • No way to comment or ‘like’ photos
Surely Facebook could lend its profile/web photo browsing capabilities to Instagram. Doing so would not only increase user engagement on traditional, non-mobile web platforms but make browsing more fluid and engaging on mobile.

…what we DON’T want to see:

Total integration. Every time you go to upload a picture/group of pictures to Facebook, you’re presented with the opportunity to add legacy Instagram filters. As we touched on in Deconstructing Social (again), photos of the seemingly ordinary (and, dare we say it, stupid) do NOT need artistic/vintage washes on them. Opening these features up to any Joe-Blow Facebook novice will only lead true instagrammers to hate and abandon the service.

Ads. We forgot to mention that when Facebook paid $1B for Instagram, they paid $1B for a business with NO profit model. Zero. Although it speaks volumes on Facebook’s perception of Instagram’s audience engagement, that won’t be enough longer-term. Look, we’ll deal with a few ads so long as they keep cool new features and benefits coming. Just don’t get too crazy (or creepy).

Facetagram? Instabook?

The jury is still out on whether or not Facebook and Instagram will prove a match made in heaven.

Initial reports from both camps say the intent is to keep the two products separate. We have no doubt additional cross-functionality will be devised, but remain optimistic that it proves slight.

Friends with both, it’s easy to feel entitled to some vested interest; we don’t want our relationship with either to change. But it’s really selfish for us not to wish them well. So let’s “like” their relationship update, cross our fingers, and hope for the best.

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