Instagram Dumps Early Adopters for a Shot at the Mainstream


1344924671 When Instagram burst onto the scene with its mobile only platform and funky photo filters it came armed with a secret. It wasn’t just about the photos.

Sure, the vast range of photo filters were appealing. They provided a layer of nostalgia for the Gen Xers raised on Kodak round edged photos and soft focus pastels from the 70s. Some filters created a more edgy feel, displacing the photo border and accentuating the top end of the colour spectrum. They made the amateur photographer feel empowered, even if the filters sometimes degraded the photo quality. What we lost in quality we made up for in consistency of image, framing and in the ease of digital cropping.

Community was the secret sauce of Instagram

But Instagram was more than just a fun way to take photos. For many social network early adopters, it was a sanctuary from the noise of Facebook and Twitter. It allowed people to curate small communities of like minds, where networks of dozens, hundreds and in some cases, thousands, of people could share photos, tips and engage in in-the-moment sharing, collaboration and discussion.

And as the platform was engineered around mobility, it had built-in location awareness and sharing, so that closed networks of connections could create a sense of context around the digital interaction. Moreover, with push awareness, users could be updated on any interactions with their own images, comments, likes, loves and so on. It brought a human dimension to the digital experience. It was a sense of community and all the goodness that comes with that sense of belonging.

Facebook’s billion dollar acquisition changed the Instagram game

When Facebook purchased Instagram back in April 2012 for about $1 billion, it was only a matter of time before something changed. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg focused on synergies, announcing:

For years, we’ve focused on building the best experience for sharing photos with your friends and family … Now, we’ll be able to work even more closely with the Instagram team to also offer the best experiences for sharing beautiful mobile photos with people based on your interests.

But throughout 2012, Facebook has also been under pressure to prove its IPO valuation. And Instagram was a canny move, because it brings a ready made market.

Changing Instagram’s terms of use

Facebook are well-known for pushing the limits of user privacy. They started with the now failed Beacon. Then they stepped back and made a claim over all user generated content published on the social network. After a series of protests, Facebook modified their claims, but still succeeded in shifting the boundaries on user privacy and content ownership.

Taking a leaf out of the Facebook guide to user engagement, Instagram have now updated their terms of use which are due to come into effect on January 16, 2013. Buried within the Instagram site, these terms provide for the following “rights”:


Saying goodbye to the early adopters, welcoming the mainstream

In making this move, Instagram is sounding its own death knell. It is signalling the end of the relationship to those who care about (and understand) the complex nature of web privacy. These “early adopters” were the founders of the Instagram community and fuelled its growth.

According to the diffusion of innovations, early adopters are vital in bringing new technology to the mainstream audience. Without the support of the early adopters, new innovations fall into the “chasm” and never reach wide acceptance within a community.


But the early adopters have done their job now and as Instagram says goodbye to them, it is opening its arms to the mainstream. The early adopters have bridged the chasm and are shifting their focus away from community building to monetisation.

Facebook’s lucrative double whammy

Facebook’s billion dollar investment has not only eliminated a competitor, it has opened a lucrative new revenue stream. Extending the existing Facebook photo sharing functionality (for which it was already a global leader) by integrating the Instagram capabilities will help drive further online usage.

The change in the terms of use will provide new revenue by allowing Instagram to license your photographs, name and images to content hungry third parties.

The shift from users to customers

Many have suggested that Instagram, as an alternative, should charge to download their app. But this would change the nature of the relationship. At present, Instagram has a strong community of “users”, but charging would make those users “customers” – and that in turn would compromise the business model.

As it currently stands, Instagram’s “customers” will be those “third parties” – brands and businesses who are interested in the vast quantities of content being produced by Instagram’s users.

Instagram may re-jig the terms of use with slightly more generous concessions based on user protest, but users should expect that the direction to be maintained.

So what happens to the early adopters?

They’ll move to a new service. They’ll rediscover Path or re-evaluate the new Flickr app. Perhaps they’ll warily move to the new mobile Twitter app with in-built filters.

But saying goodbye to the early adopters is not the end of the world. It’s the start of a new mainstream story. And many of us will only care when we see our own images splashed, out of context, in some other place on the web. But by then, that will be too late.

For many, privacy and “intellectual property rights” over our own image is happily traded for the benefits offered by social networks. But the choice is individual – and the challenge we all face is to be informed. And it’s bound to become more challenging in 2013.

CMO to CIO – It’s Time We Talked

When we crowdsourced the first The Age of Conversation book back in 2008, the idea of working from the outside-in was untested. Over 100 marketing innovators from 15 countries shared their thoughts and early experiences and Drew McLellan and I produced a book that would go on to create a community, showcase the early adopters and leading social media practitioners and ultimately raise around $50,000 for charity.

People like David Berkowitz wrote about participation and its ephemeral nature in a connected world. Toby Bloomberg peered into the future, suggesting that business was personal and that technology is fueling emotional engagement. And Katie Chatfield told brands to prepare themselves for a party.

Several years on, however, how many brands are ready to party? How many can scale their digital interactions into some form of customer engagement? And how many are prepared to turn conversations into something more than a link or a like?

As this infographic from Socialcast shows, many businesses continue to restrict access to social media in the workplace. At the same time, social marketing agency Awareness suggests that better customer engagement was a top business objective for social media.

  • Social Media Governance a Major Concern for CIOs: The gap between the business objectives and needs of two vital organisational units – technology and marketing appear at odds. Robert Half Technology’s survey of 1400 CIOs indicates that governance concerns are high on the CIO agenda – citing security, legal liability and bandwidth as reasons for blocking social media.
  • Social Media Generates Productivity and Creativity Payoffs: The “micro breaks” offered by social media may actually increase productivity. But this pales into insignificance against the business value of bringing the outside-in. A recent McKinsey Global Institute report suggests that cross-enterprise collaboration is estimated to unlock in excess of $900 billion across four industries.
  • CMO to CIO – Let’s Talk Timing: The competing needs of the CMO and CIO are often seen through the lens of conflict. Customer demands and revenue expectations drive a marketing agenda while risk management, compliance and governance occupy the minds of the CIO. Yet, the opportunity for collaboration exists. CMOs need to understand the challenges of governance and technology and CIOs need exposure to the “front office”. The answer lies in planning and timing. And having the right conversation.


Selling the Vision Not the Technology

I have worked in technology marketing for many years – but I also worked in FMCG and QSR marketing – and the same holds true for any initiative. You have always got to veer away from telling the story of HOW.

The story of HOW is attractive for marketers because “how” is often the greatest business investment. In technology companies, the “how” is your sunk costs – investment in the development process, the computer hardware and the partnerships that you needed to create your new product. And because the bill can reach many millions – or even billions – very quickly, there is much riding on it.

But the story of HOW is an internal story – at least at first. And in the sales/marketing process, it’s a “convincer” – most effective during the consideration or conversion phase of the marketing funnel.

But people – and by people, I mean “your customers” – don’t buy HOW. They buy WHY. If you are not focusing on the WHY story, then you are not inviting your customers into the conversation (and by conversation I don’t mean a hashtag) – it’s the vital first step. Just watch Simon Sinek’s riveting video on the subject.

That’s why I love the way Google have been positioning Google Fiber – a different kind of internet (100 times faster than today’s average broadband). It’s only available in Kansas at present, but if you click your heels three times, you may well find it appears in your city too. Of course, here in Australia, we are patiently waiting for the rollout of the National Broadband Network.

Make no mistake, I am a fan of the NBN. It is vital infrastructure that will allow Australia to compete with global, connected markets well into the future. And no, no matter how beefy your antennae are, wireless WILL NOT cut it. But so far, when it comes to the NBN, we’re getting an awful lot of HOW and WHAT but almost no WHY. It’s like the marketing is stuck in 2nd gear – watch the first half of the Google Fiber video clip below.

Until NBNCo changes gear, they will find it slow going.

What Google Searches in the Blink of an Eye

I can remember the day I switched over to Google for my internet searches. Before that I had a number of favourite search engines – each with its own specialty. One I would use for searching forums, another I would use for question and answer content. Still another would be used for web page and blog searching.

I quite liked the feeling of control that I experienced in those old days. I knew which tool to use and when. I could find things that other people couldn’t. This made me valuable.

But this process was time consuming. Sometimes I would need to work through many variations of my search terms using two or three different search engines before I found what I needed. And all the while, the clock was ticking.

Eventually I began turning more regularly to Google. It started with a blog search here or there. A boolean search from time to time. But it wasn’t just the results that made me switch. It was the relevance. And it was the speed.

Google’s search far outstripped all the others for speed. The clean, white page offered by Google smashed the slow loading, ad heavy portal offered by Yahoo! It was easier to read than Alta Vista … and it was just more relevant than Ask Jeeves.

But how does Google actually find and return such powerful results so quickly? This infographic explains nicely. And you may just be surprised to know that since 2003 Google has answered 450 billion unique queries that it has never seen before. And only a small percentage are mine!


Lots of Trends, But the Direction is Mobile

In the marketing world, we love trends. We use them to help us spot and understand what is happening in our marketplaces and what is shifting in the worlds of our customers. They can also be used to help us identify where we have gaps in our customer engagement strategy or where a competitive advantage is opening up.

But so often we focus only on the trend and miss the greater underlying movement that is taking place.

Take a look at this presentation from Edelman Digital. The focus is on trends across Asia Pacific – but the reality of this is, that the same can be easily applied to any country. We are, after all, globally connected. And when I say “we”, I mean “consumers”.

As the presentation points out, trends like “touch (see) and go” and “convergence emergence” are not just on the horizon – they are happening and visible in our marketplace now. And tying this to the Edelman Trust Barometer – a measure of the trustworthiness of our institutions – shows precisely why social networks and dominating the thinking of so many business executives.

But for my money, it’s not the trends that are important for us all to consider. It’s the direction. The report touches on this under “Trend 8: Device Freedom” – but reading between the lines, it’s clear that there is a substantial shift in consumer behaviour underway. And it will impact every angle, every industry, every message and every business – whether we like it or not. It’s the ever increasing ubiquity of the mobile phone (particularly the smart phone). It’s already changing the way we shop and the way we work, but it’s going to go further than most businesses are ready for.

Those that prepare and move earlier will be well placed to guide the customer experience and transform the notion of trust that is at the heart of our often fragile sense of brand loyalty. Those that fail to move may find that they fail in more ways than one. It’s taken well over 10 years to get to the year of the mobile, but the trending time is over – the direction is clear and it’s in the palm of your hand.

Five Social Media Tools I Use Everyday

Just when I think that the world of social media has settled down – that I understand the linkages, measurements, approaches and benefits – something new comes along to upset my apple cart. That means that I am constantly juggling old with new, testing and learning and attempting to map past successes against new tools and techniques.

This is, in part, why we see lots of “5 tips” or “10 must haves” style articles. Constantly.

But I have noticed recently that many of these articles talk about the “100 best” or “99 favourite” tips, tools or techniques. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time for 99 or even 100 anythings. But I do have time for five.

So I thought I’d share with you the five generally free social media tools that I use everyday. And if you have a moment, drop a comment below and tell me about your favourites too!

  1. SocialMention – as a general purpose social media monitoring solution, it’s pretty good. It comes with decent analytics, sentiment analysis and even RSS feeds.
  2. Topsy – want to know more about who, what and trends? This is where Topsy comes in.
  3. Google AdPlanner – what’s currently going on in the world of your contestable keywords? Digging around in the beastly AdPlanner can let you know what you are up against
  4. Posterous – even with its uncertain future (just been purchased by Twitter), Posterous is an awesome aggregating and distribution tool. You can bring content in and you can have Posterous auto-post out to many others. It’s your social media BFF
  5. Tweetreach – no doubt you want to measure your efforts, right? Tweetreach have just launched a new infographic-style reporting engine that tells you just how far, how quickly and how/who pushed your hashtag into the viral stratosphere.

But let's take this a step further … maybe we should use some social media tools to keep track of these and others! So here's a list that you can use:

Who is your Most Valuable Follower?

mvf Here is a nice web app for Twitter built by Alexander Taub and Michael Schonfeld. It’s very simple and straight forward, asking “who’s your MVF” – most valuable follower. You login via Twitter and authorise the app to dig around in your follower list, and after a few moments it tells you which of your followers has the largest following. OK, so it’s not necessarily your most valuable, but your most popular – even still, it’s an interesting question to ask of any audience.

Mine is @ONECampaign. Who is yours? Find out here.

StumbleUpon: Where Randomness meets Serendipity

When I first started blogging, every now and then I’d receive an avalanche of traffic. In fact, the first time it happened it crashed my server (I had been running the blog on a server in my garage, and it just could not cope) – and I ended up switching to Typepad.

The culprit was StumbleUpon.

These days, social networks like Twitter or Facebook garner most of the attention, but this new infographic from column 5 media shows just how powerful StumbleUpon can be. In fact, it drives over 50% of social media traffic in the US. And the coolest thing is that while pages shared via Twitter have a half life of about 3 hours, stumbled pages are over 130 times more effective.

StumbleUpon also has a cool way of managing and scheduling your shared links. Called, it helps you optimise your shared links by time of day – I wrote about it here. And while many people tend to dislike the StumbleUpon toolbar, with a small investment of your time, the system can deliver you some great content and plenty of new on-topic information. It takes the randomness of the web out and replaces it with serendipity. What more could you ask for?


Capturing the Mood of Your Content

Face-Recognition-on-Guardians-images-640x408 The web is a highly visual medium. It is also very text heavy, especially in the social media domain. And while there is a great deal of effort spent on delivering text and stories that resonate with audiences and help drive search results, I often wonder how much attention is paid to the imagery placed into our blog posts, articles and so on.

The Emotional Breakdown experiments with the 24 Hours in Pictures feed from the Guardian, analysing the images that are posted for emotional resonance.

More interestingly, you can also run this analysis across your own websites. Simply enter your web address and’s facial recognition API will give you a sense of the audience impact all those pearly whites will have on your readers.

And given that this “social web” phenomenon is all about people and not technology, you’d think this is a no-brainer for your web design team, right? But I wonder, will we see A/B testing on images in the near future? Will this help the web be more friendly, or just add another layer of weirdness on top?

I guess it all depends on your mood.

Optimise Your Website with

“You don’t have to run faster than the bear, just faster than your slowest friend”

When I first started building websites, the web was a very loosely joined collection of sites, boards, pages and applications. It was hard work finding what was “out there” – and we all spent a great deal of time finding, collecting and curating lists of sites and bookmarks. And then along came Google and everything changed.

Suddenly you could search and find what you wanted.

Google’s search results were powered by a complex mathematical logarithm that calculated the number of other websites linking to each other, analysed the text on the page and the images that were shown – along with dozens of other criteria – and then sorted this list of websites into an easily navigable list. And in our impatient, time poor world, those websites that ranked highly – on the first couple of pages – received the bulk of search related traffic.

But just as the web became easier to search, it also became easier to create. With cheap or free blogging and content management systems, you can have a website up and running in minutes. Literally.

But having a website doesn’t guarantee traffic. Remember, there are millions of sites out there. The challenge is finding the time to not only update your website, but to optimise it so that it can be easily found by your customers.

The thing to remember about search rankings is that it’s like the quote above – you don’t have to rank #1, you just have to outrank your competitors.

The team at Newcastle digital agency, Sticky, have recently launched a tool – NLYZR – that helps you do just that.

This web based tool has been under development for over two years. I remember being excited to see a very early – and very manual – version some time ago. Back then, Sticky founder, Craig Wilson, knew he was onto something special, but has invested a great deal of intellectual and practical knowledge into the system. From the beginning the vision was to automate as much as possible – so that business owners and web masters could easily and quickly see improvements.

These days, you simply put your website address into the NLYZR site together with preferred search keywords and the system comes back with a ranking and some recommendations. From there you can change, tweak and update your site to improve your search results.

The thing I like is that it provides practical suggestions – like reducing the length of the titles in your blog posts or adding descriptions to the images on your website. And that’s just the free version. Those who want to dig deeper and optimise an entire website can subscribe to the service from as little as $149 per year. It may be just what your business needs.