Get More from Instagram

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I have been a fan of Instagram for some time. Not just because of the filters … but because it has developed an interesting and engaged community of users. Instagram has become the Flickr that the internet didn’t forget.

But there is a vast difference between using Instagram as an individual and using it as part of your business marketing toolkit. But many of the things that you love about Instagram personally, can be usefully applied professionally – with a couple of caveats:

  • Think with your brand hat on: Consider the content, composition and colour of the photos you are taking. Try to provide some form of visual consistency
  • Let your personal creativity and personality shine: Just because you are working on a professional presence doesn’t mean that it is a personality free zone. You got your job due to your unique talents. Apply these to your Instagram efforts
  • Connect in and connect out: Make sure that your Instagram efforts are connected with your broader marketing and business strategy. Remember, likes are not revenues, so don’t get carried away with a flurry of interest. But do take advantage of the high levels of community engagement available through Instagram – it’s a great way to connect out to your community.

This great presentation on Instagram by Ross Simmonds provides some fantastic guidelines for doing more with Instagram together with samples of brands that are doing the right things.

Free Your Instagram Photos with FreeThePhotos

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Remember when Flickr was cool? It has the no-brainer business model of $25 per year, in-built community functions like sets, groups and connections, and it helped manage copyright through various licensing arrangements. And the open API meant we could do cool things like

But then it lost its way.

Yahoo! stopped telling us about what they were doing and why. The diehards continued to post their images to Flickr but many others, attracted by easy-to-use apps, newly emerging and vibrant communities and a hipster ethic switched to Instagram, or Path or even to Twitter to share their photos.

When National Geographic suspended their Instagram account, it got serious

Over the lasts couple of days, I have written a couple of pieces analysing Instagram’s change of terms. It would be naive to think that Instagram did not expect a backlash of some sort, but by dumping the early adopters, they are opening the door to a more mainstream audience. The backlash then becomes a form of earned media, creating a social media news story that jumps into mainstream news consciousness.

National Geographic suspends Instagram account Of course, the beatup around photo ownership is actually not about intellectual property – but about the influence we each hold within our social networks. Social judgement’s a vital and highly prized element in a digital campaign, and the change in terms from Instagram opens the door to a level of granular automation that perfectly compliments the shift to real time bidding and automated digital ad targeting via systems like Facebook Exchange.

But when big brands who have made a significant investment in building communities within Instagram take a stand, it’s time for the rest of us to take note. National Geographic’s single image announcement boldly features on their Instagram page – making it clear that the terms of use scheduled to take effect in January were not to their liking.

Next step – migration – Google+ or Flickr?

Now at this time of year, we can expect people to be taking MORE not less photos. And we will be wanting to SHARE them with our friends, families and random social network connections more than ever! So what is one to do? The obvious suggestion is to migrate photos to another service, close your Instagram account and find a new network for your photos.

Google+ has been recommended by some, with its Picasa-based system. But Google has yet to crack the non-tech feel to most of its systems and this is a major barrier to entry for the average non-tech Geek. My choice would be Flickr – and as I have a long standing account, it’s really a non-contest.

Free your photos

If you want to follow me over to Flickr, you can do so using this great new site – free your photos. It takes the pain out of the download and upload process.

  1. Visit freethephotos.com
  2. Visit Instagram.com and login
  3. Visit Flickr.com and login (these steps make it easier)
  4. Login and authorise your Instagram account
  5. Login and authorise your Flickr account
  6. Click the Free Your Photos button

freeThePhotos2It takes a while, but you can set the site to email you when the process is complete. Then it’s just a matter of using the bulk management tools on Flickr to sort through and arrange the images.

But is there a replacement for my Instagram app?

And of course, if you are looking for an alternative iPhone app to Instagram – one with filters and auto uploading etc, Flickr have just released one for iPhone and one for Android. There are also dozens of community sourced Flickr apps for Android available here.

Marissa Mayer will be loving Instagram’s early Christmas bonus

Judging by the number of new connection requests coming through from Flickr, it would appear that there is some shift already taking place amongst my network. Our natural inclination is to establish trusted connections within a new network early. So not only does Flickr benefit from new members, those members are bringing their community strength with them.

Instagram may have unwittingly delivered an early Christmas present to Marissa Mayer at Yahoo! But let’s see what the new year brings.

HT @JohnHaydon

Instagram Don’t Want Your Pictures, They Want Your Influence

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Over the last 24 hours, the changes to the Instagram social network’s terms of use have rippled across the web. Many took to Twitter to voice their displeasure, while others determined it was a non event. In many respects, it was only a matter of time before Facebook began to expect a return on their $1 billion investment in the nine person strong social network startup.

Instagram responds

As I suggested yesterday, Instagram will measure community response to the changes and are likely to return with a watered down version of their terms of use. In a blog post from co-founder, Kevin Systrom, Instagram have moved to clarify the plain English ambiguity that comes with legalese.

Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.

The post also moves to clarify ownership rights and privacy settings – though it is worth pointing out that the privacy features in Instagram are not yet as granular as those offered by Facebook.

Big data is the hidden gold

The world of advertising has shifted substantially in the last 2-3 years. Those immersed in the world of digital will have a more nuanced understanding of “innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram” than the general public. It’s not simply a case of a social network selling your photo for use in an advertising campaign. It’s about using the META DATA associated with your photo to CONTEXTUALISE digital advertising within YOUR social network.

So, imagine that you ride a Ducati motorbike (as I used to). If I took a photo of myself on a Ducati motorbike at the local dealership and tagged it accordingly, that photo may appear in a Facebook ad (or an ad served via the Facebook Exchange elsewhere on the web). But most importantly, because we know consumers trust friends more than we trust brands, we are more likely to respond to advertising with an implied (or real) endorsement. So when my Ducati ad appears with a well crafted call to action, and you click through to an offer from your local motorcycle dealer, Instagram will have done its job – delivering a highly targeted contextual advertisement to a highly targeted, socially-influenced audience.

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This can occur because each time you take a photo with Instagram, you upload not only the photo itself, but you connect that photo with other identities and data, like:

  • The caption of the photo and a list of hashtags in the caption
  • Location of the photo – latitude and longitude, and sometimes a location name
  • List of comments on the photo, each with the text of the comment and details about the comment’s author
  • Date and time the photo was created
  • Link to view the photo on the web in different sizes – thumbnail, low resolution and standard sizes
  • Count of likes, with details of each user who liked the photo
  • Details of the user who posted the photo – their username, website, bio, profile picture and full name

You’re not the product, your friends are

We often say that when you use a social network and the price of entry is free, that YOU are the product. But that is only half the story. You are not the only product – your friends and social connections are too.

And in a world that is inundated with messages and messaging, cut through comes via trusted sources. That’s why Instagram (or Facebook) don’t want your images, they want your influence, reputation and social connections.

Instagram Dumps Early Adopters for a Shot at the Mainstream

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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”:

InstagramRights

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.

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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.