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A Picture is Now Worth 800 Million Users

Facebook’s acquisition of the popular photo-sharing app Instagram portends exciting new opportunities for brands.  As an example of Instagram’s popularity, since December its user numbers nearly doubled—from 15 million users to 27 million users.  Likewise, when Instagram became available on Android, the number of users increased to 30 million, and one million of those users registered within the first 24 hours of availability.

So, what does this acquisition mean for brands?  First, not all Instagram users are Facebook users and vice versa.  Obviously, with Instagram’s 30 million users and Facebook’s 800 million users, their integration provides brands with the opportunity to reach significantly more consumers.

Moreover, if Instagram remains independent from Facebook, Instagram users will not be limited to sharing their photos on Facebook.  Instead, they will continue to share them on other social networks like Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, Posterous and Foursquare.  What this means for brands is they will no longer have to promote their social campaigns on one platform and then cross promote on other platforms.  Potentially, brands could launch one larger social campaign across several platforms, which would greatly simplify their efforts at connecting with consumers.

For brands to successfully connect with consumers, they must understand the importance of using pictures to tell their particular stories.  The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is extremely relevant with regard to social media.  Audiences today are less likely to be drawn into a brand’s story by mere words, so Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram provides brands the opportunity to connect with the mobile community in a more stimulating way.  For example, brands could create campaigns that encourage consumers to take photos that somehow incorporate their brands, post them, and use those brands’ names to tag those photos.  Such campaigns not only get audiences involved, but also draw in others who view the photos and who have similar interests.

Although Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram provides increased opportunities for brands, some people are concerned about invasion of privacy.  Facebook’s terms of service state that it has license to any content posted on or in connection to Facebook.  Therefore, because Facebook now owns Instagram, it also owns all Instagram photos, even those not published to Facebook.  So Facebook is now entitled to more data, including your location via mobile.  Likewise, because Instagram users tag their photos according to their interests, Facebook now also has access to that information.  For those who have chosen not to use Facebook due to privacy concerns, those same concerns will now apply to use of Instagram as well.  Brands, however, may view Facebook’s data collection positively because it helps them target the specific consumers who may have an interest in their brands.

If a brand creates photos, it should view the Instagram acquisition favorably.  Consider that some profiles, such as for sports teams, celebrities, and amateur photographers receive 2,000 or more likes per photo.  The likes do not necessarily mean these consumers are brand customers, but they do indicate that consumers are connecting with those brands on some level.  Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram, therefore, can greatly benefit brands by increasing their connections and allowing them to better capture the attention of consumers by visually presenting their stories.

David Bell is a partner in the Dallas, TX office of the law firm of Haynes and Boone, LLP. He is the chair of the firm’s Social Media Practice. He may be reached at david.bell@haynesboone.com or 214.651.5248. Follow David on Twitter or add him to your LinkedIn network.

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May 2012
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