A Snapshot Of Success: Instagram

You want to know how Instagram got so successful? Sure! But first, let me take a selfie. We’ve all heard the song, the jokes and the word repeatedly used throughout everyday conversation – part of the hipster-inspired current culture, even being added as a word to the Oxford dictionary.

Love it or hate it, Instagram makes it easy to take selfies with its simple platform, filters, classic photo styles and short videos. In fact, it is one of the most heavily searched terms on the site and many more photo-sharing communities.

What is Instagram? If you haven’t been under a rock, you’ve more than likely heard about it. Instagram is a free mobile-app that allows users to take photos and fifteen second videos directly and then share them to social-networking sites. Therein lies some of the brilliance, no? A platform that opens users to like-minded users, their own nostalgia and memories. The app didn’t exactly have humble beginnings either.

Initially, it was developed by Mike Systrom and Kevin Krieger, who decided to focus their current project, called Burbn, on photography. Mike also wanted to find a way to make his girlfriend look better in pictures via filters, but don’t tell her that. Systrom later stated that after Instagram was sold to Facebook, he was excited to see what they could do to make in even more money. The filters implemented and the open platform to the world was a goal of his. Much like Twitter, it has become an important app in keeping with current events. The many people you see posting pictures of themselves with different filters, over fifty-five million per day on Instagram alone, is definitely part of the pop cultures around the world. We could make hipster jokes, but let’s focus on the task at hand instead.

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The value of the idea wasn’t lost on investors Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, and Instagram was produced via a seed-funding campaign of five-hundred million dollars. With a successful campaign, Instagram launched in October 2010 and saw an explosion of popularity with over three-hundred million users ranked in 2012. After another campaign of funding in return for shares in the company for fifty million, Instagram got a nice make-over and more coverage on mobile devices: new filters, logo, functions, all the glossy stuff!

With a thirteen man team by the new release, it is clear that Systrom knew what the appeal of Instagram was to be users. Providing filters was the bait but the hook seemed to be carefully placed events such as trending topics on specific subjects, Throwback Tuesday that featured users posting pictures of their childhood or older days and, of course, selfies. Oh so many selfies. Instagram had cultivated a culture in its own right and even urged users to use the hashtag system on their uploads to make it easier to find users with the same interest.

With all of that success, it surprised very few people when Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame came knocking at their door. For one-billion dollars in both cash and stock, the deal was sealed and Zuckerberg made it clear that he still wanted the old team to run Instagram. Some saw this as bewildering, but despite losing a quarter of the on hand cash of his company, Zuckerburg stands by it and no one can’t say that Systrom and Krieger didn’t come out on top.

A few struggles did hinder some of their success. With any platform for people to step on, you’re likely to have a few doing some pretty dumb things. An investigation from the BBC brought up that some “genius” users were posting pictures of drugs they had for sale and then completing their sales via instant messengers. Naturally, Instagram responded that action would be taken – guess you can’t censor them all, right?

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Or, can you? Some criticism was brought up over the deletion of two accounts, a Canadian photographer named Petra Collins and an Australian photography company. Why? They both had pictures posted where pubic hair was visible beneath their bikini bottoms. Collins protested this due to Instagram not having rules pertaining to the incident; maybe it was just their way of telling her to examine her non-zipper? There are more tactful ways, granted. The biggest uproar was when Instagram updated its terms of service to essentially state that any material uploaded to their site could be sold to third-party services without consent, credit or compensation; not a lot of people were happy with this. It’s the oddest sentence in the world to say that Kim Kardashian and the National Geographic Society were two noted naysayers, but they must have been effective, as Instagram quickly issued a statement that stated the new terms had been rescinded. Many people had taken their filters elsewhere, unfortunately, regardless.

Still, even with a stumble here and there, Instagram has been a huge hit. It has become a part of pop culture and knows it as well as it knows how much people love sharing snapshots and videos of their life with the world. Certain sites and apps have their own reputation: Tumblr is where you go to see pictures and arguing, Facebook is where you go to see a billion reposts on your wall, 4chan is a place you don’t go if you value your sanity and Instagram is where you go to share pictures with moody, dramatic and adorable filters.

Systrom and his team have been clever in every step of Instagram’s inception and it is easy to see why it is successful. Initial views of Facebook purchasing Instagram had many shaking their heads and stating that Instagram got the raw end of the deal due to Facebooks IPO at the time floundering. However, with Facebook having bounced back, those critics are not as vocal now. Zuckerberg knew exactly what he was doing when he purchased Instagram early on. Some economists believe that, if Instagram did IPO currently, that they would be worth five billion – taking them out as a competitor was wise and a huge asset, a very clever partnership between two business owners that knew what they were doing.

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Sometimes, success is all in the strategy. Instagram catered to a rising part of pop culture and took advantage from day one, giving its users every reason to stay. Despite the few blunders here and there, Instagram has proven itself formidable against many of the big names of social-networking and apps for posting pictures.

Love it or hate it, Instagram cemented itself into our culture. Some say photos are timeless and businessmen say that success is finding what the people want and giving it to them. People want the world to see the interesting lives they lead and their filtering skills, Instagram is at their service. Systrom can be considered an inspiration, having sold Instagram for the staggering price at twenty-eight years old. If being able to retire early and call yourself a billionaire before you hit thirty isn’t a success story for the ages, I don’t know what is.


Amber Colyer

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