Tuesday 1 January 2013

Instagram: the invisble bit of the story

Like most of the Western world, I'm a little wooly today. Do bear that in mind.

Inside the 'Instragram story' something very magical happened. Something which I'd never visibly watched happen in realtime before. Some people did a thing and the thing was fast and reactive and it did exactly what it needed to do and no more.

It was quite a brilliant thing. But it was also a slightly unnerving one.

Instagram 'clarified' their user terms and conditions. People didn't like the way those 'new' clarified terms and conditions read. They thought they conditions meant Instagram could reuse any posted photographs to the service in advertisements for products which may or may not have been featured in the photographs. With no payment and no attribution. But it was okay, because they weren't claiming copyright.

Commentary on whether all those people misread the clarified terms and conditions has been done elsewhere. I read them, and carefully, and this is what I too thought they meant. So I installed the coincidentally new shiny Flickr app and simply switched allegiances. Other people didn't. I ended up with a split community connundrum which is going to become more common in the months ahead as this happens more and more. One social network to rule them all no longer applies. As I said in a post at the beginning of the year, people are fracturing.


I watched the fall out from this clarification on Twitter and the most interesting thing of all was not the hundreds of people rolling around in outrage. That's now normal behaviour. No. It was that this little group of three people were being retweeted into my stream by people like @digitalmaverick and others and the group of people were asking about how Instagram did particular things as part of its process. And it became apparent that this group of three people were building, from scratch, a service for other people to use, for free, which ripped out all your Instagram photographs, backed them up, and then deleted your account.

In a day.

Three people.

For free.

I can't remember the name of this programme/web tool (wooly). I do remember commenting at the time that the future was not big, it was small. Because if three people who are not physically in the same place can do all that, cos they think it's a good idea, in a day...

My prediction for 2013 is this. If it doesn't exist, build it. If it doesn't do what you want to do, change it. If it doesn't tell you the things it needs to, ask it then report it. If it doesn't make something clear, redesign it and if it isn't getting hits or getting you the marketing return you think it should, move. If you don't, someone else will. And they'll steall all your customers.

Don't tie everything in to the longview. Some things need the longview. Some things don't. Increasingly, an annual business plan is looking, to me, irrelevant. If you're not looking at marketing return on a digital platform of any kind at least twice yearly, that's too slow.

But most of all expect fast. Faster than ever before. Where once we looked at hardware updates yearly, we're now looking at digital society behaviour updates at least twice yearly, approaching something which is fluid and evolutionary. Reactive. Facebook is not it any more. You're going to need some imagination.

Here's to the year of the imaginers.


  1. yay, I will toast that. Here's to the imaginers and the makers.

    1. Yeah. I think there's room for the big players. But there's a lot of space to be grabbed by the little guys too.