Expert Opinion: Is Facebookification of Instagram inevitable?

Future of Instagram

What lays in store for the Future of Instagram as Founders exit and Adam Mosseri takes over the reins. 

Last week Instagram’s founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Kreiger exit Facebook to explore creativity. Facebook soon named, Adam Mosseri as the Head of Instagram.

In his role leading Instagram, Adam will oversee all functions of the business and will recruit a new executive team including a head of engineering, head of product and head of operations, enlightened the ex-founders in a press blog.

Instagram was bought by Facebook in 2012 for a whopping one billion dollar and is claimed to be a fruitful buy for the social media giant. Though the founders cited ‘exploring creativity again’ as the reason, it is believed that the rising tiff with the parent company, Facebook, around data privacy was the actual reason. Before Instagram, it was WhatsApp’s founder who exited the company amidst similar arguments with Facebook.

Mike’s and Kevin’s exit comes at the time when Facebook is witnessing serious data security issues, fake news threats and is under surveillance each passing day. We get talking to digital experts about the implications of the founder duo’s exit from Instagram and what next for the social giants?

Long-term implications for Facebook?

gopa kumarGopa Kumar, EVP, Isobar sees this as short-term rumble. “I think Facebook has taken enough steps and are taking steps to mitigate all risks. Post the exit of Instagram founders we have seen Facebook share going down as investors are worried about these issue brewing. Recent news of Facebook User data hack also does not inspire much confidence.”

The post-departure interviews indicate that, as mentioned earlier, the move is a culture clash between the Founders of Instagram and the leadership at Facebook. Of course, organizations and platforms have some implications when founders move on given that they have been intimately involved with the product roadmap. “However, Facebook has strong experience in social media and Instagram is a tool in a toolkit that includes WhatsApp as well. You’re likely looking at stronger integration between Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp unencumbered by the Instagram Founders,” believes Venugopal Ganganna, CEO, Langoor.

zafar raisOver the past few years, Facebook has taken over Instagram’s evolution and consumption style to complement Facebook usage. Instagram has remained fairly non-intrusive as compared to Facebook, but Zafar Rais, CEO, Mindshift Interactive foresees this changing over time, with Facebook’s aggressive need to monetize all aspects. “Currently, we see excellent ROI from campaigns run on Instagram, as compared to Facebook, but I fear the need for Facebook to blend in with Instagram constantly may cause more harm than good to the platform. The founders may have given voice and restraint to ensure Instagram stood out independently, which may wither away to a certain extent over time.”

 

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Instagram losing it’s founders- Snapchat’s gain?

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faisal haqFaisal Haq, VP Operations, WATConsult mentions that Instagram is not just capturing the right micro-moments, but how these micro-moments are captured and interest-based targeting is done because of the built of the platform.

Langoor’s Ganganna feels, “A lot of their (Snapchat) initiatives have not seen the upside. They need to identify what category they’re competing in and build a durable advantage there.”

Snapchat lost the plot a while ago. Instagram is backed by a brilliant strategic team that shall ensure the platform continues to go on the path of success. “Instagram has the ability to outlive the people behind it,” believes Rais.

Will Facebook make a comeback?

Amidst all the controversies the question that arises – will Facebook cope with the loss of Mike and Kevin. Rais here stated that Facebook has always been far-sighted and come out of obstacles heroically. “Their ability to quickly turn things around as per consumer or market needs and keep evolving basis the insights they gain gives them an advantage over others. This too is a passing phase and neither platforms can be expected to suffer too much.”

“Facebook is big enough and understands the ecosystem really well to take these issue lightly. If they need to ride the wave, they need to resolve and take preventive actions sooner,” opined Gopa Kumar.

Meanwhile, Haq presents a different reason for Facebook come out clean, as data privacy issue is not the thing of the west anymore. “We are gearing up for our general election in coming months and this will be a hot topic of discussion on various forums and debate if the platform is used to sabotage and disrupt the electoral base and not just Facebook but Instagram now too have to put in measures to validate the authenticity of the widely used technology and the platform.”

Impact on Growth

When Facebook took over Instagram for $1 billion it had just 31 million users and now it has a billion, from no ads back then to now both display and video ads. Haq shared,  “If at all Facebook replicates its platform going forward to Instagram then yes, for sure it will kill its own growth and they won’t be doing it as users don’t want another cluttered non-organic platform. Facebook as a company is shifting focus on the secondary apps within the ecosystem, the matrix that came in early July this year revealed that 2.5 billion people use at least one of the app, be it Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger.”

venugopal gagannaFacebook has been pursuing user growth through acquisitions and offering Internet in the developing world like the deal with Reliance. Given how strong their user base is already it can be suspected that growth will continue to be slow. “However, on the revenue side, they have only really just started integrating WhatsApp. Their Instagram revenue integration is much better but they’re clearly doing more – which is reflected in the departure of the two Instagram founders,” stressed Ganganna.

On the other hand, Rais mentioned that the larger growth for Facebook in India is through rural markets. They are still downloading, absorbing and engaging on Facebook, and Instagram too! The larger dip is seen in the early 2006-07 users who have reached saturation points or are affected immensely by privacy concerns.

Facebookification of Instagram

“Its bound to happen and they will utilize and cross-utilize across Facebook platforms,” said Gopa Kumar. “Be it Instagram or WhatsApp, but the essence of Instagram and what it stands for will not change asa platform is really strong and growing. Any drastic change will definitely take the users away.”

Just like any app or platform even Instagram started with minimalist features and user friendly platform, and it did evolve in a complex yet very sophisticated app without cluttering the space, with time and age it developed into capturing users micro-moments, its now a search, discovery, marketing, education, recruiting, bookmarking, storytelling , entertainment product and above all a creative output to billion of users and it could become a leading e-commerce engine. “Like Facebook there are ads but the entire look and feel is still native and not annoying like Facebook and it should maintain the same and not become bloated with enough and more like Facebook,” noted Haq.

Rais does sees this becoming a problem for Instagram eventually. “Each platform must hold on to what they stand for and serve a purpose. With the extent of replication between the two platforms, this could pose as a threat towards the usage of either one.”

The need to showcase high levels of distinction and unique engagements will be vital to ensure Instagram’s further success.


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