Confessions of a Madman: Why Facebook Bought Instagram

Like Flickr and YouTube before it, popular photo sharing platform Instagram was recently acquired by a major company. The difference this time, however, is the company that spent the $1 BILLION (insert Dr. Evil motif here) is another social network; the one and only Facebook.

Reason #1: Their Core Principles Were Pretty Much the Same

According to Facebook, the social behemoth embraces two major principles. i.e., the key to its social success.

1. Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.

2. Work as fast and efficiently as possible.

With these two principles in mind, Facebook found a company that reflected its same core values, and, perhaps just as important, achieved them faster. It took Facebook from their February 2004 launch date to December 2004 to get one million users (I was *tear* one of them). Instagram, though noteably started after Facebook already made social media popular, only took a little more than two months in 2010 to reach the million user mark.

Reason #2: It Embodied Photo/Image Sharing

If you’re a Facebook marketer, or even manage your own Page, it’s pretty widely known that the content you post is more engaging if you use some kind of visual element (like photos or videos). A good example of this is the skyrocketing popularity of infographics over the last few years.

Instagram did two things very, very right when it comes to visual appeal and sharing.

It created an easy way of combining its own version of a Facebook Like, the ♥, and Twitter’s calling sign, #Hasthtags & followers, then gave you the ability to choose which social network you wanted to share it on outside of Instagram.

This simple Franken-shareability technique satisfied everything needed for social network success (Engagement + Ego + Envy + Photo + Share = WIN), and is something Facebook is looking for more help with in the mobile realm.

Reason #3: More Knowledge Means More Power

What other benefits does the acquisition of Instagram bring to Facebook? Sure, it might provide Facebook with a larger database of users, but it also provides a much bigger “elephant in the room” opportunity: User data collection that Facebook can use for its advertising platform.

As it stands, the current filters used on Instagram can give an insight to the user’s current emotion and the content associated with it. Short version: It knows who you like seeing photos from, and when. That data alone gives Facebook a dramatically better photo “graph,” something that will vastly help Facebook keep ahead of Google+ and other social networks that are trying to beef up their data-mining abilities regarding photos.

When it comes to using this data for the Facebook ad platform, marketers will be lining up around the block to get their hands on seeing which visuals best stimulate their target audiences, and (hopefully) the ability to directly target new audiences based on social-photo data.

It also gives Facebook a better picture (no pun intended) of how they might better craft their own mobile app, which, if you asked me, is such a headache to use it’s sad.

The Future of ‘Facetagram’

Now, what does it REALLY mean for Facebook to have acquired Instagram? Well, that remains to be seen. As of now, they haven’t announced any plans to merge the two giants, nor have they said anything about introducing ads or any other front-end changes to Instagram. The only thing Zuckerberg HAS said, is, for now, “Instagram will continue to grow and be built as an independent platform.”

But if you know Facebook like we do, you know there’s a good chance something is brewing in Palo Alto – something that will probably be yet another game-changer.