The emerging social photo app Instagram is having its moment in the sun.  First, there was the long awaited release of the Android application, which finally extended the service to over half of the new smartphone handset market.  Then, just a week later Mark Zuckerberg hands the 13 person Instagram a check for a cool billion.  What a week!

In taking the pulse of the blogosphere, there were a couple of surprises that caught our attention.  First off, was the amount of chatter that was created in response to the Android release.  In comparing the six days following both news events, mentions of Instagram following the Android release actually exceeded the volume of chatter post Facebook acquitision by 3%!    My immediate reaction upon looking at the data was there must be some kind of mistake.  After all, being mentioned in the same breath as Facebook is second only to being associated with Apple, or in a YouTube context some kind of cute kitten.  Being acquired by Facebook is an instant ticket to awareness and recognition with a whole new audience based on coverage by mainstream media.  Heck, even my mom asked me about Instagram!

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After confirming the validity of our findings, I started to think of how and why this could be.    In my mind, there are several factors behind this result:

  • Android has a very active community of content creators and critics online, many of whom have been eagerly awaiting the Android release.  Proof point – Instagram surpassed 5 million Android downloads in less than a week after launch.  It took Instagram seven months to acquire 5 million on iOS.
  • All was not rosy for Instagram post Android launch.  Witness the daily sentiment scores spike with negativity on April 3 and 4, as  as people complained that the app was buggy and didn’t function properly.  Instagram reacted quickly, pushing out several updates in the first few days.
  • The majority of social mentions of Instagram on Facebook would likely be shielded from social media monitoring tools, due to the fact that Facebook is a “walled garden” or password protected site.  This is an important distinction that isn’t widely understood by the marketing industry, and presents a significant blind-spot for brands


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So, what are the key takeaway for brands regarding the relative success of the Instagram Android launch versus Facebook acquisition?

  • Know your audience – who they are and the extent to which they are active and participating on social channels
  • Offer them something of value, and if you slip up, perform mea culpa and quickly make good
  • Be aware that not every social media conversation is a public one, make sure you do your due diligence on all social channels!