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Instagram shake-up and founders’ hint for the future set digital marketing experts abuzz

By Laurna Woods

There’s a shake-up at the top of Instagram, the world’s second-favourite social network, which could signal a new opportunity for digital marketing experts.

Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger announced they are leaving the platform they set up in 2010.

The photo-sharing site had fewer than 50 million users when it was purchased by Facebook six years ago for $1billion.

Mark Zuckerberg had spotted a potential threat – and with him on board, the social network grew and grew, passing one billion monthly users earlier this year.

Now, the brains behind the site have hinted they have a new scheme in the offing. Immediately, the digital marketing experts at our integrated communications agency got a little excited. There’s change on the way, led by the men who revolutionized the role of the social influencer and redefined social media marketing.

Social media disruptors

Systrom and Krieger conquered the world by giving anyone the ability to look like a photographer thanks to their site’s simple-to-use photo filters. They were social media disruptors – and they are moving on to something new.

In a statement, which they inevitably shared on Instagram, the partners wrote: “We’re planning on taking some time off to explore our curiosity and creativity again.

“Building new things requires that we step back, understand what inspires us and match that with what the world needs; that’s what we plan to do.”

So what could be next? If we had any inkling what their idea might be, we wouldn’t tell you. We’d be huddled around a PC, coding in a locked room.

Capitalize on 5G

Will they perhaps look to capitalize on the way 5G mobile will revolutionize our use of video? Will they look to challenge Facebook’s No1 status with a new social media platform?

Whatever it is, we know that when it arrives, it will represent an opportunity – and one you won’t want to miss the start of.

These guys had a great idea that appealed to a group of people who perhaps felt Facebook was too staid and Twitter too argumentative for their needs.

Their last big idea proved a massive hit with the key 18 to 34-year-old demographic, with a third of its users in this age group – the very market Facebook is struggling to keep.

Instagram’s premise really was simple. It supplied filters that made the photos taken on early smartphones look a whole lot better.

Influencer marketing

Instantly, anyone with a smartphone could look like an artist. People began to photo-blog their lives, allowing other users a look at their glamourous lifestyles, their tasty meals, their fitness routines.

Thus began the rise of the Instagram celebrity and, with it, the opportunities that influencer marketing provides. That direct contact with an engaged following is digital marketing gold in this new era

It was Systrom and Krieger who laid the groundwork for that, giving consumer brands a much-needed shot in the arm and opening up new possibilities for digital marketing experts.

That was a side-consequence of what they set out to do – to empower people to create and to show their creativity. For all the criticism that Instagram can be a vacuous space, filled with image-obsessed people, there is much to give cause for pause on the average person’s feed – beautiful pictures of beautiful moments. It’s engaging, refreshing and always new.

Exerting control

But reports from the US say Facebook has been exerting too much control over Insta for the liking of Systrom and Krieger.

Facebook at first left Instagram largely to its own devices, without the need for it to cross-sell the services of its larger rival. Zuckerberg did, however, ditch Insta’s advertising-free model. Now, the feed crawls with promoted posts. Then backlinks to Facebook services began cropping up in Insta users’ notifications.

And key Facebook personnel – including the man who was in charge of Facebook’s newsfeed – have been put in powerful positions at Instagram. That mirrors moves at other firms Zuckerberg acquired, such as Oculus and WhatsApp, which lost its founder earlier this year.

It’s telling that Systrom and Krieger’s statement included the phrase “explore our curiosity and creativity again”. Again. Did they perhaps feel stifled by the corporate goliath that had subsumed their creation? Will they use what they learned from Zuckerberg and Co and once again become the disruptor?

Time will tell. And we’ll be coming along for the ride.

To find out how we push the boundaries of PR, marketing, digital and web design to get the best for our clients, call us now on 0800 612 9890.