21 Dec 2012
As a startup, you are bound to reach a point in your evolution where money will blind you, whether its during roadmap planning or communicating with your customers--eventually you will be blinded by your investors.
Once you’ve taken on enough investment, or the load of the parent company who acquired, you will start seeing things differently. You won’t see your users the same way anymore, this will be reflected in how you deliver features, or structure your roadmap--it isn’t about users anymore, it is about profit.
Once you enter this phase your imagination goes away, and you work to speak in terms that your investors understand. This is where I feel Instagram is at.
Instagram found success by solving a pain point for users. Making taking, applying filters and sharing photos dead simple for end-users. Instagram founders had identified a problem and used their imagination to find a solution.
But when working to find solutions to problems their investors are having, unfortunately Instagram is experiencing a lack of imagination.
Could you imagine if Instagram had gotten creative with its advertising platform? If they had included it’s passionate users in the planning and platform, allowing advertisers to submit campaign ideas to users, and allow for users to submit photos that best represented the ad campaign, vote and generate buzz, even before the campaign is fully formed. Users would line up to give away licensing of their photos. It could be Instagram American Idol for advertising campaigns.
An Instagram advertising platform could run similar to the weekend #hashtag program that Instagram runs currently, but allow for campaigns to be submitted by advertisers. Generating passionate users, unique content and the buzz around what the community feels are the best advertising campaigns, and photos for these campaigns.
Instagram’s approach to taking control over it’s users content and serve advertisers and investors lacks imagination. Much like Twitter’s perspective, Instagram is focused on revenue and completely forgetting to include their users in their roadmap planning, and traded in their imagination for Facebook shares.