Instagram’s lack of features are pro-user, anti-brand

16 February 2015 #Thoughts

Instagram might be my favourite social network. It’s fun to add content to it and it couldn’t be simpler to browse the content in it. Importantly too it has stayed true to itself, even post-buyout by Facebook back in 2012. As a platform and an application it has not changed much, but its popularity makes it vulnerable to temptation. Temptation to give into brands.

Brands are already all over Instagram, that’s obvious. Encouraged, even. What’s dangerous about giving over to the desires of brands is ruining what is great about the application itself.

Load up Facebook or Twitter and what do you see everywhere? Ads. Not interesting ads, for the most part ads on these platforms are just extensions of sweeping campaigns that hit every other medium. They have become a ‘dumping ground’ for content.

Instagram too have begun rolling out advertising internationally but take a look at the occasional sponsored post and what do you notice? They look like Instagram content. These would look out of place on Facebook, Twitter, in a magazine or anywhere else.

Windows down, music up. What tunes are you listening to? #signsofsummer #Maccas #imlovinit

A post shared by McDonald's Australia (@mcdonaldsau) on

Many marketers are crying out for more tools to push their content into Instagram. The application currently lacks two obvious features, a ‘retweet’ like function and the ability to switch between multiple accounts. The latter is a headache for brands as it typically forces that brand to have a device dedicated to posting to Instagram, or regularly sign in and sign out of accounts.

Think of this though from the consumer perspective. It means the brands I follow will have a hard time outsourcing their Instagram feed to some off-location agency who posts content through an API. From my experience (that is, the brands I follow) posts by brands on Instagram look authentic because they are!

Again in contrast to many brands Facebook and Twitter content which is clearly machine-posted, off-site content dumped onto that service for followers to see.

I’m not entirely naive either, I’m sure McDonald’s post above was a carefully curated photo posted to Instagram. But the effort to make it look genuine is obvious. How many ads on Facebook look genuinely Facebook-y (and what would that even look like?)

Another common complaint is that URLs in comments on photos aren’t linked. The only link you can give is one in your profile. Great! Most regular people don’t need to share links in every photo, the only accounts that would benefit from this are, again, brands!