Instagram for $1 Billion…What’s Next?!

When I read that Facebook was buying Instagram for $1 billion, I had a bit of a different reaction than everyone else.  You heard a lot of complaints about Facebook continuing to take over other apps (first Gowalla and now Instagram!?)  You heard a lot of, “Are you serious!? ONE BILLION DOLLARS?”  You heard a lot of people just going crazy over two of their favorite pieces of technology coming together.

So what do I think?

I think this is awesome.  I love pictures.  Instagram brings me together with my friends from all over the country, takes away all of the noise from status updates and simply gives a picture.  I’m a visual person so it is perfect for me.  I, of course, love Facebook, but Facebook does not understand mobile apps and photography like they need to.  Sure they invented tagging pictures and created a more interactive experience for photography.  But Instagram can teach Facebook about what it takes for a good mobile experience and what mobile users are looking for.  Facebook has always struggled with their app, and Instagram has always been applauded by their app.  And after all, everything is headed toward mobile now so this will be important for Facebook’s business.

But what really made headlines was the fact that Instagram had 13 employees, has not been around as long as many of the other successful start-ups (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) but has still found so much success.  How many times have you seen a new product or app and thought “Why didn’t I think of that?  That was so obvious!”  Photo sharing is not a new invention.  People have been sharing photos since the beginning of time.  But Instagram took it to the next step to make it a packaged experience.

This past weekend I was furniture shopping, and there was a couch with a chaise that could be replaced with a smaller cushion so it became a regular sized couch (aka 2-3 cushions straight across).  What an obvious but awesome invention!  And how many times have you looked at the Draw Something! app and thought, “Of course!  If Words With Friends, Chess With Friends, etc. have been so popular, of course ‘Pictionary With Friends’ would be popular!”  It is all about thinking about what people NEED or WANT and thinking of a way to solve that problem or meet that desire.

My junior year at Boston University, I took a series of four classes infamously known as Core.  You were put on a team with 7 other people and had to invent a product that doesn’t exist.  Then over the semester, you had to create a business plan that was as detailed as figuring out where your office building and production facilities would be and how much it would cost to produce the product.  There were marketing, finance, operations, and information systems sections that went into excruciating detail about your plan and future profitability.  We had to think of multiple products before ultimately deciding on the TripShield.  But the way we thought about it was by thinking of what problem people had — what they were unsatisfied with — and how we could fix it.  We thought about wires lying around college dorms and in dangerous places for young children.  We then thought of a way to fix it with the TripShield.

Not every company will have success like Instagram. They are really the black sheep of our time (see TechCrunch article). But every so often a company with an awesome ideas gets likely and, well, gets $1 billion dollars.

What do you think made them stand out more than other companies who have these awesome, unique ideas?

80 Seconds Campaign

Did you know that every 80 seconds there is a house fire?  When I was younger, I had a tremendous fear of fires.  For some reason I was convinced that my house would catch on fire.  Fortunately, nothing like that ever happened, but many people aren’t as lucky.  When Hana Yi told me about this virtual campaign, I was blown away by the creativity and innovativeness of it.

The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago launched a virtual campaign to raise awareness for the dangers and abundance of house fires.  They wanted to show people who have not been victims of house fires about the pain that it can cause.  Users will connect to Facebook and watch six of their most precious Facebook pictures virtually burn.  I can honestly tell you watching some of my most prized pictures burning (even though it was virtual) gave me the chills.  The pictures the campaign chose for me included pictures of my family trip to Europe and other pictures taken during college.  It was terrifying to think of my memories burning away.

After you watch your pictures virtually burn, you are brought to a page where you can donate to the Red Cross.  Then you can tweet about it, post it on your Facebook wall or write about the campaign like I am doing here.

This campaign is truly genius.  Targeting their audience online was very smart of the Red Cross, and incorporating Facebook into the campaign was even smarter.  People cherish their Facebook pictures and love looking at them.  Everyone always asks “Did you put up the pictures from last night yet?” or “Did you see the picture that was just tagged of me?”  “Burning them” over the Internet and having people imagine that their prized pictures are gone forever is the perfect way to show how much pain can come from house fires.  A good friend of mine lost most of her prized possessions and photographs due to a house fire many years ago and is still saddened by her loss.  Showing people what it would be like to lose as much as she did is the perfect way to get people to understand this harsh reality.

For more information about the campaign, check out the news release from the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago.

What do you think about this campaign?

Where Will It Go Next?

I have truly found it fascinating that Facebook brings me back to my roots.  Yes, there is the “Become a Fan of New Jersey.”  Yes, there is “I’m from 732…”  And so much more…BUT I have found it hilarious that old Nickelodeon cartoons that I used to watch religiously have not become options to become a fan of.  Rocko’s Modern Life…Doug…Ren & Stimpy…what will be next…Salute Your Shorts?  Even though I have never really appreciated the Become a Fan option, I have enjoyed watching the next categories that come up.  But what is the actual meaning of Becoming a Fan?  What does it prove?  Is it just another useless application that seems to clutter Facebook’s website?

Then I think about the status option.  Who cares if you just woke up or if you just had a hard test or if you think the weather outside is bad?  The same thing goes for Twitter.  Many people write useless statuses that do not amount to anything.  (I have to admit, I am one of those people at times even though I am trying to post more useful information as I explore social media.)  But what if you post your recent findings about an industry related item?  What if you post your thoughts on the headlines of the New York Times?  I have posted news articles I have found interesting, such as a 90 year old being bat mitzvahed or my thoughts on the Hudson River plane crash.  What does this do for networking purposes?  If someone else holds the same perspectives as me, they can comment on my status, whether on Facebook or Twitter.  If they have opinions about my ideas on my blog, they can comment on it.  By creating a connection with another person over similar interests, a great relationship can be formed.  And this my friends, is networking.

So back to Rocko’s Modern Life.  Let’s say you decide to become a fan of it.  What does this lead to?  If two people both have in interest, will they network and be connected if they make the effort?  Even though it is something as simple as a cartoon, it may bring people together.  After all, I am writing a blog post about it.  When I see groups that involve these old shows, it makes me think about the time when I used to watch these shows.  Even though at this point in my career I would probably not talk to a professional with that same interest in me, if I was contacted with someone younger who had the guts to discuss that interest with me, I would be interested.  It is crazy what may bring people together.  If “Watching Rocko’s Modern Life…” was posted on Twitter by a professional, I am SURE many people would comment, so why not network with someone about it?