Three Thoughts On Facebook’s Instagram Acquisition

ImageHere’s my three quick thoughts on the billion dollar deal that took two days to complete. Why did Facebook do this?

1. Reach

The app operates in English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish. Facebook wants to conquest China. There are more mobile phones than pc’s…so think about it. Facebook’s mobile strategies have been average, nothing stellar. Instagram is more than just an app that allows you to take pictures, it helps people tell stories through content – that whole picture worth a thousand words thing. With Android users joining rapidly (1 million on the first day of availability), I see obvious overlap of Facebook and Instagram users. What I also see is Facebook’s first relevant app for mobile devices.

2. Data

Forget the photos for a second. They’re of course valuable as content for Facebook, but the gem in my opinion? The location data. How many terabytes of location based data has Instagram amassed? That’s a powerful reason for acquisition.

3. Talent

Yes Instagram was only 13 people but quite honestly who cares? Kevin Systrom is a ninja who built a product more cherished than the Polaroid camera it was inspired by. If Facebook truly is a 100 billion dollar entity, why wouldn’t you look to bring the best and brightest visionaries to the company, even if it cost you a billion dollars to do so.

Facebook Adds Video Chat and the World Collectively Responds With “So What?”

A few years ago I did something really radical.

I used Facebook to video chat with my friends.

Okay to clarify, I wasn’t actually using Facebook itself, but a plugin called Tokbox that embedded a video chat client into an application that ran on Facebook. It was cool! It was rad! It…ran out of novelty after a few weeks and I never used it again.

That’s not to say video chat is a poor means of integration, quite the contrary, and I believe it does have its uses. But a 1 to 1 chat client while Facebook’s newest competitor is rolling out group chat is simply not going to cut the mustard. Even more so, a chat client that lacks the ubiquity of Facebook’s reach – namely lack of mobile integration – makes, in my opinion, Facebook look unprepared. This was supposed to be a day celebrated through innovation and instead Facebook felt more slow and plodding and less methodical.

My quick POV? We are no longer synchronous communicators. We’re asynchronous. It’s why we prefer texting over talking. It’s the last luxury of time we have left – to think before we speak. And as such, like Tokbox, I simply don’t believe video chat is the (in the words of Zuck) “super awesome” killer feature the world’s been waiting for.

Gaming The System: Cheating Your Way To Mayorships On Foursquare

On the day that Facebook Places went live, Foursquare gained the most new user signups in their history, and given Facebook has a platform to teach 500 million users how to “check in”, it’s no wonder they saw such exponential volume in new users. The new wave of integrating game theory into social networks has captivated millions of people and will continue to do so for times to come, however just how vulnerable are these location based social media services that reward users through social currency?

After trying up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, select, start,I realized that classic cheat codes to skip to the head of the Mayorial line aren’t too far off from the realities of these platform exposures. In fact, according to a recent Slashdot submission, Foursquare can be gamed in 9 Perl statements, and invites readers to “submit more succinct versions of the code to game the system.”

Think “Social Phreaking” is going away? Think again. Yesterday a similar post was written regarding Facebook’s Places and how to spoof its location based services features.

What Does This Mean For Marketers?

In my opinion, the implications are obvious. As advertisers and retailers integrate incentives into “check-in” related activities, the audience they think they’re targeting may become discouraged if they know they may never make it to the top of the leaderboard. This becomes incredibly relevant at a hyper-local level where personal relationships with local retailers may even further impact and subsequently damage relationships between brands and loyal consumers.

The reality is, is that not a single piece of software in market today doesn’t have some level of security flaw. This however, the crux of Gowalla, Foursquare, Booya, and Places amongst future companies, will become more troublesome as word of mouth carriers the issues that could impede a positive experience amongst their user base when value exchanged for loyalty is compromised.

We’ve seen just how transient social communities can be – from Friendster to Myspace and beyond. There is no reason to think history won’t repeat itself if poor user experiences aren’t fixed quickly.

Is That Your Final Answer? Facebook Questions Launches In Beta

Let’s face it, Yahoo Answers has cornered the market on crowdsource based responses to community inquiries. However, there is a distinct possibility that changed today, as Facebook announced the beta rollout of its newest product, Facebook Questions. Facebook Questions works similarly to Yahoo Answers, but with more functionality, including multi-faceted search queries, real time updates to newest questions asked, and the ability to subscribe to a question and subsequently its answers.

I believe this is a game changer for Facebook. Whereas there has always been ethical issues surrounding Facebook’s policy to publish wall posts if not deemed “private”, Facebook Questions is positioned in such a way that it knocks the walled garden of privacy down without being invasive. This in turn leads to indexable content on search engines.

With 500 million potential question and answer producers, marketers should find intrinsic value in the possibility of contextual brand, category and competitive statements surrounding their products and companies. It will be interesting to see how Facebook rolls out integrated marketing with Brands regarding the Questions product because the possibilities could be endless. For edification purposes, I’ve embedded a few screenshots that I took this evening.

Bill Gates Quits Facebook: Sites Too Many Friend Requests As The Reason

After reading the article on Bill Gates leaving his Facebook profile behind due to his inability to distinguish who he knew and who he didn’t, I coudn’t help but wonder if LinkedIN had it right all along? What I mean specifically is LinkedIN’s system of showing pathways to recognition; should Facebook look into implementing something similar? We’re not all Bill Gates but I’m sure you’ve received a request or two where you ask “How do I know him?”.

As I’ve written about previously, I believe we’ve dawned on the new age of relevance. For example, the social currency accrued on MySpace was based on scale of connections within one profile (i.e. John124 has 50,000 friends/popularity contest) yet your “top 8” or first degree of friends was what you paid the most attention to.

Twitter may be the first to marry scale with relevancy, through opening up its API and allowing 3rd party developers to create products such as Tweetdeck that give users the ability to filter or group conversation.

But let’s go back to Facebook for one moment. Facebook has done a plethora right. They’ve recognized the migration patterns of aggregate social networkers who move in crowds from one site to the next (friendster > myspace > facebook) and developed tools to migrate with the herd (e.g. fanbox, facebook connect). Yet every tool in the universe can’t keep the attention of its user base if networks swell to a size that makes social networking counterintuitive.

What I found most interesting about Bill Gates’ decision is simple. Bill Gates does not need 10,000 friends on his social network. When he opens his mouth, he has a core of press ready to dictate every word and push it to mainstream media. What he was looking for was a true method of connecting with individuals who have relevance and meaning in his life.

We get so caught up in the celebrity of owning share of voice within a network. In fact the other day, someone I’m connected to had mentioned he was frustrated with Facebook’s cap on friends at 5000 and is interested in starting his own Ning page. After thinking about this, the individual who made that statement doesn’t need another social network. They need a broadcast tool. And that is not what the fundamentals of social networking is about.

the story of hipstr

Many nights, many weekend and many friends helped make hipstr a reality. What is hipstr? hipstr is a social rating site similar to digg and reddit in the sense that users can upload links to content they deem relevant and the community can vote on its popularity.

There are some immediate differences that really set hipstr apart however. The first being that hipstr is as dependant on the image telling the story as it is the link to the content. Yes, posting on hipstr can be difficult to some, but it’s a labor of love. I’ve found myself absolutely addicted at night, scouring online to find the perfect image to compliment my link.

The other difference you’ll find is the preview pane. Clicking on the image itself will provision a nice in-browser window that shows the page linked. Think of this as a browser in a browser. When finished, you can close out the preview pane and voila! You’re back at hipstr.

Conversely, if you want to open the story in a new window/tab you can do so by just clicking on the URL below the the description.

Additionally, we kept the categories relatively high-level. We felt digg and reddit are awesome at who they target. hipstr is a different crowd who may have never experienced social bookmarking before. We wanted to keep the categories light and easy to remember.

Once a story is linked to on hipstr, there are 2 primary methods of engagement to choose from. First you can rate the story posted. Do you like it (represented by a thumbs up) or does it suck (represented by a thumbs down)? Additionally you can discuss the link by submitting a comment about it. Comments can be rated as well.

Finally, if you find a news story on hipstr that you want to share, you can do so through clicking on the Facebook and/or Twitter icon. Once clicked, the link you like will be automatically populated in either your Twitter submission window or in a Facebook post to site/share with friends window.

I know hipstr has a ways to go. But it’s only the beginning. The impetus for building the site can’t really be nailed to one specific reason – my partner, Ramsey Isler (@ramsey_isler on twitter) and I have been sharing links to each other and our friends for at least 10 years. I’m convinced I could communicate through links. 🙂

We’ll continue to improve the site experience. In the meantime, feel free to post your favorite links, rate the ones on the site, and create conversation around the ones you love or even hate! Regardless as to how you participate, I appreciate it.

-Craig

Facebook Account Update

From: Facebook Support
Reply-To: Facebook Support
Date: Mon, 19 Jan 2009 19:58:15 -0500
To: Craig Daitch
Subject: Re: Disabled account

Hi Craig,

Your account was disabled after we received a report that it was compromised. We disabled it as a security precaution to keep others from logging in. If you’re sure that your login information and email address are secure, let me know, and I’ll reactivate it. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.

Thanks for contacting Facebook,

Jerry
User Operations
Facebook

Thank You

To all my friends on Twitter and on Facebook, your kindness is incredibly appreciated.

It’s been three days and I have yet to hear from Facebook regarding their decision to disable my account. I won’t speculate why they did it but I haven’t been abusive of Facebook. I do send a lot of links via my Share On Facebook bookmark button on Firefox but besides that, I’m clueless.

As I mentioned in a previous post I put on both of my blogs, I don’t need the account to socialize. I have IM, SMS, and Twitter for that. What I want are my pictures back.

I will copy verbatim the response I receive back from Facebook once (or if) I receive one.

Repost: I’ve Been Kicked Off Facebook

Imagine for a moment that you frequent the same restaurant every day, and every day you bring a new person with you to the restaurant. Before you know it, you’ve got a large section of that restaurant filled with customers, chatting it up, ordering drinks, food and leaving generous tips. Then one day you show up to order dinner and there’s a sign on the door that says “Sorry, you are not allowed in anymore. If you have a problem with that, email us.”

Tonight I was banned from Facebook.

I’m kind of taking it all in stride – I’m not sure why their admins decided to throw me off but I can’t help but wonder who is in charge of analytics at Facebook.

Look, I totally get their agenda. Facebook is not a charity. Facebook is and always will be a business. It’s a business first, a social network second. It’s why the Whopper campaign got killed (Though I wonder would they have pulled it had they run it as a Facebook ad?), it’s why they pulled out of endorsing developers via Facebook applications.

I’ve learned a lot from them. My relationship with Facebook goes back 5 years when they were “the other network” and MySpace hogged the spotlight, yet we still encouraged our automotive client to give them a shot given their tight focus on college students.

We watched as they began to scale and chip away at MySpace’s market share. Last year I had them come up to a meeting with Disney where they proudly announced they’re the #1 photo hosting site on the web.

Facebook had reached critical mass.

So you’d think given their lineage, they’d learn as they scaled to keep track of the very things third party companies such as Radian6 do on a daily basis – determine influencers online, understand the role of a member to those within their network.

This obviously isn’t the case. In fact I think they’re completely clueless.

Analytics are key to the success of any online community. Much like brick and mortar businesses, understanding who your best customers are will guarantee their loyalty. Well I would say I’m one of Facebook’s best customers, and not receiving an email explaining why my account was disabled really pisses me off because someone had to have disabled it in the first place. Does it hurt to look into my account, realize the frequency of which I post? Check the velocity of which people have added me to their own networks?

Hell no.

I would say that I deliver more value to Facebook than they do to me. Think about it. All of the extra page views I create for them, the free content I upload, etc.

Now here I am armed with a keyboard and an internet connection. Much more powerful than pen and sword and I can swear to you, they’re going to feel some pain on this one.

So Facebook, if you’re listening (doubtful), I want the following:

  • Full membership rights restored.
  • A written letter of apology from your head of Communications.
  • An explaination sent to my 700 closest friends as to why they couldn’t send me a happy birthday note via your social network because you disabled my account without reason.

Oh and by the way. This morning, my colleague was spammed via Facebook IM as a hacker took control of his friend’s account and decided to solicit him for money. I’m sure the last thing Facebook wants is the real story coming out as to how hack attacks are driving their members away…

All of this drama makes me restless. Hipstr will be up by SXSW, I promise you that. It may be alpha but it will be up, and when it’s up, I plan on focusing building my relationships with people I enjoy spending time with online without any concern that big brother will pull my account without reason.