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.

Yahoo Plays The Mean Girls Game With Facebook

Let’s face it, if you’re Yahoo, you’ve got to be hurting. From failed ad campaigns, to their former swear like a sailor CEO being chastised for announcing her termination…via iPad, to dusted acquisitions both as the acquirer and the acquired, the once purple people connecting behemoth has taken its fair share of lumps including a revenue slide that took out a fifth of their revenue. It’s like Wall Street and the Tech Community are the antagonists in Mean Girls and Yahoo is Lindsay Lohan (did I really just use that analogy?).  So I can only speculate based on the most uneducated opinion I could seek (mine),  but maybe this weeks announcement that Yahoo was prepared to wage war against Facebook through the wonderfully knot tying black suckubus known as the patent legal system reeks of a company willing to use any means necessary to remain a twinkle in the eye of the investment community, as some have speculated. By threatening litigation against Facebook, Yahoo could be “trying to send a signal to the deals market about the strength of its entire patent portfolio” according to a Reuters article published in TODAYonline. Mr Ron Laurie, a specialist in IP and investment banking with Inflexion Point Strategy mentioned that this tactic is a low risk way of accruing acquisition value.

Facebook Feels What It’s Like To Be Burned By Monty Burns

You’ve got to be flabbergasted if you’re Facebook right now. But what do you do? Do you go tit-for-tat and dive into the same patent locking strategy in a countersuit? Probably unwise. According to a United States government database, Yahoo has over 3,300 patents and published patent applications, while Facebook has 160.

Do you shut them out from the open graph? Now that’s interesting. You could argue that Facebook saved Yahoo’s bacon in bringing a new demographic to them, as the open graph news aggregation increases awareness of Yahoo’s content and subsequently click throughs. Yet if we bring this conversation full circle, it’s Yahoo who owns the Pay-Per-Click patent so who are we fooling here?

There are some, like Mark Cuban that want to see this end in a bloody mess. Who believe the scorch and burn fallout of the panel litigation might be a large enough sum to change the entire landscape of patent law. I for one was indifferent. Is this really a big enough issue that it’s going to impact me? Some in the tech space believe so. Fred Wilson’s post is convincing as he pretty much says that Yahoo, from this point forward, is dead to him.

But again. This is me. I’m selfish. Why do I give a flying french fry over two megalords dancing in the squared circle of patent law? Well it was pointed out to me by an acquaintance of mine – someone I’ve spoken to for years, with deep knowledge of both companies and who sits on a level that can go deep enough where his insights are 9 times out of 10 going to be correct painted an ugly picture.

Me: People aren’t going to care. Only reason is if you see immediate job loss as fallout due to patent claims. If mom and pop stores can’t use Facebook, if Facebook’s ad sales team gets canned…that’s it. Hurt needs to come on a local level for it to make it relevant.

Him: The rumors will be that Facebook will either close or have to charge everyone to use it in order to pay a Yahoo patent judgement. The news media will go NUTS over it. Legal experts will say its unlikely but possible because of treble damages.

Me: GTFO. Easy fix. Increase the cost of ad units to supplement the need to pay the piper for the patents.

Him: No. because one of the patents is for PPC. So it would have to be a settlement. And there is a slight chance the settlement could be 10B plus.

And then the money shot…

Him: But the fun part will be if they go after Google +

It hit me harder than a high school breakup on Facebook, as I read Executive Editor for CNET, Paul Sloan’s article on the whole ballyhoo and why I think he’s spot on. An end result of the strategy implemented by Yahoo could be forcing Facebook’s hands to actually buy out the patents before their IPO. This is an IP acquisition and one that could put Facebook in the driver’s seat if it were to roll out the same feet to the fire methods of patent twistedness that they’re being subjected to currently if/when it would go after Google.

Wow, that’s conniving. That’s just plain…mean…

You Are Here: The Confusing Landscape of Social Networks Just Got More Confusing


You’re out on a date when your wife asks if you want to head to the local comedy club to see her favorite comedian perform. “Sure, why not?” you say. His jokes are pretty entertaining, and his last HBO special that aired had you chuckling.

So off you go to the club, taking a table close to the stage, sitting through the opening act and without further adieu, the featured performer takes the stage!

There’s only one problem. The jokes all seem familiar. Yes, you heard them before.  In fact it’s the same act you saw on television. Annoyed, you clap politely, and force a smile when your wife exclaims, “Wait for the punch line this is a good one!”

The predictability’s killing you.

You see this is the conundrum that every social media manager faces.

Two is company, three’s a crowd…

Life was so much simpler 12 months ago. If you were overseeing content distribution across social media platforms, your focus was most likely bifurcated between twitter and Facebook. Sure you’d host your videos on Youtube, your images on Flickr, and your documents on Scribd, but they didn’t have the same internal visibility as the other two. This may be generalizing, but I’ve worked with enough CMO’s to boldly point out that they perceived the latter as curation sites and the former as relationship building ones.

So life’s good. You have your weekly editorial calendar, your humming along on interacting with your communities, and then Google drops a bomb on social media.


Ohai +1…

Hear that? It’s the collective world both yawning and groaning concurrently. The very prospects of Google+ have left the world of social media divided. On one side of the argument are purists who believe content is federated, and as such will make for the bed of straw necessary to house the stables. “Isn’t content agnostic?” they ask.

On the other side of the argument we’ll call them the social media compartmentalists, argue that the content you share on Facebook has very little opportunity to succeed on other channels based on the fact that community personas are distinctly different even if speaking to the same person.

Let’s put it out there. Both sides of the argument are right. Yes, content is free to roam the binary plains of the internet. Conversely, optimizing content is a necessity to reach your audience in a manner that they’re most receptive to. And that starts with understanding the behaviors of each respective community you manage.

For example, there’s a ton of pressure, both internally and externally for brands to develop a Pinterest presence. In fact one of the first questions I personally received while speaking at a Cincinnati Social Media Club meeting was specifically about when not if my employer will provision a pinboard.

This is completely backwards. We, as social media strategists, shouldn’t be expected to jump in the proverbial social media pool head first without knowing how deep the water is. By rushing into the “next big thing” you run the risk of incurring more damage than actually being methodical. And speaking of methods, here’s a quick one to keep in your back pocket while facing internal pressure to evaluate new channels:

  • Observe – What is the purpose of the channel?
  • Define – What value do you bring to the community?
  • Develop – How do you plan on engaging?
  • Learn – What are the metrics you will apply to help define success?
  • Optimize – How will you use your metrics to create deeper levels of engagement through insights?

In Conclusion

New channels aren’t going away. Quite the opposite, in this era of new entrepreneurialism, we will continue to see burgeoning social networks placed squarely between the eyes of the hip and trend setting. Yesterday’s Google Plus is today’s Pinterest. Today’s Pinterest may be tomorrow’s Diaspora. And so forth…

What’s lost on our shift from one social channel to the next is how this impacts our user base. I found a great quote I wanted to share with you; a passage from a post I read on Horse Says Internet. Nothing I’ve read so succinctly defines the point of inflection (and point of view) we as social agents, consumers of content and producers of engagement face every minute, of every hour of every day.

The idea of being able to seamlessly manage different identities on different parts of the Web is a holy grail that remains practically elusive. We think that because we can do this in real life, be a different person at work, at a bar, in our photography club, with our family, etc., we should be able to do this online. But in real life we shift identities intrinsically, with very little conscious curation, as many pieces of psychology research have shown…Online, where identities are much more publicly visible and personal branding much more explicit, there is a certain “natural monopoly” that the incumbent social networks have established (Facebook for personal, LinkedIn for professional, etc), and this will make it hard for new entrants to displace them.

Keep calm my friends, and carry on.

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.