Corporate Eye

Facebook Acquires Instagram – The Value of Photos in Social Media

instagramFacebook has acquired Instagram for $1 billion — a number that few people predicted the company’s valuation would come close to reaching. At just two years old, Instagram is a mobile app that makes it easy for people to share photos with friends and families from their mobile devices when they’re on the go.

Now, those images and user information and behaviors will become part of the Facebook data mine. As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained in a post announcing the Instagram acquisition, “For years, we’ve focused on building the best experiences for sharing photos with your friends and family. Now, we’ll be able to work more closely with the Instagram team to also offer the best experiences for sharing beautiful mobile photos with people based on your interests.”

One might wonder why Facebook didn’t simply create its own tool to compete with Instagram, but with an estimated 25 million users, the value of Instagram comes more from the content and information that can be extracted from user behaviors than the technology. The race for social search supremacy is on and Facebook and Google are in the lead right now. Simply recreating Instagram wouldn’t help Facebook reach its goals as effectively as acquiring Instagram’s users and existing content can.

One might argue that many Instagram users are probably also Facebook users, but there is a reason why those people turned to Instagram for mobile photo sharing. Facebook doesn’t want to lose those users or the activities those users participate in on Facebook related to photo sharing. The acquisition eliminates the threat that Instagram poses.

At the same time, Facebook made an offer that Instagram couldn’t refuse. Again, the company is making a clear statement that competitors are sure to understand. After all, Facebook leaders don’t even call Facebook a social network anymore. Instead, they favor the term “social graph,” and Instagram content and user behavior are perfect additions to creating the ultimate social graph.

Of course, Zuckerberg is quick to point out in his announcement that there are no plans to make any changes to Instagram. Losing Instagram users would defeat the purpose of the acquisition. For now, enhancements will be made to integrate Instagram more seamlessly with Facebook but other changes should be minimal.

In his announcement, Zuckerberg wrote, “[Existing] features are important parts of the Instagram experience and we understand that. We will try to learn from Instagram’s experience to build similar features into our other products. At the same time, we will try to help Instagram continue to grow by using Facebook’s strong engineering team and infrastructure.”

No matter how the Instagram acquisition by Facebook story evolves, one thing is for certain — photos are valuable property for brands in social media. People like to publish them, share them, and talk about them. Think about how you can integrate photos into your brand’s social media marketing strategy. How can you use tools like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Flicker, and so on to do it?

The old saying tells us that a picture is worth a thousand words. Let the power of photos work for your brand by integrating them into your social media strategy right now.

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.