Instagram is good at many things, but it is not good at everything. Sure, Instagram’s massive success with the Millennial market can teach brands plenty of lessons. It shows that Millennials are an increasingly visual communication based audience who want to see, not read, what you have to say. It proved that adding social sharing elements to a basic idea can turn it into a phenomenon. It exemplifies the organic and amazing ways that simple hashtags can impact the generation’s culture (#tbt, anyone?). But again, Instagram it is not good at everything—and there are lessons to be learned there as well.
Instagram is a mobile app, and so far their web-based experience is far from ideal. Introduced just over a year ago thanks to “overwhelming user demand,” Instagram’s browser-based site is as simple as it gets. Users can access their image feeds, heart and comment on pictures, and little else, making the mobile capabilities of the platform far more elaborate than the desktop experience. The problem is, for years prior second party sites and plug-ins had been providing users with a plethora of options for browsing Instagram online, and all provided more functionality and in some cases a better design than Facebook-owned Instagram’s own browser-based attempt. It’s true that Millennials want to be mobile, but they also want (and expect) the online counterpart of what they are participating in to at least match the level of the mobile experience—if it doesn’t, they will find other ways to get what they want. Since introducing their online feeds, Instagram hasn’t made many changes, but piggybacking sites using Instagram content have continued to create innovative ways for Insta users to explore the app online. Here are some of the most innovative platforms piggybacking off Instagram’s capabilities, and what Instagram (and we) can learn from them:
This site started in 2011 as a more “beautiful” way to view Instagram online, and a way for Instagram users to share their images with non-users on the web. Copygram also gives the capability to download their all images for posterity with a few clicks, as well as search for hashtags, users, and locations. The platform is cleanly laid out, and emphasizes the photography aspect of Instagram, putting all focus on the images. This focus on image inspired Copygram’s most unique feature: Copygram Print Shop. The Print Shop allows users to order prints of their favorite shots in a variety of different formats, from contact cards to posters, and have them shipped directly to their doorsteps. Instagram users are clearly visually-driven, and Millennials crave elements of the analog world. Copygram provides the emphasis on photography that draws many Millennials to Instagram in the first place, and provides a way for them to easily hold on to their images IRL.
At first glance, Statigram looks like a straightforward Instagram-viewing site, albeit one that beautifully lays out users’ image feeds into an appealing grid and provides the hashtag and user search capabilities that Instagram’s own site currently doesn’t. But Statigram’s true purpose is to provide the social statistics and analytics around a user’s Instagram activity. The stats provided—including followers gained and lost, engagement history, and image optimization—help its reportedly 6 million users, which Statigram says includes many power-users and brands, to “grow a social-rich media strategy, effectively interact with [their] community and measure [their] efforts with metrics.” But the site also helps to promote feeds across other platforms as well as amp up user engagement with their photo contest platform, which allows users to simply create and run photo “challenges” on Instagram. At the end of 2013, Statigram introduced another popular feature, a tool that turned the most popular images of their year into a short “2013 best moments” video. The feature spawned a #memostatigram hashtag, and hundreds of thousands posted their memory vids on Instagram to share their highlights. For many Millennial users, and many brands, Instagram is a promotional tool, and providing ways for them to optimize that experience has proved a successful formula. For those who use Statigram for its superior web capabilities, treats like the best moments video give them a new way to tell a story about their life that they are clearly looking for.
Unlike the other platforms on this list, Flipagram is actually a mobile app that, like Instagram, allows users to take and manipulate images. But Flipagram turns picture-taking into storytelling: the app allows users to stitch together photos from their phone to create a short video set to music. Flipagram’s popularity has recently skyrocketed. CNN called Flipagram the “most downloaded free app on iTunes” at the end of January, and the platform claims that it has “tens of millions” of users. One major factor in Flipagram’s popularity is the app’s optimization of the ability to share content to Instagram. Flipagram has not created their own social network, instead using Instagram’s user base to feed into their own. Instagram accounts can be instantly connected to Flipagram, and videos are exactly 15 seconds—the precise length Instagram’s allows to be shared through their own Instavid. At the heart of Instagram’s own popularity is the desire Millennials have to share the story of their lives with their friends. Flipagram takes this craving for storytelling to the next level, and just as we saw Instagram “borrow” inspiration from Vine last year, they might be wise to integrate Flipagram-like capabilities into their own toolkit.
Want to travel the world while sitting at your desktop? Somewhere is the dreamy Instagram hack that makes you feel like you are seeing everything through a local’s eyes. The creator, French hacker Benjamin Netter, told TechCrunch he was inspired to create the site when he “realized that Instagram pictures were much better than professional photos to feel the atmosphere of a place.” When you arrive on Somewhere, it shows you a beautiful photograph with an explanation of the place taken from Wikipedia or Foursquare and the location pinpointed on a map. Users can then press a “somewhere else” button to be immediately taken to another hypnotizing place, taking images from Instagram and making them into a randomized world tour tool. Users are spending an average of 13 minutes at a time on the site- a high level of engagement, that shows the potential of Instagram to show users the sites of the world isn’t being fully explored.