The – hidden – power inside Instagram? A strong community management


A lot has been said and written since the acquisition of Instagram by Facebook: about Facebook’s objectives, about the business model of startups selling “their users as products” and its potential sustainability; about Facebook strengthening a dominant position, about users data given without previous permission, about future implications for marketing, and so on.

In the jungle of the debates surrounding that acquisition, a couple of articles analyzed aspects of what lead Instagram to such a sky-rocketting success.

Among the success factors mentioned, let’s recap the most significative ones, inspired by Ann Handley’s article and augmented with my own filters:

– the power of visual story-telling
– a sense of intimacy mixed to universality
– a true unique mobile experience
– the power of the emotional connection
– some technical easy-to-use tricks, aka filters!, making any amateur feel like kind of a pro, but also giving new support to true photographers
– the ability to share with other networks
– the ability to augment pictures with geolocation data and any other data embodied in #hashtags.
– of course, all the “social glue magical features“, such as the ability of following, liking, commenting, mentioning, sharing, #hashtaging.

Many of the above mentioned elements are explained in this excellent article of the NYT, particularly in this statement: “You see that in Instagram. It’s not a technology triumph. It’s a design and psychology triumph.

But at my great surprise, I never read any mention of a crucial element in Instagram success, in my opinion: a strong community management!

To me, Instagram is a model of community management.

Here are some key elements that make Instagram more than an app, but a vibrant community:

shared values:
love of photography, of visual communication, of beauty, exchange, empowerement, to name only a few.
existence, names and community managers for sub-communities:
@igerssuisse, for example, or #teamrebels. All sub-communities related to a country or region have their own account , hashtag, community manager. They tend to emerge freely, and thus have all their own specificities. They highlight members (their pictures!) in their region/country, they often run contests, related Facebook pages with lots of information, provide helpful information, they organize meetings, and so on. In Switzerland, for example, there are 2 dynamic community managers for the country, running the account @igerssuisse, a Facebook Page , Twitter account and Google+ page. And as sub-sub communities, you can find local Instagram communities, such as @IgersGeneva, @igersZürich, @igersvalais, etc…
a community manager, @philgonzalez, playing a central role in the dynamics of the community (and its fast growing rate, too, I am sure):
He, Phil Gonzalez, is at the heart of the community dynamics, which, in turn, spilled further by its own. You just have to turn to the website “Instagramers” to understand the work behind, sustaining the Instagram users community: practical help, contests, gatherings (with a specific name “the Instameets”), with slogans such as “Let’s Instagram the World”.
a name for the community members:
the “Instagramers” or “IGers”, strenghtening the identification to the community
gatherings:
one of the glue of the community identity stems from numerous meetings “in real life”, called “instameets”, largely publicized on Instagram, obviously through pictures and tags! But having people meet, share a passion, tricks, wander together and taking pictures, then sharing them plays a big role in the community feeling, loyalty and growth.
contests:
hubs, themes, many contests have blossomed, relying, as any contest, partly on the gaming trigger.
members empowering and rewarding:
By following closely their community members, commenting, liking, highlighting their pictures (in some specific occasions), the community managers feed the – uncounscious – need of recognition (love?).

Of course, at the heart of the mechanics, there’s the technology and particularly the power of #hashtags, allowing to curate, gather, highlight, communicate, integrate, etc…

Another striking element to me is the volunteer-based work, but just as you can see in many communities. And this is maybe also a reflection-worthy element, if you’re in the community management activity: how to leverage and/or empower the community members strongly enough for them to become volunteer and help the community – and in the end become the strongest evangelists?

I just wanted to highlight a phenomenon mainly ignored (from outside of the community at least) and that could be helpful for any community manager.

As a side note, and in the light of the previously listed main elements of Instagram community management, I just wonder if it has been valuated and rewarded in the transaction..?! Maybe Phil Gonzalez would like to add a word? Or anyone knowing more about it?

Also, I would be glad to have you comment here about this discussion and other aspects of the community management that have maybe been undervalued.

To finish, it was funny to follow the saga of the acquisition on different platforms, from “the outside” (as already related at the beginning of the article) and from the “inside”, to emphasize the feeling of community!

The story can therefore be told with different angles (as it is true for any story) and fueled with different emotions. I first took notice of the news on Instagram, via the image shared at the top, and saw there the first, mainly hot! , reactions! Then I turned to Twitter and Facebook for more factual and less emotional information.

Here, 2 reactions, from which some tempered quickly :)

Update, April 23:

Here’s the answer of Phil Gonzalez on Twitter:

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#love #instagram: Mixing Technology, Emotion, Marketing

love instagram: mixing technology, emotion, marketing
Instagram is more than just an app adding vintage filters to your pictures and sharing them on other networks: it’s the crossroad where technology and human interactions meet, with, at its heart, the emotional connection, which makes it so powerful.

Powerful for brands that have a channel to communicate with their community in an emotional way, a way of strenghtening the love.

But there’s more than that: there’s also the power of the “# hashtag”, allowing for themed, convergent channels, the hub of “the shared love”.

There’s a big potential for brands to tap into the emotional and technological power of Instagram, with a good use of the “# hashtag” as a hub and it’s surprising to see so few examples, yet.

The best example so far is given by Ford, who has launched a campaign in Europe for the Ford Fiesta using all the above mentioned elements: the Fiestagram, in addition to more typical marketing tools, such as contests with incentives, prizes, etc…

There’s a channel on Instagram and a dedicated Facebook page.

And to make it more relevant and lasting over time, there are more than one #hashtag. There’s the main # for the contest, #fiestgram, and then there are different themes, where people will be asked to take pictures of selected items or situations and tag them accordingly, to make them participate to a weekly challenge. The aim is to highlight the technology, pleasure, special features, etc.. #hidden (for hidden gems), #listening, etc.. In other words: to share the love.

And here’s the challenge’s rules in video: wXme8JAMPwM

Another example that I really liked, mixing also some of these elements is given by Bergdorf Goodman, extracting all pictures on Instagram containing the tag #bgshoes and displaying them on an interactive map of New-York: http://blog.bergdorfgoodman.com/bg-shoes/. They ask people having bought shoes at their store to take a picture “of their shoes in NYC” and to upload it on Instagram with the tag. The result is a map “augmented” by a very special look of NYC, it’s beautiful, emotional, original and mixes the love of the shoes, of New-York, and, in the end, of Bergdorf Goodman!
So, it’s your turn now to imagine original campaigns, tapping into your customers’ love for your brand, to empower them and highlight the result!

UPDATE 24 Nov: seen on PSFK, more stat about the contest: “The submitted images appear in a Facebook gallery and the best submissions will be published on billboards and photography galleries across Europe. The contest has received over 11,000 images in just over 4 weeks and the winner will be announced December 9th.
UPDATE Jan. 24: a couple of weeks later, I stumbled upon this great article on MarketingProfs, written by Ann Handley (love her!), I had the feeling of reading the reflection of my mind! Except that it added an important notion that I forgot in my article: the notion of “story”. True. Just read the full article!
UPDATE Jan. 17: there’s been another innovative campaign using Instagram “power”: the bmibaby campaign, asking people to tag their pictures with specific tags related to their country. First I saw it was about “#myswitzerland”. This allowed thousands of – beautiful – pictures, with as many perspectives as there were peopple and pictures. It results into a destination catalogue made out of pictures taken by others, with a much more powerful impact.
And, also, as mentioned in the article, AirFrance embraced Instagram too with a contest and beautiful pictures. See pictures below.
Did you notice other examples of brands using Instagram? Would you share them here? Or more personal experiences on Instagram?
Or would you just share your Instagram ID so that we can connect?
Mine is @clodia_me :)


fiestagram-flyer contest ford fiest on Instagram

fiestagram europe

Example on Instagram

On my way to Neuchâtel, an early Sunday morning. #cycling

Initially, this post was a mistake! It wasn’t intented to be published here, but on another blog, where I post more “on the go”. What is specific to Posterous, is that you can automatically link it to other platforms (Facebook, Twitter, blogs). But this is at the same time a tricky functionnality, since having multiple blogs usually means different “targets”. And you don’t necessarilly want to overflood your “public” (friends, followers) with the same content. Usually, I manually choose to what platform what content to share.
What happened is that I tried Instagram, a mobile application that lets you transform your pictures and give them a 70’s feeling. I linked it to Posterous, thinking it was a nice place to start with. But, O surprise! I found the same picture on all my social networks, automatically published! The system didnt’ allow to select to which site to publish the photo.
I decided then to delete some of them (on Twitter, Facebook) and leave it on some blogs, and to build meaning around it.

What kind of meaning?, one could ask.

A meaning arising from different perspectives brought together: a service like Instagram is more than just another application. Photos have a strong emotional power. Moreover, by its “retro-like” effects it convokes nostalgia; by having you transforming your own pictures, it makes you more engaged; by connecting you with other people and giving to all of you the possibility to interact, to share, to like, to comment, it touches you.

And creates an emotional connection.

You are free to live the experience on a personal level.
But you can also see it as an opportunity as communications’ link for a brand, a company. All while keeping live the genuine aspect. Just interacting on a more emotional level, to share passion, to connect in the instant. And go.

It can be seen as anecdotic, but it represents an opportunity to create a connection, a link. The famous one to one relationship. Without being intrusive or “evil”!
I see it as an opportunity, for example, for hotels: being located in beautiful places, like many of them are, in Valais, for instance, gives them an advantage. Pictures are an ideal way to convey the beauty of a place. And social networks like Facebook (Page) a perfect medium to share it. That’s what I explain (with the same picture, posted there automatically !), on a blog dedicated to hoteliers and tourism pros (in French).

So, now, you know: I am on Instagram, too. Let’s connect!
If you’d like to discover other mobile applications for photography, here are 2 links really interesting: on NYT and on Mashable.
Enjoy! And come back here and share your experiences with those applications. Or others. Do you use mobile applications for photography? How? With what purpose? In a private way? Professional? Both?

What Can The Future Do For [You] Me? #lift11

As every year before the Lift Conference‘s kick off, I have a look back and a look forward, in order to assess where I hope and want Lift to lead me to.

Looking back from now on, I see lots of – personal – progress, human connections and new horizons made possible, as already largely evoked.
But at the same time, tools like Twitter and Facebook have become mainstream and play now a role of “talents discoverer”, trends detectors. You know the latest hype – product, platform, application, etc.., the latest success stories, case stories, and all other industry experts and reports. With good sources, you really are ahead of the wave. My favourite, as you surely already know, is Paper.li, a good curation tool. You can call yourself ” a trend watcher”, “trendhunter” or whatever trendexpert, following the maturing wave of “digital experts”.
In this context, answering to the question “What can the future do for you”, as promises the #lift11 theme is highly challenging. How to deliver a message different from what you can already find in your timeline? How to deliver added-value?

I see tracks of answers in the speakers, of course: not all of them are “mainstream” and they surely have specific angles for their presentations and outstanding qualities. Other tracks of possibilities could lie in the quantitiy and quality of “lifters” (yes, it has become an official term :-)), in the interactions arising during the workshops, in the Lift experience and other networking spaces, like the fondue.

In this context, what I expect from this promising Lift’s edition is: getting back in touch with people met at Lift, some becoming friends :-), catching up with them, getting true insights into future issues and opportunities – especially linked to marketing/social media/business model – being inspired, be it by people, Lift experience, speaches. I also set objectives for Sosoftware, having a couple of interesting meetings scheduled. I really hope to get means to cut down into the noise of some digital platforms and get true value.

Side considerations: some of friends met at Lift will be missing. I’ll regret them (you know who you are!).
I also have a special thought for a person met during my very first Lift, more precisely during the workshop where I opened this blog, with Stephanie Booth. That person was among the participants, we talked a bit and kept contact over the years. He very sadly passed away a couple of days ago, he was my age, I have a special thought for him, I know he was very respected.
Last but not least: I am looking forward to listening to @BrianSolis live tomorrow morning at a special presentation organized by Label.
I’m lifted! Follow me on Twitter with my brand new #lift11 avatar made by @nicktalop

Convergent Tracks in 2011: Marketing and Technology

As we’ve seen it in the past couple of years, the acceleration of technological innovations has been impacting many sectors, marketing included. Some disciplines like communication, PR, marketing, customer service have partially blended, technology contributing to “dis-cluster” them, bringing along in the same time new challenges.

As stated in this excellent article, “Social technology is permeating everything in our lives. It seems that every medium of media has integrated social into the message. The Facebook craze has pulled over 500 million people into use of social technology for multiple purposes. Humanity is experiencing connectivity to the human network like never before in history.

The influence of technology on humanity is affecting all market sectors whether private or public, on-line and off line. The intersection of technology and the human network is disrupting old business models, organizational theories and beliefs systems founded in old knowledge.

In this disruption context, question is: How to bridge the gap? How to leverage those (r)evolutions to empower your organization’s global efficiency?
It has become essential to understand new technologies, how they can augment your marketing’s objectives, impact your business results.

New kinds of jobs are emerging: community manager, chief marketing technologist, digital strategist, etc, that all have in common to mix combined skills in technology and communication, marketing.

Paradoxically, the more fragmented the world becomes, the more “convergent tracks” we’ll see, with an emphasis on the convergence of: mobile (highly fragmented)-social-local.

Here are some of the -new- challenges marketers are facing:

  • keeping track of new trends
  • understanding the mechanisms underlying the power of technologies
  • understanding how they can impact your product/price/communication/distribution/customer experience
  • figuring out strategies optimizing a mix of media according to the objectives (acquisitoin, loyalty, brand awareness, ..)
  • understanding key data factors: analytics, performance, ROI, social CRM, …
  • diving into social media…
  • And enjoying this high-pace evolving environment!

And, at the converging point between marketing and technology, connections and emotions, the lattest being the central linchpin to valuable connections.

That’s why you see those 2 signs on the image: <3 is the symbol of love in the digital media and the other one, on the right, is the symbol of sharing/connecting (via 2.0 technologies).
It is my personal way of wishing you all a happy 2011, under the sign of love and connections, all real, no matter the media!

If you’re interested in decryptering the discussed trends, you can focus on these 2 information sources:
Adage Digital
The Marketing & Innovation Daily

And for the upcoming months:
10 digital predictions for 2011
Top 10 Stories on AdAge.com in 2010
Social Media in 2011: Six Choices You Need to Make

PS: social media is implicitely included in the article, as being one of the most disrupting trends, mix of platforms, technologies, participation, interaction, crowdsourcing potential, etc, etc…
PS2: Focus. It’s getting more and more noisy out there.
PS3: Follow your own track

Image courtesy of a dear friend, Jacques-Antoine Besnard, quadruple airship world champion who’s leading the engine on the image. Official site of the last world championship. His official Fan Page (not regularly updated). A model of a focused mind. Merci Jacot :-)
Icons taken from The NounProject

Summer Chronicles – Mobile Heart

summer09
This summer revealed two unexpected functions of the mobile phone: the extension of heart beatings and the enfranchisement of the Code of Silence.

During about one month, I could feel my heart suspended to a text message, the bip!bip! echoing to living internal pulsatings. Life at the other end of the world was infusing life on this part of the Atlantic. The rythm of my heart, bong, bong, was following the bip, bip of my phone! Life is well done: I survived with very few bips! Since then, I am seriously thinking about buying an I-phone to my daughter, with this incredibly useful application, for her next stay in the States!

The enfranchisement of the Code of Silence came up this way: a group of children went on holidays with a parent of theirs. What was supposed to be cool holidays turned out into something heavy, stuffed with small hurting sentences. But the kids had grown up. They had an individual opinion and the will to have it respected. And they had a mobile phone! Game over.
That’s how, naturally, they decided to call their parents and ask them to go back home.
The mobile phone had freed their word. The mobile phone brought to the light some dark hidden aspects of human relations, allowing young people to access to a more integrated individuality. It looks like a shortcut to individual assesment, bridging generation’s gaps, accelerating a personal autonomous statement.

We all have in mind surprising, even subversive examples of the impact of the mobile phone: what are yours?

From Lift08 to Lift09: Convergent Tracks

clo 40
One year ago, at Lift08 in Geneva, I opened this blog coached by Stephanie Booth, but not really knowing exactly where this would lead me to.

Some things were clear, though: first, I had to dive into that field, would it be only for professional purposes. Actually, how could I ever be able to counsel, roll out general marketing strategies without even having tested a slight, but important part, of social media? I knew part of the theory, time had come to go on to practice! Secondly, I also wanted to experiment that playground to express a personal point of view agregating personal and professional interests. A kind of convergence, that lead naturally to “Convergent Tracks”.

So now, one year later, about to starting Lift09 (my third consecutive year), I take this opportunity to make the point, see a bit of what happened during this past year and how it lead to a personal convergence.

My mind broadened at Lift 08. It is hard to explain, I know I’m not the only one, but after having heard people like Genevieve Bell or Paul Dourish, I felt I could’nt just stay on the side of the road. I had to ride my engine and start off!
Freedom, breaking limits, thinking out of the box: a track was born! Internal.

Then, another intimate event happened: my uncle’s passaway. He was a visionair. A missionnair. His death acted on me like a trigger and, sadly, but happily at the same time (it’s in concordance with his spirit), brought me to my first post. The idea of converging tracks.
Convergence, yes. Ok. But where? To what?

At that time, I started to analyze plethora of blogs, news, and others. I already related that part here, the Mad Link, and From Conversation to Conversion. I started creating public profiles, a Twitter account, linking to like-minded people, linking all these links together, commenting and so on. Always genuily. Following my personal moral code.
The contacts springing out of this were nice, warmful and inspireful, helpful and open. The idea of converging tracks. Again. Slightly more on the public side.
But I also started to integrate the company I work for (and with and in) into my social/public flows. Another convergent track, yet.

Then, a personal “event” happend: the jump into the 40’s!
Short before: plenty of questions, doubts, hesitations.
Then, the birthday. Yes, I think the word “Birthday” has its full meaning, here.
If I could have had any unrevealed dreams, they all happened at that moment! (or close)
At that very moment, in the middle of all the people I so preciously loved, I felt totally INTEGRATED! My inner “me” was integrated.

My past, my origins, my aborted dreams, my friends, my family, my choices, my passions, all had become fully integrated!

The counsciousness of this opened for me an unlimited space of freedom.
Integrating this feeling to what I had learned and experimented during one year lead me to now: A FULL CONVERGENCE, from Lift 08 to Lift 09, from intimate to global convergence.

So, it is with wide open eyes that I am going to first day of Lift09.

What’s next?

Image: by my friend, Lats Kladny, CEO of http://www.inox.com (you know, the guys that make Uma Thurman say: “What are you made of?, for Tag Heuer” Or Eva Herzigova, for Chopard, Luxury Jewels..?
Follow me on Twitter @claudiafalt for realtime LIFT09 ideas, news, insights…

Mobile ego

Me and my ego are wandering. You can see me, but not my ego, well hidden behind a screen of social behavior. I want to keep parts of my interior me secret, maybe wrapped into lies, who knows?
A smile can be a lie.
My mobile is a filter between you, me and my ego. Your words will hit me with a slight delay, letting me react properly. Your words will hit my ego, too. But this slight delay will help preserve it.
My whole person will be less involved, I am a bit safer.
The bigger the screen is, including reaction’s time, the safer I am.
Ego, let’s go. Mobile.