Would you consider yourself a photographer? Would you ever go out of your way to capture the perfect shot? Well, the folks behind Instagram think you should. This relatively new iPhone application allows you to edit, share and “like” photos with your friends and even strangers if you wish. Beyond these features, what makes Instragram so appealing is that with each photo, you also have an option to apply a unique filter, which gives the image a retro style. It’s like having an old Polaroid camera on your phone.
The key to Instagram’s success lies in its utter simplicity. The developers were originally planning to create an app that did everything, from photos to text to video and more. What they realized however was that sometimes it is better to have a focused and simple project that does one thing extremely well rather than a jack-of-all-trades Google of tomorrow. So they began by throwing out features until they were left with an app that allowed users to take photos, apply one of eleven filters to change the look and feel of the photo and share it with the world. That was it. No bells and whistles also meant that new users could learn the Instragram interface within seconds.
When you’re not taking photos, editing them and uploading them to the world, Instagram allows you to “like” photos, leave comments and even follow your favorite Instagramers. This social aspect of the app lies at the heart of its success. With each photo upload, a lot is going on and much of it is based around game dynamics. You see, if you get enough “likes” in a short amount of time, you just might get momentarily promoted on the “popular” section of the app, thus attracting even more views and probably a significant number of followers too. Just as Foursquare users rack up points, badges and mayorships, the game dynamics behind Instagram’s “likes” and followers puts a whole new spin on iPhone photography and photo sharing.
In the end, I see Instagram as being the next big thing in the social media realm. If 2010 was the year of Foursquare, then 2011 is the year of Instagram. Just wait until companies, brands and public figures start catching on and sharing photos. We’re talking about a completely new type of social advertising and yet a new level of engagement with fans and customers alike. And to think, it all started with an iPhone and an idea.