Vine has been declared by many as the “Instagram for Video.” Instagram’s own video product is likely already too late to squash Vine like a bug. Heck, Facebook couldn’t even get Poke and Messenger off the ground after incumbents clobbered the space. What makes anyone think Instagram video would be any different?
Vine launched in January of this year, just after the holidays, and spent a few months ramping up the user base before launching on Android a few weeks ago. At the time, Vine had 13 million downloads. Not too shabby for approximately five months of work. It took Vine a few days to swing to the top of the App Store, and the same was true on Google Play following the Android launch.
When Instagram launched on Android, seventeen months after launching on iOS, it had around 30 million users. Obviously, users are a different metric than downloads, but you can see how Vine’s growth is relatively astounding given the timeframe. Especially when you factor in the less pointed evidence: Vine shares have surpassed Instagram shares on Twitter, for example, or even just hearing the term “Vine it” regularly in every day life. And having Twitter as a parent company doesn’t hurt either.
Vine is already established, and better yet, making waves. Vine was used by the Tribeca Film Festival for a special #6SecFilm Contest. The app has been toyed with by designers and advertisers to build new interactive music videos. Brands love Vine because it lets products move in ways that Twitter and Facebook don’t.
And Vine, of course, is still iterating quickly. We’ve seen the team respond to feature requests like the ability to use front-facing camera as well as rear-facing camera, and I wouldn’t be suprisedt to see interesting additions like Voiceover or Animation pop up soon.
Instagram is a powerful foe. The app has over 100 million users, and is now owned by the most powerful social network in the world. But this is far from the end of Vine.
First, Vine is the end product of what Instagram was built to be. Vine skipped past still photos, and filters to make those photos (taken with bad mobile cameras) look prettier, and the slow grind of adding @mentions and photo maps and all those iterative feature tweaks.
Instead, Vine launched as a true Instagram for video, which now has an active and seemingly happy user base. It’s not Twitter’s Cleaner fish, even if Twitter bought up the app and launched it into existence (unlike Instagram’s organic growth that was later bought up by Facebook).
But where Instagram feels like a consumption app first (a time sink, almost), Vine doesn’t. Scrolling through my Vine stream is like having a hangover during an earthquake. Most often, it’s a lot of clanging and wind noise coupled with shaky video of my friends’ latest vacation.
Still, Vines are excellent content. I am utterly pleased when I see a Vine.co link pop up in my Twitter stream, or surface in someone’s Facebook Timeline. I’m even more elated by a Vine.co link sent to my desktop. I like to watch the six-second thrill ride in all its glory. There’s something special about getting a glimpse (in video no less!) into someone’s world.
Instagram is a different story. There was a time when I could scroll through Instagram for days. I’m not so entranced by the photo-sharing phenom anymore. Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, but I get a sense of Instagram fatigue, both on the creative and consumptive side.
Perhaps it’s due to the fact that I’m all hopped up on Vine. Maybe Instagram’s had its time?
People like consuming video, sure, but it’s almost shocking how much people love making videos, too. Especially when given the right tools. When I see something cool happening out in the world, Instagram is no longer enough. I pray to the social media gods that this wondrous, hilarious, or downright insane scene before me will last the six seconds I need. I sense how strongly other people feel the same as I do.
Instagram for video might offer a similar creative experience, but it’ll be hard to do so without copying Vine’s ability to string together multiple clips in such an easy manner. Easy is the key. And we all know what happens when Facebook tries to copy a threat. Messenger launched after WhatsApp and Viber were blowing up. Poke launched to (shamefully) combat Snapchat. And here comes Instagram, ready to take on Vine.
But will Vine crumble where other competitors stood firm? Will it lay down and die?
Oh no! Not Vine! Vine will survive.
TechCrunch » Social
At first glance, the similarities between PicMix and Instagram are obvious. Both apps are photo sharing platforms with simple, square Polaroid-esque aesthetics, and display photos from friends in streaming feed.
But while Instagram is figuring out how to monetize, Indonesian startup, PicMix seems to have nailed it from the get-go.
PicMix makes it part of the core photo posting process for users to add frame and text embellishments. Many of the frames included in the app are branded from labels (who have paid for the privilege) that users actually want to use on their photos. It’s not hard to imagine getting a user in Asia to willingly use a Hello Kitty or Louis Vuitton frame around their picture.
The company offers these frames to users as part of branding campaigns that are run by labels. They also put up photo competitions, and the criterion to enter is to use one of the branded frames around their photos. The visual impact of a frame or brand’s “sticker” on a photo is far more significant than hashtagging a brand.
Stickers and frames are catching the wave of users warming up to adding extra bells and whistles on their photos, beyond photo filters. While Instagram hasn’t departed from its genesis as a vintage, Polaroid-style filter app, a crop of photo editing apps have blossomed around it to fill that gap. These third parties allow you to add captions and combine several photos into a single collage, ready to be loaded into Instagram. Two popular examples are Photo Grid for Android and Photo Collage Creator for iPhone.
Mike Prasad, a marketing and brand development consultant and co-founder of Hawaii-based accelerator, Kinetiq Labs, said he was impressed by PicMix’s execution of brand marketing. “Getting brand insertion without ill will is key. It’s amazing that it’s got users to want to insert brands, in a process that is not negative,” he said.
Since the company launched less than a year ago, it’s already attracted 11 million users to the platform. 35 percent of those are in Indonesia, with the rest in South Africa and Venezuela.
The reason for that spread is that unlike most photo sharing apps which tend to prioritize the iPhone upon launch, PicMix is available on feature phone platforms like the Nokia Asha, as well as BlackBerry, and Android.
Calvin Kizana, founder and CEO of PicMix’s maker, Inovidea Magna Global, spoke to me at his booth at the ID Byte Jakarta conference, which I visited as part of the Geeks On A Plane trip last week. He said the company chose these platforms over the iPhone because he wanted to grab share in his home market—a notoriously loyal BlackBerry base.
And an iOS version is coming. PicMix will enter the US market with it within the next two months, said Kizana.
The company’s users seem to be pretty active. Each day on average, a user shares between five and 10 photos, to add up to a total of 450,000 photos uploaded to the service daily. The company was hosting this on Indonesian servers, but switched over to Amazon Web Services after its first month of business, when it hit 200,000 users and its servers were starting to feel the strain.
PicMix received a round of funding from Indonesian mobile equipment distributor, Erajaya. Kizana declined to share how much the funding was, and when exactly the deal was struck, but said that the investor came in when PicMix hit the five-million user mark.
Besides sponsored marketing campaigns, PicMix also makes money through in-app purchases of premium frames, stickers and filters. Focusing on its emerging market base, it’s also established carrier billing arrangements in 75 countries worldwide, and has just launched a gift card service with Indonesian payment provider, Indomog.
Carrier billings and prepaid gift cards have helped the company appeal to its domestic base, within which a significant proportion of users don’t have credit cards, said Kizana.
What better way for an anti-social app to get noticed than by insulting its target audience? London-based app design studio ustwo has just put up a pair of billboards in the hipster heartland of Shoreditch, East London, a stone’s throw from where its own studio is based, which brazenly proclaim: You have no friends and No one likes you.
The billboards, which will be teasing Shoreditch’s hipsters for two weeks, are an experimental ad campaign for one of ustwo’s recent apps: random photo-sharing app Rando, which launched back in March on iOS. Rando has now also been rolled out on to Android and Windows Phone. Last month ustwo said the app had racked up a full five million of its entirely social-less random photo shares after around two months in the wild.
So what’s with the anti-social insults? Rando’s schtick is that it eschews all the usual social paraphernalia developers typically embed in their apps. There’s no Facebook sign-in, zero social sharing options at all, no comments, no likes, no favourites, no followers/followees. There’s also no way to tell who gets the photos you share/receive, beyond a general location. It’s deliberately — liberatingly — stripped of context.
Turning to a fixed-location, paper-based advertising medium may seem pretty old school but Silicon Valley has long had a bit of a thing with billboards. ustwo’s Matt Miller tells TechCrunch that’s certainly one reason he was keen to experiment with papering giant fliers atop one of Shoreditch’s busier junctions. “I’ve always been interested in billboards since flying out to San Fran in 2012. I remember during a taxi journey over there, being really impressed with the billboards and thinking to myself how I’d love to see our work pushed that way back home,” he says.
The cost of the Rando billboard campaign is “around the same amount it would cost us to develop a small app”, according to Mills. But it’s the only paid marketing ustwo intends to do for Rando — relying instead on “the virality of the concept” to keep it travelling, which, ironically enough, has led to plenty of organic chatter on social sites like Twitter and Instagram.
TechCrunch » Social
We’ve been working on getting more details on a press event that Facebook is having this week. Earlier, we wrote it could launch a news-reading app, but we have since heard more details that point to something else entirely. On June 20, a source says Facebook will unveil that Instagram, its popular photo-sharing app, will begin to let people also take and share short videos. Call it the Vine effect.
We are still looking for more information because we understand that Facebook has not wanted the details of June 20 to leak out — so this could be an intentional blind alley. But if the Instagram video report is true, you could say the event invite itself — sent by snail mail, coffee cup stain charmingly in one corner — is a red herring of its own.
Earlier reports about Instagram getting video provide some indication, though, that this is not coming out of the blue. Most recently, about three weeks ago Matthew Keys broke a story noting that such a service was getting tested internally. At the time, there wasn’t any information on when it would be coming out, nor whether there would be filters, nor whether this would be in a separate app or part of an Instagram update. The videos would be between five and 10 seconds in length, he noted.
Getting video on Instagram is a move that would make sense. Specifically, it looks like a direct response to the rising popularity of video-sharing services, namely Twitter’s Vine. It, and others like Viddy, Cinemagram and Socialcam, sometimes get described as “Instragram for video” apps.
The Vine app — which lets users take six seconds of video footage on an iOS or Android handset and then share those clips to Vine’s own network, Twitter or Facebook — has shot up in popularity since going live in January. After Twitter debuted an Android version of Vine in the beginning of June, usage reached a tipping point: shares of Vines surpassed those of Instagram photos on Twitter — usage that has only diverged even more since then:
Of course, you could argue that part of the reason is because Twitter no longer shows inline views of Instagram photos — that may have affected how many Instagram photos have been shared to Twitter.
When those Instagram/Twitter cards disappeared, we noted that part of the reason for the move — taken by Facebook/Instagram, not Twitter — appeared to be to drive more direct traffic to Instagram itself, a popular social network in its own right, with over 100 million monthly active users, rising sharply since Facebook bought the company last year for $ 715 million.
Putting in a video service could serve to further that strategy even more, before new-but-already-popular services like Vine get more of a foothold. It will mean one less app and social network for users to build up, and, for those who like to take and share videos, another reason to visit Instagram. You can see how something like video could be a very sticky complement to its photo service.
There could be another reason for adding video to the service: it’s a very attractive medium for advertisers and marketers.
Of course, Instagram is not running any ads yet — in fact, Facebook and Instagram got a lot of heat over changes in their terms of service in December over how it could implement advertising services in the future — so much heat that they rolled back the ToS and apologized. And in Facebook’s last quarterly earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a point of noting that while big brands were interested in advertising on Instagram, for now there were no plans to implement this. (That’s not to say that Instagram is not already a substantial marketing platform for brands.)
And with 100 million+ users, you could argue that there may not be enough scale there yet to really monetize ads properly. Adding in video is laying the groundwork — and providing one more engine to grow that Instagrammer base.
Photo: ripleyb, Instagram
Additional reporting: Josh Constine
As photo-sharing truly hits its stride, an entire ecosystem is born around it. But what is creation without consumption? That’s what Divvy is all about.
We met the folks behind Divvy at the TC Meetup + Pitch-Off. At its core, the app aggregates all your photos from Facebook and Instagram (Twitter, Flickr, Dropbox all coming soon) into one filter-capable stream. You can also save photos from Instagram, zoom in on photos, and share with groups or individuals.
The Divvy team drove cross-country to get the Divvy word out before hitting up the Austin Pitch-Off. But does standalone consumption have a place in the already-crowded photo space?
While the idea of a centralized location for photo viewing and engagement (rather than multiple social networks to check) makes us pink* with barely controlled glee, we also maintain that a photo creation experience is integral to making any app of this kind a true “one-stop shop” experience.
But that’s not to say that the team isn’t already working on that.
I give Divvy a hesitant fly — I’m on board with idea and trajectory (assuming they add photo creation soon) but also don’t feel addicted to using the app. John also gives Divvy a fly, as well as his blessing.
TechCrunch » Social
Finally! As many of you know, this week Facebook announced that hashtags (#) are clickable. Similar to the hashtag capabilities of Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, or Pinterest, you can now add context to a post or indicate that it is part of a larger discussion.
When you click on a hashtag in Facebook, you’ll see a feed of what other people and Pages are saying about that event or topic,” according to a Facebook blog post.
For those that are unfamiliar, a hashtag — a word or a phrase prefixed with the # symbol — added to your content (ideally optimized with relevant keywords) is simply a way for you to search for tweets (and now Facebook posts) that have a common topic.
As Facebook explains in their recent announcement:
“Now you can:
• Search for a specific hashtag from your search bar. For example, #NBAFinals.
• Click on hashtags that originate on other services, such as Instagram.
• Compose posts directly from the hashtag feed and search results.
As always, you control the audience for your posts, including those with hashtags.
Hashtags are just the first step to help people more easily discover what others are saying about a specific topic and participate in public conversations.Hashtags are just the first step to help people more easily discover what others are saying about a specific topic and participate in public conversations. We’ll continue to roll out more features in the coming weeks and months, including trending hashtags and deeper insights, that help people discover more of the world’s conversations.”
The potential use of hashtags for your small business could be endless. Here are three quick ways to start optimizing your company’s Facebook posts with hashtags for maximum impact:
1. Take a page from the SEO playbook and focus your keyword strategy.
Develop a short list of the most common terms that people search for pertaining to your products and services. For example, when conducting keyword research you may want to “find a phrase that meets these criteria: many people are searching for it (high search volume), and you have a realistic chance of ranking relative to other sites (low competition),” according to Orbit Media Solutions. If you haven’t already, create a keyword list using tools like Overture Keyword Tool or Keyword Discovery.
2. Use hashtags sparingly and in a targeted fashion.
Don’t forget how to coherently communicate on social networks and go “hashtag” crazy. Follow Internet marketing conventional wisdom and as Hubspot recommends “You really want to boil it down to a list of the 3-5 most important individual words,” and when you’re ready to post use them consistently to avoid appearing “spammy”.
3. Keep hashtags consistent across social networks.
If you already use specific hashtags on Twitter or Instagram, simply keep doing what works and include them in your Facebook conversations as well. It’s really important to manage your messages across platforms so online users won’t become easily confused about who you are and what you do.
Silverpop writer Philo Howard attests to how important message consistency really is: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my 15 years in sales (mostly selling software), it’s that a lot of businesses don’t deliver a consistent, cohesive message when communicating with buyers. This can confuse prospects and customers, which may open the door to your competitor. Bottom line: When your marketing message is jumbled, you hurt your … well … bottom line.”
Keep this in mind before you add twenty hashtags to one Facebook post.
Bonus: Remember hashtag is a search.
As ReadWriteWeb explains, “remember that a hashtag is a search. They’re meant to label a topic or filter a conversation.” So ensure that your hashtags are actually relevant to your business or you could potentially alienate and annoy online users.
Hey, cat lovers, there’s a new way to embarrass your feline and find fame on the Internet.
Behold, the Cat Fro. The latest Instagram photo fad has cat owners posing with their furry friend on their head. It’s the new Cat Beard, which is so three weeks ago.
Web-famous, curmudgeonly kitty Colonel Meow popularized the #catfro hashtag, sharing his favorite shots on Facebook. With 4,000 Likes and counting for the Colonel‘s Cat Fro album, you can expect to see your newsfeed filled with cat-topped humans.
Just don’t forget to give Fluffy extra tuna treats after humiliating her for all the Interworld to see. Read more…
Vine has already clarified just how quickly its userbase is growing, with the announcement that the app had hit 13 million downloads by the time Twitter launched it on Android. This was all just a week ago. Today, however, we’ve learned that Vine has climbed to the top of the charts on Android as the top social app and the No. 4 free app on Google Play. Instagram is No. 5.
For those of you who don’t like smartphones, GIFs or general merriment, Vine is a new app released by Twitter in January of this year. The app works a bit like an Instagram for video, letting you shoot creatively edited, six-second looping videos to share with your friends on social networks, etc.
The app has seen some incredible growth in the short time it’s been available, hitting No. 1 on App Store charts in just a matter of days. A week later, we learned that Vine had already grown to be about twice as popular as SocialCam and other competing video-sharing apps.
The team has been iterating ever since, adding the ability to use both front- and rear-facing cameras and working out some kinks. And it’s clearly paid off.
Nick Bilton of the NYT noticed just a few days ago that there seem to be more Vine shares on Twitter than Instagram for the first time ever, thanks to a handy graph from Topsy Analytics.
This could have something to do with the fact that Instagram pulled Twitter Card integration to direct more traffic to Instagram.com, but I’m not convinced that that’s a conscious thought running through the minds of Instagrammers as they’re deciding where to share.
What’s more likely is that Vine users want to share on Twitter because the Vine ecosystem is still growing, and those users want to ensure that their creation gets as many views from friends as possible. Then add to it the fact that Vine launched on Android just around the time that Vine.co shares surpassed Instagram.com shares, and it’s clear that Vine simply has a growing group of people interested in using the service.
TechCrunch » Social
Facebook and Twitter have become stellar venues for brands and small businesses alike to advertise their wares. However, while social-style gift-giving has seen some traction thanks to Facebook, social commerce has been slow to take flight. Chirpify launched in early 2012 to do something about this, offering an easy way for people to make purchases in-stream on Twitter. Late last year, the young startup expanded its scope to include another popular social network, the Facebook-owned Instagram, so that users could peruse items being sold on Instagram (tagged with “#instasale) and enter “buy” in the comments to facilitate an insta-transaction.
While the ability to pay for items on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook by using keywords or hashtags like “buy,” “want,” and “gimme” has some appeal — as it simplifies the in-stream social payment process across networks — the platform hasn’t yet seen the adoption one might expect. In order to lower the barriers for users, Chirpify announced today that it is now giving users the ability to accept domestic and international credit and debit cards, along with sending and accepting automated clearing house payments in-stream on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
The move, in theory, intends to open up the playing field for buyers and sellers on social networks, as Chirpify has (until now) relied exclusively on PayPal to enable in-stream payments. Brands and merchants using the platform want more options when it comes to transactions, Chirpify founder and CEO Chris Teso says. The launch today aims to remove some of that friction and make direct payment processing part of that transaction process.
In moving beyond its reliance on PayPal to offer direct payment acceptance, Chirpify hopes to offer another incentive for brands and merchants: Lower fees. By removing the middle man, Chirpify users get the added benefit of not having to cough up extra dough to meet PayPal’s fees, beyond what they would typically pay as part of the implied interchange fees inherent to credit card processing.
Of course, as mentioned previously, startups that are looking to make it easier to buy and sell on Twitter especially, haven’t had much luck in the past. There’s probably no better example than Ribbon, which offered an in-stream payment platform for Twitter by allowing users to click a button within tweets to make a purchase — without leaving Twitter.com. In April, however, Ribbon confirmed that Twitter had shut them down, likely because of how the platform (incorrectly) implemented its model using Twitter Cards.
Chirpify, on the other hand, has taken a safer approach, eschewing the “button” in favor of allowing users to make purchases by way of keywords and hashtags. Brands and celebrities like Adidas, Green Day, the Portland Trailblazers (an NBA team) and Snoop Dogg have adopted the platform as a way to capitalize on their big social footprints and sell merchandise and products directly to fans. The idea being that, for now, Chirpify offers the easiest way for brands to take advantage of impulse purchasing via social media.
To that point: Starting today, the first time a consumer makes a purchase with Chirpify, they simply create an account, sign in and enter their credit card, debit card, routing info or connect their account to PayPal.
Once they’ve done that, all they have to do to make a purchase is reply to a tweet or comment on a Facebook or Instagram post with “buy,” “donate” or “gimme.” At launch, Chirpify will be accepting American Express, MasterCard, Discover and Visa, Teso says.
Since Chirpify emerged last year, some have speculated that it wouldn’t be long before Twitter would scoop up the startup and use it to help lay the foundations for its own social commerce functionality. Especially considering that Chirpify hasn’t (as of yet) been in violation of Twitter’s Terms of Service. Perhaps, by opening up its platform to support a wider range of payment types (and by lowering its fees as a result), the startup will have lowered the barriers enough to make this kind of in-stream social purchasing attractive to the mainstream — and potential acquirers.
For more, find Chirpify at home here.
TechCrunch » Social
DataSift, an enterprise social data company, has added Instagram, Facebook Page and Google+ data to its managed data offering, and partnered with analytics and visualization vendor Tableau on data integration.