Social Commerce

A Picture Worth a Billion Dollars: The Social Commerce Future of Facebook’s Instagram an InstaBuy button?


Today’s article is sponsored by Milyoni: The Leader in Social Entertainment


Hot on the heels of the picture-tastic Facebook Timeline rollout for business pages, Facebook has snapped up photo-sharing app Instagram for $1bn. Apparently, text-heavy Facebook has seen the future – and it’s in pictures as well as words.

Is this Facebook’s MySpace moment, buying an 18 month old app with no revenue for $1bn – or a smart purchase to sediment Facebook’s position as the largest photo sharing and storage app on the planet?  Time will tell – but kudos though to the 13 person Instagram team who have proven the viability of the zero-revenue built-to-be-bought business model.

Implications for social commerce – selling with social media?  On the face of it, not a lot. Like Facebook, Instagram sees it’s future as an advertising platform, not a sales platform. Consumers don’t pay for the product, they are the product.  Facebook and Instagram sell eyeballs – 800M and 30M respectively – and the business sense of the $1bn splurge will be decided by the degree the Instgram purchase will help Facebook sell eyeballs to its real users – advertisers.

So expect to see in-app advertising on the Instagram app, Instagram photos on ad-supported Facebook business pages, and a Facebook ad supported Pinterest clone replete with photo-filters…

But what’s worthy of note to businesses using Facebook to advertise, sell or ‘engage’ is the premium that Facebook is putting on pictures – right now static – but expect moving pictures to follow.  Businesses should take note, and take the cue and dream their Facebook strategy in pictures, as well as words.

So here’s a social commerce thought.  Businesses are already offering sneak previews, showcasing new products on Instagram and giving behind the scenes tours on filter-fab Instgram galleries, so could the Instagram app evolve to include a buy button, along with the like, comment and flag options?

Even if the “InstaBuy” buy button simply linked to a storefront, it would make sense in a Pinterest traffic-driving sort of way.  This would allow businesses to get ROI on their social media investment, and capitalise on the kind of retail that seems to work Facebook; pop-up retail designed to get happy fans talking: Say hello to the InstaStore – a new concept in pop-up retail.

Of course this would be advertising, but it would be ‘transactional advertising’ – see the picture, buy the product.  In a similar way, the location-aware functionality of Instagram could be used to deliver ‘picture promotions’ (with machine readable discount codes) to drive in-store retail traffic…  Alternatively, if you are big advertiser already spending a fortune on beautiful images – why not set up your InstaStore, selling campaign imagery on brand merchandise?

So whilst we should all expect Facebook InstaAds to hit mobile screens soon; the commercial value for businesses of the Instagram purchase may also lie in an InstaBuy button that helps optimise new product launches by getting new products and campaign merchandise into the hands of enthusiastic fans first…




Chartered psychologist specialising in consumer behaviour, wellbeing and technology. Certified CX professional experienced in Design Thinking. A researcher, writer and speaker, Paul is head of Digital Insight at SYZYGY.

3 Comments Add New Comment

  1. […] was on its way 12 years ago.  Is America’s entrepreneurial talent too preoccupied  turning a billion dollars out of a set of faux-nostalgic photo filters to build something that might actually improve our […]

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