This morning Instagram announced Instagram Direct, a new feature to privately send your friends photos and videos. Instagram refers to these photos on its blog as ‘moments’ to help people share things like “An inside joke between friends captured on the go, a special family moment or even just one more photo of your new puppy.”
The angle that many journalists and instagrammers alike took was to simply compare the feature sets of Instagram Direct and Snapchat. Some have implied that Instagram Direct is a response to Snapchat’s rejection of Facebook’s recent $3 Billion offer to acquire the Los Angeles based startup.
This conversation misses the broader picture around the shift in consumer behavior around photos that made Snapchat so compelling and ultimately drove the creation of Instagram Direct.
Photos are about communication
Business Insider recently announced that an astonishing 750 Million Photos are shared on social media platforms each day. What’s even more impressive is that half of these photos are being shared on Snapchat, a platform that has been around for less than 3 years. This shift in where and how photos are being shared represents a broader cultural change in how photos are perceived in today’s society. Photo sharing has evolved from documentation and art to a form of everyday communication. Think of photos as visual communication for the products, places, and people that you love. Instagram’s recent focus on private conversations via Direct only confirms how mainstream this behavior has become.
Some photos aren’t relevant for everyone to see
To different extents, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all centered around broadcasting. Their models suppose that the content shared has relevance to a broad audience of followers.
This model has limitations. Sometimes photos are only interesting to the people who “were there” or are familiar with the “inside joke”. Snapchat overcomes these limitations by providing an easy way to curate audiences when sharing visual content. By selecting a smaller audience, users can share everyday moments with only the people that are relevant to that picture. This is the opportunity Instagram Direct is trying to capitalize on.
For example, at the Pixlee holiday party last night our team took a lot of photos with our new jackets. The photo below of my cofounder is perfect for Snapchat or Instagram Direct. There is nothing wrong or inappropriate about the photo, but rather it’s much more impactful to share with just my team members as opposed to all of my Instagram followers.
How important is the ephemeral aspect?
Much has been made of the unique ephemeral nature of Snapchat. However, I believe the key customer benefit Snapchat provides is the easy audience curation. What makes Instagram Direct interesting is that it allows you to have private and relevant conversations that you can revisit. While audience curation was available before today through Facebook’s list settings or Google+, the Instagram Direct version is much easier to use. It will be interesting to see how consumers value private verses private-and-ephemeral on these two platforms.
The need for Instagram Direct stems from the evolution of user behavior. Ultimately the success or failure of Instagram Direct will affect how future social media platforms approach conversations vs. broadcasting.
This article was from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
Originally published on Dec 13, 2013 2:12 PM, updated Feb 10, 2016