What Event Planners Can Learn From Instagram

On April 9 2012, Facebook announced its acquisition of the popular photo-sharing app, Instagram, for $1 billion. Aside from the price tag, what’s most shocking about this deal is that Instagram has never generated a penny of revenue nor is it currently prepared to. So how did co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger create such an attractive target for acquisition? They don’t have a big secret to their success and they don’t have divine business intelligence. What Kevin and Mike have that others lack is awareness. Awareness of how simplicity drives adoption, and how a community built around sharing experiences creates loyalty.

These lessons easily apply to every face-to-face event and conference. The success of Instagram contrasted with the bankruptcy of Kodak is a wakeup call for all of us, demonstrating how fast and dramatic technology is changing our world regardless of the industry. The question is, are you ready to ride the technology wave to success?

Be Ready, Be Agile

Like most people, Instagram founders Kevin and Mike appreciate a good photograph. What’s different about Kevin and Mike is that they understand whythey appreciate a good photograph. It’s not the sepia tone or the blurred edge; it’s not the vibrant colors or the smiling faces – there’s something else there. The pair realized that a photograph is not about the image, it’s about the moment – even more, it’s about the feelings that are triggered by that moment.

While the filters might have been the initial success factor, the core value proposition of Instagram became its community and the social interaction around unique visual experiences. It was this experience that brought users back to the app every day.

The key to Instagram’s success lies in its unwavering pursuit of sharing an experience – not simply a photograph. Aware of the value their customers associate with photographs, Instagram built itself around this experience. For Instagram, it’s not about flashy technology or the sharpest image; it’s about providing users with the ability to share their Kodak moment. Haven’t heard that for a while, have you? That’s because the former photo juggernaut and arguably inventors of the consumer camera filed for bankruptcy after 131 years in business..

In a time where communication is based around a visual experience, how can a company like Kodak fail?

The advancement of imaging technology has been Kodak’s focus. From light-sensitive paper cartridges to world-class medical imaging equipment, the pursuit of leading-edge technology was the driver for Kodak’s success. For a company focused on creating new technology and arguably the patent holders of digital photography, the idea of a 2-megapixel camera competing with Kodak’s leading-edge equipment was laughable.

Against all odds, here’s an agile 17-month old start-up that didn’t actually create anything new, valued at $1 billion only months after a 131-year old industry-creator filed for bankruptcy!

Lessons for the Event Industry

A few years ago, a mobile phone was a distraction. Now, it’s a tool. You may not flip through your newspaper on a Kindle, tweet on your BlackBerry, or read abstracts on your iPad; but many attendees do! So offer them an experience they won’t forget, enable them to communicate and learn at your events with devices they prefer.

What is so interesting about Instagram was that their initial photo-sharing app wasn’t really what it is today. It had various other features that they ended up removing after feedback from Instagram users. They made their app simple with a clear purpose that they could communicate easily. Instagram offered a community where people could share visual experiences with the feeling and emotion they felt in that moment.

Events are about learning and meeting new people, but more than anything else, they are about experiences that trigger action. Whether it’s an amazing keynote speaker, new friend, or great educational session, a shared experience can go a long way to sparking action at your event.

Moving into the digital age, consumer demands evolve at a faster pace creating more opportunities for the Instagrams of the world and making it easier for the Kodaks to slip through the cracks. Industry experience is valuable, but the ability to change and adapt quickly is priceless. Kevin and Mike saw an opportunity where established players were failing, they jumped on it, and their decision paid off. Facebook paid an astonishing amount of money for a business with no revenue; it goes to show just how much community experiences are valued.

More and more solutions are available every day; you too can ride the technology wave and introduce a new level of engagement to your event. With a simple technology solution, you can create an experience that will help you achieve your event objectives and improve your bottom line.