I work in advertising. I like advertising. It’s disappointing to me that a great social network and web service like Instagram can’t find a better way to monetize its product than advertising.
At the tail end of 2012 everyone freaked out that IG would be selling our photos because they updated their terms of service with some clumsy language. Instagram heard all the complaints, promised they wouldn’t be selling our images and issued a statement that included the following:
“Let’s say a business wanted to promote their account to gain more followers and Instagram was able to feature them in some way. In order to help make a more relevant and useful promotion, it would be helpful to see which of the people you follow also follow this business.”
Seriously? Booooooring. It’s just more, “Your friend Matt follows Sharpie. You may like to see Sharpie’s photos.” The same unimaginative stuff that litters Facebook. (Sharpie does actually have a pretty great IG feed).
I’m grossed out that we can’t find better ways for these services to make money so I decided to do some thinking.
Here are my ideas for how Instagram can monetize itself.
1. Charge For Use
Charge $1 or $10 per year. Or let me pay what I think it’s worth like Radiohead did with In Rainbows and Cards Against Humanity did with their recent holiday expansion pack. I did an anecdotal survey of the people who sit within earshot of me and 4/5 said they would pay to use it.
Some say there are other photo apps out there that they would use. My answer to that is that Instagram isn’t about taking photos in isolation. It’s about a channel that I can tune into to see my friends and family around the world. The same way that I used to flip on the television to see what was on, I now fire up Instagram to see what people are doing from Sydney to Portland and Boston to London. I’d pay for that.
2. Guarantee That Jay Z will see my photo
Sign a contract with Jay Z and other notable people and let a limited number of Instagram users populate a feed that these celebrities see. Jay can comment or like the photo if he wants, but no matter what you’ll get notification that he saw your image. I’d say that’s worth $5, $10 or $20 depending on the circumstance.
3. Digital Frame in the Oval Office
Similar to #2, but this is a frame that President Barack Obama will see every day. For a price your photo will show up there. Imagine your photo in the most powerful room in the world reminding our world leaders of what’s happening all over our planet.
4. Digital Boards In Exotic Places
Instagram could put screens in random awesome places. They could put them on top of mountains, in stadiums and in Times Square. Then you can pay to have your photo displayed on those boards. Cameras will take a photo of your photo with in the amazing surroundings and provide you with an image you can share everywhere.
Those are my first four ideas. Do you have any others? Post them in comments or tweet them with #IGCanMakeMoneyBy.
Dan Viens is a Digital Strategist at Wieden+Kennedy. He lives in Portland with a baby, a wife and a dog.