Instamania! What Makes The Instagram iPhone App So Hot?

November 21, 2010

3:28 pm

There are currently thousands of photo applications in the Apple iTunes App Store. I just counted over 1,300 photography applications that have been released since June 2010. So this makes for a rather competitive landscape. But with all the selection, there are certain applications for certain situations. One photo app that has risen to the top is San Francisco based startup Burbn, which recently launched the Instragram iPhone application to huge success. TechCrunch reported it picked up 100,000 users in less than a week and hit 300,000 users in just three weeks. Wow! While this is probably nothing compared to the adoption rates of established products that roll out apps like Twitter, Facebook or Google, it has to be one of the fastest adoption rates in history for a never-before-seen startup. Even Google, Facebook and Twitter would be pleased with these types of numbers, though I have to admit building an app like Instagram is probably not going to be duplicated by a bigger company as Robert Scoble recently indicated in why Google can’t Instagram.

So how did they do it? I am going point out a few things within the application that I think make it so hot and thus have caused what I am calling “Instamania!”

Instagram brings the instant party
When you download Instragram for the first time, it immediately asks you to sign up and you secure your name just like any application would. Then it does something that is very smart. It asks you to find your friends – which is also common, but it does this very well. First it appears to scan your iPhone contacts for other Instagram users. Next it moves on to asking to scan for friends on Facebook and Twitter. By hooking up these two accounts you could have hundreds of people to follow within the first few moments of using the application. This brings the party immediately to Instagram before you even get to the app. Not only can you scan your other networks, you can also invite people to Instragram directly from the app as well as search for existing users. While some may skip these options, you can always go back and try to find more friends and followers on other networks.

Instragram spreads the word… when you want, how you want, where you want
Though offering their own sharing and mobile experience, which includes geo-location sharing and social features, Instagram encourages users to share photos on other networks. By simply adding your login credentials for Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr and Foursquare, users can share Instagram photos directly from the iPhone app. Users can also select which sharing features make the most sense on a per photo basis. If a user decides to share the location of the photo, they can pass that same info onto Foursquare and check-in as well. So Instagram becomes a one-stop shop for pushing out photos and check-ins with ease.

Instagram offers instant feedback, immediately
Some applications are hesitant to launch with social features like commenting and “likes” and add it later. But with Instagram, is was part of the initial launch so their were instant conversations. Also, Instagram pushes application updates to you via Apple push notifications, so users are constantly checking back. This also subconsciously reminds users to take a photo or two while they are in the application thus creating a viral loop.

Instagram filters make anyone look like a rockstar photographer
While there are a number of photography applications that offer filters, Instagram offers just the right amount to keep most people satisfied. The filters add an element of fun that turns regular photos into interesting pieces of artwork. The first application I recall that used filters like this was CameraBag. It turned the iPhone camera into a joy to use. I still use CameraBag, but since it doesn’t include the sharing network, I use it less often. There have been a number of other applications that have come along with similar features and functionality, but Instagram has the perfect blend of filters to keep things interesting. Though I’d always like to see new filters introduced to keep things fresh.

Instragram does not discriminate against old photos
Instragram allows you to take photos real-time or use existing photos that are already on your iPhone. Some applications do not allow you to take photos from your iPhone photo albums and use them inside their photo application, which is very limiting.

Instragram is free!
How can you argue with free? There are a number of applications out there that do just as much or less that I have paid for, but I’m sure the fact that it was free helped Instagram’s initial growth.

Download the Instagram iPhone appInstagram - Burbn, Inc.

Instagram nailed it by creating a fun new application for iPhone users, and app developers should take note of the items outlined above to consider while creating their own apps in other categories. I hope you enjoy the application and be sure to follow “frankgruber” and “techcocktail” on Instragram. And yes, you should be humming the song “Lisztomania” by Phoenix with the slightly tweaked “Instamania” lyrics inserted right about now.

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Frank Gruber is the cofounder, CEO and Executive Editor of Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail). He is the author of the book, Startup Mixology, Tech Cocktail’s Guide to Building, Growing, and Celebrating Startup Success. He is also a startup advisor and investor to startups.

Find Frank Gruber online and follow him on Twitter at @FrankGruber.

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