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3 Reasons Facebook’s Billion-Dollar Instagram Purchase is Good for Marketers

By Colin Ryan

Industry News

Facebook acquires Instagram for $1 billion

Much has been made in the last two days of Facebook’s acquisition of popular photo-sharing service Instagram for a cool billion. Whether you agree with the deal or not, it presents a major growth opportunity for marketers in general and real estate agents in particular. Here’s why.

Instagram will only get bigger. Despite the frankly elitist backlash, which has included threats by some users to delete their accounts, Instagram is poised for tremendous growth in two significant areas. The first is in its sheer number of users. Instagram’s brand new app for Android means nearly half of all smartphone owners suddenly have access to the service. (Indeed, one million people took advantage of this access by downloading the app within the first 12 hours.) The second has to do with sheer possibility. As Mark Zuckerberg himself announced, the social media giant will “try to help Instagram continue to grow by using Facebook’s strong engineering team and infrastructure.” In other words, where Instagram once had only 12 employees and virtually no revenue to play with, they now have one of the best collections of designers and over $4 billion backing them.

Both of these growth fronts are good for marketers—the first, because a larger, more diverse user base will provide even more massive exposure for agents and their properties; the second, because more powerful software is essential for anyone looking to use the app for something other than posting pictures of the curry they just made or dogs dressed in baseball uniforms.

Instagram shows the web is changing. Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram reinforces two trends: the growing importance of visual media (evidenced also by Pinterest’s metoric rise to power), and the rapidly increasing use of mobile devices for web browsing and social media. In a recent survey by The Real Estate Book, 52 percent of respondents reported using a mobile device in their homebuying search. Of that group, 68 percent said they contacted a real estate professional to view the home based on their mobile search.

The study also found that 78 percent of respondents used their mobile devices to view photos and videos of homes, making browsing visual media the most popular activity by far. Of course, as an exclusively mobile app designed around sharing photos, Instagram embodies both of these trends, and Facebook’s gutsy deal gives agents even more reason to pay attention.

Instagram is young and cool. Finally, Instagram’s user base skews young, with the largest share of users between the ages of 21 and 34. This is brilliant news for agents—after all, 27 percent of all homebuyers in 2011 fell in the 25-32 range. Instagram’s edgy, exclusive image also provides savvier agents with an opportunity to engage these buyers on a different front, to make a more significant impression than they might on more mainstream services. Granted, Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram bears some risk of tarnishing the service’s hip image; but Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear that Instagram will continue to operate as an independent company, and he’s too smart to go back on his word by interfering.

Will Facebook approach its conquest the right way? Or will Instagram fizzle like so many other high-profile technology acquisitions? Give us your opinion in the comments!

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