Writer’s block sucks and I suffer from it. Not for a lack of things to say – I have literally dozens of ideas during the week – but when it gets to the moment that I have to sit down and translate those ideas into a coherent discourse, all my thoughts get jumbled and I stare at the blank screen and it feels like nothing is good enough. This week was one of those weeks and I considered skipping my weekly assignment. Fortunately my network on Google+ keeps me on my toes and today the inspiration came via Renaud LePage.
According to this article, that points to this article, Phil Schiller – Apple’s powerful senior vice president of marketing – deleted his Instagram account because the photo sharing application was made available for Android. According to the same post, Jack Dorsey also stopped using Instagram because it had been acquired by Facebook. Jack Dorsey is one of Twitter’s founders. There is something wrong with this picture when two high-profile users leave a social network not because the specifications changed but because access (in Phil’s case) and ownership (in Jack’s case) changed. <add dramatic music score here><add drama queen dancing on top of a blue bird>
In a week that brought us the news that Samsung and Apple’s top brass are going to sit at the negotiation table to sort out the patent trolling mess both companies got involved in (I am one of those that thinks that both companies are way out of their heads in this particular issue and I am glad that a judge enforced these meetings), Phil Schiller’s high-profile action sends a bleak message and personifies a corporate culture that is defined by a feeling of superiority that isn’t based in hard facts but in clever, and sometimes brilliant, marketing strategies.
What surprises me the most in Phil Schiller’s case is his reasoning: the “signal to noise ratio” justification clearly demonstrates that Apple’s SVP of marketing doesn’t really understand how a social network like Instagram works: if you are getting too much noise, stop following the users that create that noise and keep those that bring you value.
I believe that the social network war will be fought, and won, in the mobile space: smartphone adoption is still growing and the feature phone market will decline has OEMs move to Android, and other mobile OS, that will give users access to social networks on the go, wherever they are. Google and Facebook are the main competitors in this race and Instagram’s acquisition has been widely misinterpreted by the Android/Google community: Facebook didn’t buy Instagram because of the hipster filters (anyone with basic Photoshop knowledge can produce those) but because Instagram understands what SoLoMo is (SoLoMo: Social-Local-Mobile). I’m absolutely sure that we will see a big change in Facebook’s mobile efforts after this acquisition and Google better step up its game if it wants to stay ahead.
Where does this leave Apple? Apple clearly doesn’t get social and has failed, time and time again, to set foot in the social space but knows that without entering it, it will miss business opportunities that will affect its results. Mind you that Google also tried, and failed miserably, to enter the social space before Google+ in a clear demonstration that if you have the money to afford experiments that go wrong you can finally get it right. The next step for Apple is to acquire a high-profile social startup that gets social, like Pinterest, so that it can finally set foot in the only market that is important for growth. They just have to do it before Google does.