Tag Archives: Instagram

The Ignorant Backlash Against Instagram Ads

And why it’s the tech industry’s fault

Earlier this month, Instagram posted an announcement on their company profile that they’re going to start slowly rolling out ads in the United States. When Instagram dipped its toe in the monetization waters last December, the backlash was aggressive, so this company definitely understands that ads are a sensitive topic.

Full disclosure: I’m a heavy Instagram user. I love the service, and I use it daily. I appreciate the beauty and the authenticity of the product, and I don’t want to see it sullied by slapdash attempts to monetize. With that in mind, I have to say, I couldn’t have asked for a better announcement.

Everything about it indicates that the Instagram team “gets” it. I’ve taken the liberty to highlight the parts that illustrate this best, but it really is worth a read to see that their plan for ads on Instagram is thoughtful and more considerate toward users than almost any other platform.

Instagram’s announcement

Within seconds, the post received a flood of vicious and obscene comments.

Comments on Instagram’s 10.3.13 post announcing the roll-out of ads
Comments on Instagram’s 10.3.13 post announcing the roll-out of ads

Over the weekend, they continued to pour in.
I know I shouldn’t be surprised. There’s always backlash whenever a consumer technology company changes anything, and ads are a particularly touchy topic. But I was truly appalled by the reaction. These comments aren’t light criticisms suggesting a different path to profitability. They’re scathing attacks against a company that has provided us with an excellent service for three years.

What surprised me most was how ignorant people are about how the internet works. Do they think Instagram is a charity or some kind of subsidized government program? How do they think Instagram pays for the servers that securely store all their photos in the cloud? Do they think Instagram’s employees are all volunteers? Are they so indignant as to think they deserve this service for free?

You can’t get something for nothing. That’s just not how economics works. And I’m saying this as someone from the Napster generation. I grew up on file-sharing, CD-ripping, and bootleg everything, so it’s not that I don’t understand the hunger for free content. It’s just that I grew up enough to know that people who make things are people, too. They have rent to pay and groceries to buy, just like the rest of us.

So I understand that people who make things — whether those things are sandwiches or songs or beautiful mobile apps — deserve to be compensated. Sometimes I pay them directly, like when I buy a slice of pizza or pay for my monthly Netflix subscription. But most of the time, at least for digital products and services, someone else pays on my behalf. That is, I’m exposed to ads that allow me to have my content without paying for it myself.

This seems obvious when it’s explained, but we in the tech industry do a really terrible job letting people know that this is how our businesses work. We ought to be direct and say, “Content isn’t free. We all have to pay, either with dollars or with eyeballs.” But we don’t say that. Instead, we use veiled language and jargon like “freemium,” and so we can’t be surprised if the average person has no idea how our businesses work.

One of the clearest examples of the general public’s ignorance about how internet companies make money came from @taylorhindman, an apparent 16-year-old fromIndiana. She left the following comments on Instagram’s post about rolling out ads:

Comments on Instagram’s 10.3.13 post announcing the roll-out of ads.

Taylor’s just a teenager, so we can’t be too hard on her, but I think it’s worthwhile to address her arguments because they represent those of so many others. When Taylor says, “You have enough money,” what exactly does she mean? Last time I checked, Instagram has no revenue, so she certainly can’t be referring to the company’s current income stream. Maybe she’s talking about the $715 million Facebook shelled out to acquire the start-up in 2012. But where does she think that money came from? 88% of Facebook’s revenue comes from ads.

Also, I can’t help but point out that her financial predictions (“Doing this is going to lower stocks”) didn’t quite pan out. Turns out, the folks on Wall Street understand how a business works, and Facebook’s stock was up 3.78% on Friday after the announcement, which is pretty much an all-time high for the company’s stock price.

Facebook stock price Oct 3-4, 2013 (Source: Google Finance)

One last note on the Instagram ads brouhaha: exposing users to ads isn’t the only way Instagram can make money, and criticisms that center on this point are certainly valid. Other potential sources of revenue could include user subscriptions, paid upgrades to premium features, fees charged to businesses for access to brand support, or revenues from selling user data. Given the backlash Instagram faced last year when it hinted that ads may be to come, it’s safe to say the Instagram team probably explored all of its non-ad options before settling on the plan it announced on October 3.

Although I’d personally be willing to pay for access to the Instagram service, I understand that keeping the service free to users is a big part of what’s fueled its growth. The openness and democratization of information that a free global platform like Instagram empowers is dependent on it being accessible everywhere. If the occasional beautiful, high-quality photo or video from a brand can make that happen, maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.

Written by

google creative lab // entrepreneur, storyteller, strategist, tech writer, music lover, NPR addict, designerd, color junkie, hugger

Updated October 31, 2013

Instagram & Hotels 2014

Examples of great and poor marketing, using pictures and video

A chinese proverb says the following:

A picture is worth a thousand words

Searching some #words on Instagram that are very popular destinations in Greece, with thousands of tourists visiting them every year, shows these results:

#santorini: 367.220 photos
#mykonos: 304.067 photos
#kefalonia: 39.895 photos

Combining these facts, there is no excuse for hoteliers in Greece (this applies in every country too) for not “playing the game” of Instagram.

When I say “playing the game” I don’t mean just the creation of a profile with a bunch of pics, #some #hashtags and then hoping people will double tap them and with a magic spell, reservations will hit a record high.

That’s not gonna happen.

I mean a social approach that has as main objective the hotel’s communication with people, giving them valuable content, within the context of this medium. Photos and mobile is deep in the DNA of Instagram, making it an ideal tool for those who travel or are on vacation and want to share moments with their friends and the world.

Numbers don’t lie. That’s exactly what 150+ million users do. They share photos.

A Mykonos hotel will be out of business in 2 years if they think that searching on Instagram every day about #their_name and words like #mykonos, #mykonos2014, #mykonosisland and #mykonostown is something unnecessary.

8.000 likes and 1.000 comments every second is a lot of data for a top tourist destination that attracts hundreds of thousands of people every summer.

Right content for your hotel’s instaprofile is:

  • Photos of the rooms and other spaces that highlight their character
  • Videos and photos of the finest dishes from the restaurant and the stages of preparing them #foodporn
  • 15″ video of making a nice cocktail in the bar and info about it
  • Photos of POI (points of interest) and related activities (beaches, swimming, windsurfing, other sights)
  • Behind the scenes content with the staff (reception, restaurant, bar, pool) showing the human aspect of the hotel
  • Photos from the past #tbt, #throwbackthursday

Using more than 6-7 hashtags and autopost in Facebook and Twitter should be avoided, but geotagging is critical for the user to see the exact position of the content shown.

Igers love exclusive content and businesses should understand and pay attention to the context and the psychology of Instagram. The quality of the photos is more than obvious that should be high and posting should be consistent.

The most important factor of getting the most out of Instagram is the way you communicate with people. Instagram profile should not be used as another distribution channel. Being social is 100% the best way to succeed.

  • If someone asks something, you answer
  • If someone says good things about your services, you say “thank you”
  • If someone says bad things about your services, you say “sorry” and you try to fix things

Iconic Santorini Hotel posted a beautiful picture with a great view, but there are two mistakes.

First of all, there are no #hashtags. If someone searches about Santorini, there is no way that this pic will show up. #santorini, #santoriniisland, #summer2013, #view, #besthotel etc are some tags that can be used.

There is a link to the hotel’s website, BUT it’s not clickable. The only place that a link is clickable is in the description of the profile.

San Giorgio Mykonos Hotel “forgot” to add more pics after the end of summer. Also, following 0 or only a couple of people is bad. It shows that you don’t care about your followers. I am not saying 1/1 ratio is necessary, but following back and caring isn’t bad at all.

Gary Vaynerchuck says that it doesn’t matter how many followers you have. What matters is how many of them do actually care about you.

Engaging with them, liking and commenting on their pics is a good thing!

White Rocks Hotel in Kefalonia Island uses social media in a non-social way.

In the first pic, nobody answered to the girl saying that she will visit the hotel in 2 months. In the second pic, someone wrote a comment saying that this pic is awesome and the answer was a bunch of hashtags…

Nobody said “THANKS” as someone would do in real life!

Belvedere Hotel in Mykonos shows that understands the context of Instagram and respect the psychology of the users.

They posted an old photo of their hotel using the right hashtags (#tbt, #throwbackthursday). They respect this Thursday habit, as million of Igers do.

Humanizing your business in the tourist industry is one of the factors that matters the most. Hotel staff interact with people everyday and this is reflected in the second photo.

Even a wink is an acceptable answer in a comment. These 4-5 seconds that you will spend for writing lol or ;) have great value.

After all, Istagram is a social media. SOCIAL media!

Long story short, I believe you should focus on these 3 key points:

  • Cool, original and exclusive content with consistency
  • Be imaginative, social and don’t be afraid to say “thank you” and “sorry”
  • Treat social media as something necessary for your marketing strategy

After all, dear hotelier, I don’t think you love giving your commission to Booking.com.

Think Big, Think Social

Written by

Social Media Marketing — Founder @thinksocialeu

Updated December 31, 2013

Why Snapchat Is The Perfect App At The Perfect Time

Mobile and visual, private, free and open, Snapchat taps into to every growth trend on the Internet.


Dan Rowinski November 20, 2013 Mobile
Snapchat is the tech darling of the moment. The private messaging service turned down a $3 billion acquisition from Facebook and may still be negotiating a large investment from Asian messaging giant Tencent that would presumably value it even more richly. It’s users are receiving more than 400 million pictures a day and has a growing user base centered on teens and young adults.

Sure, Snapchat seems kind of trivial. You can send picture or video messages to a friend that will self-destruct a few seconds after they’re received. Who wants to use a service where you can’t record and share your favorite moments in picture form for eternity? Why has a simple messaging service turned into a world beater (for now) that has everybody clamoring to use it, wanting to throw boatloads of cash at it and wondering if it will ever make money?

The answer is simple: Snapchat is the perfect service for the time. It has come along just as three very distinct trends on the Web have come to maturity, and it’s milking those trends for all they’re worth.

The Visual Web

First, Snapchat is for and of The Visual Web. Visual Web companies are worth billions of dollars even if they haven’t made a cent in their existences. Google+, Pinterest, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter are all of the Visual Web and all of road the trend of sharing pictures and media with each other straight to the bank (in Pinterest’s case, will ride to the bank eventually).

If we look back at the history of Facebook, the biggest takeaway as to why it became the social behemoth that it is today is that fundamentally, Facebook was the biggest and best way to share pictures of yourself and friends on the Internet. Facebook was built on pictures, and today retains one of the largest daily picture-upload volumes of any site on the Web. Social sharing through pictures was the defining movement and growth engine of Web 2.0.

Snapchat takes advantage of that in the Web 3.0 era, where mobile is the growth engine, fundamentally altering how people interact with information and each other. The “snap”—what Snapchat calls its private messages—is derivative of the SMS text message and instant messaging applications.

The Illusion Of The Private Web

Facebook was everybody’s favorite social network. Then it started messing with people’s privacy in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. Now many people are skeptical of Facebook’s stance or what exactly they are sharing with the social platform, its partners, third-party apps, advertisers, potential employers or the federal government. (Even—maybe especiallyteens.)

Let’s face it: there is no privacy on the Web. Only the illusion of privacy. And recently, even that illusion has started to break down.

Source: Snapchat Source: Snapchat

The myth of the private Web was finally put to bed this year when revelations of spying and snooping by the National Security Agency came to light. To a certain degree, nobody on the planet can really hide information from the NSA if they want to continue using the Internet. The NSA feels it has the right to monitor you and your loved ones on the Internet and will send requests to the likes of Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter or any other relevant tech company to get the information it feels it deserves. Privacy? The U.S. government apparently doesn’t believe in it.

Then you have the classic Web way of making money: “If you’re not paying for it, that means you’re the product.” Meaning, if you’re using a “free” but ad-supported service, the company is selling your eyeballs to the advertiser. The advertiser then wants any and all information about you that it can get so as to serve you more relevant ads so you will, you know, buy more stuff.

The Web is built on free. The Web is built on advertising revenue. Google, Facebook and Twitter have all made big money off your eyeballs.

That said, the user backlash against the lack of privacy on the Web has been significant and gaining steam over the years. Every new revelation about Facebook privacy issues brings a new furor. Every new report on the nefarious activities of the NSA makes people just a little bit more scared to share on the Internet.

This is the environment in which Snapchat thrives. The selling point of its snaps—true or not—is that once a snap is opened and subsequently disappears, it’s gone from the world forever. Snapchat becomes the Mission Impossible of the next generation of technology. While the absolute privacy of Snapchat is at best questionable—it’s fairly easy to screenshot an incoming snap on just about any smartphone, and the images also frequently linger in cache storage—the idea that it’s private is a big part of what entices people to use it.

The Next Generation Of Messaging

AOL was really one of the first to create a mass market communications platform on the Internet. Through the AOL chat rooms and instant messaging systems of yore (dating back to the early 1990s), the Internet evolved into a place that really could change how people communicated. That’s why messaging startups keep cropping up and why companies like Google, BlackBerry, Apple and Microsoft have their own proprietary messaging apps.

The problem with these messaging apps, though, is that they often lock you into walled gardens. Apple funnels most messages through its iMessage product, whether the user wants that or not. Google recently replaced the default SMS app in Android with Google Hangouts. Microsoft wants to trap you in its own world.

Snapchat, along with the other hot messaging startup WhatsApp, fundamentally break this model. They are available free and work across Android, iOS and Windows Phone. They don’t lock you into their company’s objectives and are not really trying to sell you anything (which will be a dubious business going forward).

While it is true that Snapchat’s demographic tends to skew younger, that does not necessarily mean that Snapchat’s success is built on tweens, or on sexting. While teens and sex certainly don’t hurt Snapchat’s growth, they’re also not the full picture, so to speak.

Free, mobile and open, private and visual. These are the trends that are hot on the Web right now. Snapchat is the epitome of all these trends coming together. Its popularity may be a thing of the moment—as are the snaps it’s based on—but it’s rare to see a company position itself in line with major Internet trends in such an effective way.



Online, But Off The Grid: Why 27% Of Online Adults Skip Social Networks

Over one-quarter of those who log on belong to a completely different internet. posted on December 30, 2013 at 5:57pm EST


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This morning, the Pew Research Center social media report revealed that 73% of online adults now use some form of social networking site. It’s a large figure, and one that continues to show just how well these platforms have woven themselves into our lives. But it also reveals another, possibly more striking figure: that roughly 27% of online adults choose to live a life free of social networks. They’re online but, for the most part, they’re off the grid.

It’s important to remember that this isn’t a group composed of luddites or shut-ins but of individuals who see the social networks and, often the internet as a whole, as a set of tools rather than necessities. My parents, for example, fall into this group of 27 percenters. They’re both quite comfortable and completely proficient online, but, outside of email, their experience is rarely social. They both have Twitter accounts but they’re mostly dormant and generally an afterthought when it comes to their online experience. Neither one is on Facebook; they have never shown any real interest in signing up, and likely never will.

Over the holidays, when the subject of Twitter and Facebook came up, they weren’t so much dismissive of the services as they were uninterested in incorporating them into their online experiences. “I don’t need to tell people what I had for lunch each day and it’s not like they’d care anyhow,” one said of Twitter, suggesting that “it makes sense for those who want to broadcast and those in the media, but it just doesn’t make sense for me.”

If you dedicate a lot — maybe too much — of your time to one or any of these social networks, it’s easy to feel that this line of thinking is a cop-out, or simply an uninformed opinion. But for those who never had occasion to join Facebook in its early years — back before photo galleries and News Feed, when the site catered almost exclusively to college and high school students — and for those who view the internet and its sites as a series of utilities designed to make things like bill paying, fact-finding, and department-store shopping easier, Facebook and most social networks feel a lot like nonessential tools. It’s a divide that’s not so much about utility vs. enjoyment, but about identity vs. anonymity, and effort vs. payoff. A tool that’s attached to one’s real name and that requires constant attention runs the risk of not being a tool at all. It can, for a very casual user, transform into a burden.

For those who got in early, a service like Facebook is more than adequate at delivering news and photos and updates from friends and family. But joining now and building a network is a fairly daunting prospect with a less-than-obvious payoff. You don’t have to look much further than the site’s intricate sign-up process to see how joining Facebook might feel both invasive and unnecessary. Then there’s Twitter, with its unfamiliar language, insular culture, and messy onboarding process, that encourages the bulk following of celebrities and brands, rather than friends and family. Go further out to Instagram and you’re dealing with a mostly younger user base and a quirky user experience that can make it difficult to find friends, or, really, anything at all.

While the 27% figure is sure to go down — it fell a few percent over the last year — it would be unwise to expect it to shrink drastically in the coming year, or to assume that online/off-grid life is going to disappear. The main reason the 27 percenters abstain from social networks isn’t a fear of the services or a lack of understanding of how to log on. It’s not a demographic that’s inherently antisocial, either. It’s a demographic that gets real satisfaction using banking apps to check statements and keep track of bills and a group that is happy to find a promotional email directing them to an online sale. It’s a group that can relate the wonder of Google’s mission statement — “to organize the world’s information” — but that has little interest in Facebook’s. It’s a group that uses the internet as a tool kit and doesn’t quite understand the need for or allure of a cascading social feed. Generally speaking, it’s a group that has a narrower, more focused idea of what the internet is: an internet that’s less an extension and reflection of their lives and more of a supplement to the ones they already have.



Six Months of Silence by Nicole Cifani

Until today, I didn’t speak to anyone from there for 6 months.

Aside from my sister, who technically doesn’t even live in Los Angeles.

I kept the numbers the same. Every morning I turned on Skype and signed into iChat. Some mornings I’d slouch back in my work chair, an exhibition of lackadaisical involvement that only millennials can pull off with such fluidity. Idly scrolling through my buddy list, I’d catch the familiar names of “buddies” from seemingly so long ago.

During these six months, I exchanged countless texts and digital notes of whimsy. They came in the form of sentiment-addled comments on Instagram or quick little ditties over Facebook.

Some were private but most were public. They were ways to let people know that I hadn’t dropped off the face of the Earth completely.

Not that anyone was watching.

We don’t write letters anymore. I’m not sure I even have the sufficient motor skills necessary to craft a legible missive by hand. Even for those who are scientifically wired to be stronger communicators that way, crafting a long letter has been superseded by convenience.

Immediacy wins.

We don’t even pick up a phone and call.

What’s a phone call even worth today? According to Verizon, access can run anywhere from forty to over one-hundred dollars a month. I suppose what we’re really paying for is everything else. The text messaging, data access.

The tools providing the ability to “share things” and disclose to distant acquaintances that I am indeed alive, and of someplace relevant, somewhere in this world.

Over the course of these six months, I allowed the disconnect to happen with a certain measure of chagrin. It’s a fight to resist what comes more naturally — and so I succumbed to my data plan rather than digging up any fancy pen and paper.

I kept my voice quiet and typing fingers nimble, forming little messages crafted in the reflection of myself.

It isn’t a social disorder that motivated me to communicate at arms length (I don’t think so, at least, unless thinking about it might suggest a disorder in itself) as much as it was the need for some space. A deep desire for the time and space to reposition myself.

A bit of a reinvention. A change of pace, and a new state of mind.

Now, for the parts you don’t know about.

I lost my job last month. I’ve been going on depressing interviews and taking “upbeat” meetings everyday, to the point where I now feel like my head is screwed on sideways. I should probably find a dentist. I once stole a lady’s seat on the subway. I have absolutely zero desire to eat a cronut.

How else, other than within the context of this story, would you ever know those random things?

That all happened, too.

There are also larger thought bubbles that formed overhead — complex storm clouds murmuring over the present lack of clarity. Sleepless nights worrying about an uncertain future. The urge for rice-less salmon rolls at midnight, or goddammit, where the hell is that beeping sound coming from?

I’d rather believe that life experiences chalk up to something more like that. It might be mundane — and may not be formatted prettily for Instagram — but it is the stuff that’s real.

I don’t have any regrets about my last few years in LA. I know this because rather than opting to run so fast and far from it all as I thought I was doing at first, I now look back on it all with achy remembrance. I now realize that in those circumstances what we’re usually running from is something greater. And it usually doesn’t involve any circumstance.

Besides, the achy stuff makes it count.

Our data plans won’t facilitate, nor document it. It’s not even sexy — no one wants to check-in at CVS on Foursquare. It’s the inner workings of a life that isn’t exactly presentable to the world in a self-preserved and dutifully vetted package.

In the future, will anyone even care about the truth, or simply go by the reflection of our truth as it’s presented to the world? For the kids coming up under us, how are they going to learn anything about being alive?

We’re all here, online in that digital world in whatever form of truth we choose to put forward. That’s how people know we’re ok.

They say to not look back. Never look back.

And still, I do.

During those six months, time stood still. Not much changed. It was a huge risk because there’s no guarantee that this is the rule — a single moment can change everything.

This is why we need to write letters and make more phone calls. We’re all in it together, collectively sharing the joyful ache of being alive.

Read Part 6 in the series: The Other Options

Read Part 5 in the series: Spring For Two


Always on our phones.

The insight on the way social networking is more important than we might think. A revolution is happening right under our eyes.

Dave Leduc, Social Media Entrepreneur, 22yrs old, Canada

In today’s world, professionals and businesses can’t just use social media; they have to become social businesses, inside and out and from top to bottom. You have to find the power of being a social business so that you become the most highly recommended
organization in your industry.

Who still thinks Snapchat is only for young teens ‘’sexting’’ pictures to each other ? Who once thought twitter was useless because ‘’ I don’t care that he or she is eating ice cream today!’’. I originally had the same opinion. But then I started seeing where we are going.

You see, the guy who was making a fortune selling horses probably heard about that “Henry Ford thing”, but he was doing well, he thought he knew the rules and didn’t want to worry about that… and then technology and innovation killed his business. Borders didn’t want to hear about what “Amazon” was doing back in 1996. Blockbuster was aware of what Netflix was doing, but they didn’t want to hear it.
‘’Not wanting to hear is very very dangerous.’’ Gary Vaynerchuk

We are on the merge the biggest shift in the way business is conducted. Mark my words.

It is a cultural shift. People are always within an arm’s length reach of their phones, myself included. When I wake up, I check Facebook. There is a reason whyInstagram was bought for an amazing billion dollar. And why Snapchat got offered billions by Google and Facebook. Don’t you see what’s happening? The big boys are seeing it.

We’ve been through the industrial age, the technological age, but we are now entering the connected age. By connected, I mean, we are always at one ‘’clic’’ or ‘’text’’ or ‘’tweet’’ or ‘’status’’ away of influencing someone. But for us entrepreneurs, its not about talking our way through these platforms. NO! Shut your mouth. Its about keeping our ears wide open to what everybody is saying and their needs. Its a game of listening. I know it might be hard to understand the gravity and the importance of what I am explaining, but it’s true.

The businesses are going social in the 21st century. I strongly believe, that the internet will excites more business opportunities in a near future.
According to SUCCESS Magazine Publisher Darren Hardy; ‘’ ..the number of internet millionaires is going to explode in the next ten years.’’ Here are some interesting statistics on the number of millionaires worldwide.

In 1990 — There is 2 000 000 millionaires worldwide.

In 2000 — There is 7 million millionaires.

In 2010 — There is 10 million millionaires.

In 2020 — An estimated 20 million.

I strongly suggest any business owner or professionals too look deeply into positioning themselves in this noisy social media world. I don’t care if you are in the real estate industry, pets, clothing and I don’t care if you are a lawyer. Everybody should do it.

Thanks, talk to you soon !

Dave Leduc
Co-founder, DGDLinc

If you found value in this article, it would mean a lot to me if you hit the recommend button!

I am an entrepreneur. If you want more information about me or on how to brand yourself on these social platforms, message me in private on facebook.com/daveleduc13

You can also follow me on instagram.com/dave_leduc

Wanna do something with me ? Here is my current projet : worlwideypr.com

Written by

Traveler, Entrepreneur, Hustler, Fighter.

Published December 30, 2013


The Age of Instaperfection – An Instagram search for #healthy might find you looking at #fitspo or #thighgap instead.

The Age of Instaperfection

Searching the hashtag “healthy” will supply you with imagery to keep you scrolling through your Instagram feed for hours. As I write this article, there are over 7,786,675 photos ranging from food that will make you drool, recipes you’ll be inspired to try and motivational quotes to get you off the couch and into the gym. A majority of these photos really do emphasize health and nutrition, the importance of eating clean and engaging in physical activity. But as I kept navigating through photos, it became more and more apparent that the line between healthy and skinny was not only blurry, but that for many it was also interchangeable.

We know that being skinny definitely does not always translate to being healthy. One could subsist off of Diet Pepsi and cigarettes to sustain a thin figure. On the other hand, one can engage in healthy practices and not necessarily be skinny based on genetics or predispositions. We continue to judge a book by its cover (or in this case, the person by their physical appearance) and make assumptions about their lifestyle and label them “beautiful” by their external appearance. For females in particular, body image is a topic we are constantly bombarded with whether we are conscious of it or not. Our standard for female perfection continues to be one of tiny waists and flat stomachs and seems to only gain momentum with the ubiquity of social media. Mixed in with the photos of organic meals and inspirational quotes are also the selfie photos taken everywhere from gyms to bedrooms. Before and after pictures are posted while close ups of specific body parts are posted to show muscle, loss of fat, and sometimes, just straight bone. This is where the line becomes blurry. I look at these photos and think, this isn’t healthy. This is the opposite of healthy. I have come across captions ranging from “I wish I was skinny,” “ excuse the fat, I’m fasting for 3 days,” and “hunger hurts but starving works.” And so the obsession for the perfect body continues.

In the past, we’ve always had national campaign ads and commercials to thank for feeding us the idea of a flawless female body. Now we can thank ourselves as well. Gone are the days where one had to open a fashion magazine to compare ourselves. These days, we can simply login to our social media accounts to compare ourselves to the everyday person striving for daily perfection. What we choose to post is our prerogative. So is what we choose to look at. But searching “healthy” because you want to check out a nutritious dinner recipe might also find you looking at photos you wouldn’t think belonged in that category. Half naked pictures taken everywhere from gyms to bedrooms appear on this tiny technological gadget owned by billions, deepening the belief of embedded thoughts on perfection. Because some of these photos hashtagged “healthy,” “organic” and “eating clean” are also grouped with the hashtags, “skinny,” “thighgap,” “fast,” and “diet,” showing that too many are confused in thinking these words belong in the same category. More minutes surfing the application will show you a darker side of the spectrum where skinny becomes an obsession and over 500,000 photos show up from searching eating disorder.

Needless to say, there are some disturbing images floating in cyber space. It is yet another reminder that as females we are still struggling with the perception of perfection and correlating self worth with body measurements. We are in a position now to be in control of spreading positive self-esteem and treating our bodies with love and respect. We have a medium at our disposal to connect this message to millions around the world and break away from the idea that thin is the only kind of healthy or beautiful. Instead of using social media as a breeding ground for “instaperfection,” we need to begin using it as a platform for support and self-acceptance.

Written by

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” – Rumi

Published September 11, 2013


What I’ve Learned from Opening the Doors to My First Conference

(Lessons Learned from Shipping a Bold Idea)

At the beginning of any new idea, the possibilities can seem infinite, and that wide-open landscape of opportunity can become a prison of anxiety and self-doubt. — Peter Sims

6 Months ago I didn’t have anything other than an idea in a moleskine notebook and a domain name. Earlier this week we opened the doors for The Instigator Experience: A 2 day business event where bold ideas will come to life. Applications havestarted pouring in and I wanted to share some lessons from our launch.

When I interviewed Seth Godin earlier this year, the best piece of advice he gave me was this. “Anytime I launch a big project, I say to myself it might not work.” That’s precisely what keeps most of us from trying our bold ideas. But one thing that has helped me in this process is that I’ve constantly leveled up.

  • I started by writing a blog
  • I eventually built a podcast
  • I interviewed anybody who would talk to me
  • Eventually I interviewed famous people (like Scott Adams, Tim Ferriss, Guy Kawasaki and others).
  • Then I wrote my first book, second book, third book
  • This week, I took a massive leap of faith and opened the doors to a conference

By making what Peter Sims calls Little Bets, I eventually worked my way up to making a much bigger bet.

It will be scary, but you have to do it anyway

One of the big lessons I’ve learned this week is that fear doesn’t go away. The only thing that happens is your comfort zone changes.

  • A thousand words a day is easy for me now
  • A book is nowhere as near as daunting is was before

My business partner Greg says when your comfort zone changes “you experience a new normal.”

You’re always scared that you’ll fail, nobody will show up, your life will fall apart and all those things. But it’s only by taking the risk of ending up in those situations, that you get the perks of building something amazing.

Focus on What You Control

With any endeavor in business, life, or art, there are certain elements that you control and other ones you don’t.

  • You have no control over how people respond.
  • What you control is the story you tell the world about your project.

If there’s anything that I’ve learned through this process it’s how to tell a story that keeps people engaged.

The Prelaunch

One of the things I did initially was build a very simple strikingly page that had 4-5 panels, very little copy and read “coming to a venue near you in Spring 2014″ with an option to enter email addresses. This allowed us to build a pre-launch list of people and test whether there was any demand for the event. The list was had close to 700 people on it the day we opened up for applications.

Rather than simply announce speakers, I decided to create some mystery around everything.

  • Every week I put up a silhouette with some clues about who the latest speaker might be.
  • I sent out to the email list I was building with a click to tweet link, and shared it on Facebook.
  • This allowed us to build anticipation and it caused quite a bit of conversation around who these mystery guests might be. The book Wired for Story has some great insights into how our brains respond to the anticipation that’s being built.

Planning an event is a bit like planning a wedding and starting a religion, so I talked about it quite frequently. To put it simply I told the story of what I was up to.

Finally we developed a pre-launch content plan. All the speakers at the Instigator Experience were people I had interviewed on my show, we published reruns of their interviews and called it the Instigator Series.

  1. Each day we unveiled a new speaker
  2. In each episode we mentioned the prelaunch list
  3. We teamed up with an artist to do illustrations for each interview (which resulted in far more attention on Facebook, Instagram, and Google+)

By the end of the 9 days we gave people a real sense for what The Instigator Experience was all about and who our speakers were. I’ve included an image below

Do something really different

Conventional wisdom would say, find the biggest names, get them to promote, and try to sell as many tickets as possible. But conventional wisdom leads to a conventional result and I wasn’t interested in that. One of the initial pieces of copy on our site read “No gurus, thought leaders or any of the usual suspects.” I figured it was time for a whole new group of voices to take the stage.

The crew that we’ve assembled is a bit like the Ocean’s Eleven of the Web:

A venture capitalist who wrote a book about loving yourself

A an ex-stripper who is a wildly successful business coach

A woman who spent 2 years in prison and is an amazing writer and health coach

An ex investment banker turned designer/artist/misfit

A guy who walked out of his door with nothing but ten dollars and a laptop 3 years ago on a mission to visit all 50 states and help 500 entrepreneurs.

James Altucher (where you even start with him is a tough one. But he’s amazing)

An actress/spokesperson/PR whiz

A poetic fiction writer

A snarky mid life reinvention specialist

Needless to say, this is not your typical business conference.

Design an Experience not an Event

The one place I didn’t look to come up with ideas for our conference was other conferences. Most conferences keep you sitting in a seat all day, under fluorescent lights, in conventional venues like hotels, convention centers and conference rooms. I dwelled up on these wise words:

“Live music has engaged participants. Keynote speaking has passive consumers. There’s room to be explored in bridging that gap. My work is about taking extreme mashups of different art forms in order to create epic audience experiences.- Erik Wahl

And for the record, Erik has received over 1000 standing ovations for his talks. Rather than approach this as a conference, we decided to treat it like a performance. That means borrowing ideas from theater, music, movies and other art forms. When you find yourself watching Michael Jackson’s This is It to come up with ideas, know you’re working on something different. The goal was simple: an epic audience experience.

Keep it Small

When I said conferences were broken, one of the things i thought really robbed attendees was making them too big. When they’re big, attendees don’t get enough time with the speakers they paid to see. That drove me insane. And the best thing to do when something pisses you off is to fix it. That’s why we’re limiting The Instigator Experience to 60 attendees.

Have an application process

When you have a small group of people, there are risks. To mitigate that we put in an application process. But we did it for a few reasons.

With an application process we could make sure that we got a diverse group of attendees. So far our attendees include surgeons, an assistant principal at a high school, a horse trainer, a freelance tv producer, an artist, a jewelry maker,a business intelligence analyst and some internet entrepreneurs.

My theory was simple. The more species there are in an ecosystem, the richer the entire ecosystem. Different backgrounds would lead to cross pollination of ideas.

The other thing an application process allows is to make sure you are bringing people to the event who will get value out of being there. As the producer of an event I don’t feel like the measure of my success is selling tickets. It’s the success in the outcomes of the attendees. In our case, it’s making sure their bold ideas come to life, stay alive and end up changing the world.

Is it ambitious? Hell yes. But what’s the point in doing anything half-assed?

We are still accepting applications for The Instigator Experience.

Written by

Connector of amazing people and interesting ideas. Author of the Extraordinary Achiever’s Manifesto: http://tinyurl.com/bv8hbey. Host of BlogcastFM


How Snapchat Became The Breakout Consumer Product Of 2013

Posted 6 hours ago by (@semil), Columnist
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Editor’s Note: Semil Shah works on product for Swell, is a TechCrunch columnist, and an investor. He blogs at Haywire, and you can follow him on Twitter at @semil.

Last year, as 2012 ended, I scanned the early-stage startup landscape and tried to identify one company that was a breakout for the year — I ultimately selected  Stripe, and explained why, here. I liked the thought-exercise so much I decided to do it again this year, and it didn’t take much deliberation to choose Snapchat — in my personal opinion, the clear breakout consumer product of 2013. The framework is provided courtesy of Fred Wilson, a high-level litmus test that, when applied, starts to make the improbable seem obvious in hindsight:

The Right Person(s): Clearly the Snapchat founders are smart enough to build something on their own, to iterate on their vision for a product, and to navigate the choppy waters of the early-stage app ecosystem and investment market. Once Snapchat made it through Series A and the 2012 Christmas “present” from Facebook, the company’s CEO Evan Spiegel assumed the mantle of “David” against Zuckerberg’s “Goliath” and became the  person who embodied this character.

The Right Idea: How many times have you been presented with the option to sign up to a new service by using Facebook Connect alongside terms of service disclaimers including “We will not post any information to Facebook”? Snapchat’s value proposition is essentially the modern, mobile, digital reflection of those types of disclaimers. Even with family over the holidays, when pictures are taken, you hear more than just one person blurt out “Don’t post those to Facebook!” The idea of Snapchat — to allow people to share images without posting to the web or Facebook — was definitely the right idea.

The Right Product: Building on the idea of Snapchat above, the actual product, like Instagram, unbundled one of the most important parts of Facebook — mobile photographs. However, once Instagram became a part of Facebook, and once those images helped build Instagram user profiles on the web, one could argue mobile-only Snapchat unbundled the forced permanence, faux-filtered finishes, and broadcast nature of Instagram to put people and faces at the center of images and to share them with individuals or groups in a more private, time-sensitive, mobile-only, intimate way.

The Right Time: In 2013, the two leading social networks made big moves — Facebook transformed enough of its business to mobile to convince Wall Street that big profits could continue to roll in, and Twitter finally went public and is performing well even with spikes in trading volume. At the same time, however, mobile messaging apps, especially those from Asia, grew so big, dominant web platforms finally took notice, seeing them as a new platform threat. All of these companies combined could one day represent nearly one trillion dollars in public and/or private valuations, so as the market recognizes this, a property like Snapchat can easily be perceived to be worth much, much more than we imagine today.

The Right Market: Mobile. Mobile. Mobile. User-generated pictures taken and viewed on mobile devices. A demographic centered around mobile-native teens and expanding rapidly. A communications app with network effects that can spread globally because the medium is universal. Oh, and mobile, mobile, mobile — a shift so huge, it could still be one of the most underhyped trends in technology relative to its scale.

And, there you have it — Snapchat is  the “breakout” company of 2013. I’m not  going out on a limb with this one! In about a 12-month timespan, the company grew exponentially, became one of the most dominant mobile photo-sharing networks, rebuffed multibillion dollar acquisition offers from the two dominant web companies, and closed increasingly bigger Series A, B, and C financing rounds from some of the most successful investors at each stage, including the most recent round led by one of the world’s leading tech hedge funds. While the future of Snapchat is uncertain — will they be able to sell ads, deliver ads without ruining the user experience, capitalize on in-app purchases, or sell itself in early 2014? — the app remains at the top of the charts and shows no sign of slipping. For all of these reasons, Snapchat is 2013’s breakout.



WeChat, WhatsApp and the walkie-talkie content opportunity

The push-to-talk function of most major chat apps is being used for one to one and group messaging at the moment, but there’s a big opportunity for it to grow into something bigger…

Small, inadvertent bugs or features can be a big deal. Photo filters on Burbn gave birth to Instagram. Those of you a little older may remember the levels on Space Invaders getting faster as you progressed. That was a bug that became a defining feature of that game and many others that followed.

I’ve been spending an increasing amount of time thinking and writing about messaging apps/mobile social networks — how they’re growing , where they’re going and most importantly, how people are using them.

The more I read about the ‘push-to-talk’ or walkie talkie features in WeChat, WhatsApp, Voxer, Viber, the more I’m convinced they represent a huge content opportunity. Here’s why. Frank Wu wrote a great piece earlier in the week about WeChat. To me, this was the most interesting paragraph:

it isn’t just text messaging that is helping to drive WeChat’s user retention. I was pretty surprised by how popular the walkie talkie (push-to-talk) feature is for communication, which I believe stems from how difficult it is to enter Chinese characters on a phone. It’s not uncommon to see people walking down the street or on the subway, speaking in quick 2 to 3 second bursts on their WeChat accounts. Instead of calling one another, a lot of Chinese people choose to use these walkie talkie conversations, giving them the benefits of asynchronous communication coupled with the power of voice.

I see the same thing happening back in Ireland, where my brother constantly uses Voxer to keep in touch with friends and colleagues in Australia. It’s a simple user behaviour that all of these apps have recognised and tapped into. It’s only a matter of time before they or someone else starts to do something simple but effective with the gigantic available audience.

Here’s an example. I’m a sports fan who likes going to games in the flesh or watching them in bars. The big thing that you miss out on in both cases is the pre and post game interviews with the coach and/or team members. Imagine getting a one or two minute message from Messi or the Barcelona coach after the final whistle of a game with their reaction (both are already on WeChat and Line respectively). Same goes for pre-game, midweek and more.

It’s easy to see how this could grow. Podcasting is already coming back into vogue  — think of this as the 140 character equivalent. Short, snappy interviews, updates and pieces of opinion. Just push, talk and deliver. With the right subscriptions, it almost becomes a hyper personal micro talk radio station for you. Snippets of the news you’re interested in from the journalists you like, opinion from the pundits you love (or hate), interviews and clips from the celebrities or teams you’re a fan of and much more besides.

When it happens, and this will happen, expect to see premium versions, cross platform varieties sponsored by brands as well as exclusives on specific platforms as a brand and loyalty building exercise. Kakao and Line are already using local celebrities to help them grow in Asian markets. The name of the game for all of the big messaging apps in 2014 is growing their audience and developing ways of retaining users in the face of dozens of identical platforms. This will offer them a way to do that.

There are barriers to this happening immediately. In almost every app, there’s an arbitrary limit on the number of people who can be part of a voice or text group chat. As they start to open up to an increasing number of companies, individuals and brands, that will change. Brands can already pay Kakao for premium accounts. There’s no reason to suspect that won’t extend to other platforms and other types of users.

Current limitations aside, the fact that WeChat is already doing premium content deals with celebrities is enough of a signal. What they do, others will copy or iterate upon. Given how big the push-to-talk function is becoming within these apps, I can’t believe that we won’t see the platform owners, existing content owners or some as-yet-unknown startup using it as a serious, valid channel for content this year.

Written by

head of digital at MHP. advisor at Kiip and others. fan of excessive amounts of five spice.

Published December 29, 2013