How Instagram Made It

How Instagram Made It

A team makes a cool app. Somehow they made it onto TechCrunch and people start to download it. They have a lot of users now. And things look bright.

Suddenly, less and less people are downloading it. Then they find out that people who downloaded are not using it anymore – or worse – are deleting it! They spend money on ads. They email bloggers and tweet their hearts out. But nothing happens. This is when most apps fail.

So why do the Instagram make it? The secret sauce is simple, yet not many notice it. It comes in two parts.

Part 1 – Instagram is not about making videos. It’s about sharing videos.

instagram user journey

Studying Instagram’s user journey, you can see how users’ default choices are to “share” and nothing else.

Want to save it just for yourself? Nope, can’t.

Want to have it somewhere safe? Nope, it’s hosted on servers that can be compromised.

This is how apps make sure that your video is seen by others, gets onto twitter and Facebook. And eventually gets liked. Which leads us to part 2 of the secret sauce.

Part 2 – Instagram teaches you to come back, again and again.

Instagram Notifications

So you have Instagram on your phone. How does the app take you from a person who “just downloaded it” to “using it everyday”. This is where the magic happens. Instagram literally teaches you to keep checking the app! How? Using the simple ideas of behaviorism. Yes, the same way they teach dogs to do tricks. Here is how it worked for dogs, and how it works for humans too. (I’m keeping the psychology background to a minimum).

habit trick

Doing Tricks Habits For Dogs

checking app habit

Checking App Habit For Humans

Every like on Instagram makes sure that this habit becomes stronger. In Behaviorism this is called “Reinforcement”. And I am not kidding with the dog analogy. You can read more about behaviorism in this awesome book by Karen Pryor. Eventually, with dog training, you can start asking the dog to do tricks without giving it treats. And same for hardcore app users, they don’t need likes to keep coming back and check the app!

What I’ve explained to you in here is also how Facebook, Twitter and other big places on the internet really made it big.

We’ve decided not to do that for our first product, Glance Video. We believe that you should own your moments. They belong to you, not the internet.

But this is our challenge. How can we get our app to be discovered by new users? And how do we get people to keep using it, without using lessons from Instagram?

We want your help.

Share with us your thoughts and strategies on twitter or comment below.

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