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Avik Kumar Si – Instagram overtook Twitter this week in terms of monthly active users. 300 million people are active on Instagram each week. This is a striking figure, coming so early in Instagram’s lifecycle. So, what does this inflection tell us about Instagram, Twitter and more importantly: about us?

Pictures Rule

Pictures appeal to the human mind in a manner that words can never hope to beat. We hear the importance of using images in presentations, how movies can actually make us feel to mirror the emotions portrayed on screen. Text will be, eternally, bridesmaid to the beautiful bride that images (and videos) are.

Most likely, even the most exciting aspect of Facebook are the images in the posts – which makes Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram such a brilliant defensive move.

Plus, uploading a picture is easy, condensing your thoughts in 140 characters isn’t.

The Devil lies in the Metric

As a metric, sheer numbers to reflect surface participation will always favor direct messages over indirect, the obvious over the subtle.

Which is, by the way, neither a negative commentary on text or oblique messaging. Just a fact of horses for courses. It is just that we should recognize the limitations and biases of metrics. Box office returns aren’t the best measure to judge masterpieces. It will always be Gangnam which breaks the internet, not Mozart or Beethoven.

Similarly, “monthly active users” isn’t the metric to gauge the depth of interaction on a social media platform. You need to also measure the frequency of users’ usage, their interaction modes etc.

Mobile Devices: The Engine for Exponential Growth

Instagram’s exponential growth is not just due to its nature of content but also because it is meant for using on mobile devices. This throws the field open to younger users and those on the move, segments contributing significantly to Instagram’s user base.

Mobile devices, with their low power requirements and ubiquitous nature, are democratizing internet reach like nothing else before.

Bandwidth as a constraint is passé 

When a platform for uploading images and videos overtakes one for posting short messages in terms of active users, it will surely go down as a tipping point when network bandwidth, once worth its weight in gold, has ceased to be a a constraint. Just like storage, network too is entering the list of things once we hoarded but now we longer care about.

Implication: from here on, size ceases to be a deciding criterion for judging if a content-sharing mechanism can make it big.

What’s next? 

It’s up to us to think up how we can apply these learnings to benefit society. Perhaps, an infographic-maker to translate our thoughts into pictures and then share the same across social platforms could be a game-changer in the field of education! Your thoughts?