In case you missed it, there’s a war a-brewing for control of our photographic lives—a war being waged between Facebook and Twitter. Once half-jokingly dubbed “a photo sharing site with some chat attached” by noted VC Fred Wilson, Facebook stands as the reigning photographic champion, having gobbled up mobile photo champion Instagram in this year’s purported billion-dollar acquisition. Standing as the David to Facebook/Instagram’s Goliath would appear to be none other than Twitter, who is rumored to be close to launching photo features of its own.
If you’re a travel marketer, you may have watched border skirmishes between these two with only passing interest. Now that Instagram has disabled photo viewing in Twitter, however, it may be time to pay a bit more attention.
Photos are the lingua franca of social media. They transcend language, capture emotion, and root us to a social network unlike any other content. Study after study finds that photos generate 2x to 3x the amount of likes and shares of text-based content. And for that reason, they are digital gold to Facebook and Twitter—the holy grail of online content that increases user engagement, drives new visitor traffic, and builds user loyalty.
The latest shot in the photographic turf war between Facebook and Twitter seems innocuous at first glance. Facebook’s Instagram now no longer supports photo viewing within Twitter. Instead, when a user tweets a photo via Instagram, it will appear as a link that followers will need to click in order to view the photo on Instagram. No big whoop, right?
Not so fast. Instagram’s move, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch argues, is not in the best interests of users who want seamless photo sharing regardless of platform. Instead, it is a move driven solely by Facebook’s financial interests and desire to drive more traffic to its site. Twitter’s making similar moves. And so, we may be in the waning days of seamless, social media platform sharing with 2013 shaping up to be the year of the walled, social garden.
The net impact of this shift is significant for travel marketers in numerous ways:
For all our lightning-fast, digital photography, it strikes me as oddly apropos that the picture of social media today is developing slowly, somewhat murkily like 35 millimeter film. If only we had Ken Burns narrating these social photo wars, we might be able to fast-forward to the end to see how they turn out. But, alas, we’re the marketing generation that has to wade through them and smile as our pictures are taken.