It’s been two months since Facebook announced its acquisition of Instagram for $1 billion. We’ll have to wait until next week, when Facebook releases its first quarterly results as a publicly traded company, to find out how the deal is working out for the social network. But for one business, it has definitely paid off.
Adrian Salamunovic wasn’t surprised when Instagram announced in May that it was being acquired. Even before CanvasPop, the company he co-founded, became the first to print enlarged Instagram photos on canvas last November, he suspected that “something was up” based on emails he was trading with Instagram founder Kevin Systrom.
What did surprise Salamunovic was that the mobile photography app was being acquired by Facebook. “We always thought it was going to be Twitter,” Salamunovic said.
Any change was worrisome. Almost overnight, the Instagram prints that sell for $39.99 had grown to become 20% of CanvasPop’s revenue. Salamunovic was so worried that a new owner would change Instagram or shut off its API stream that he hedged his bets and began offering a similar service for Facebook prints in March.
And when the deal was announced, he had more reason to worry. Facebook is known for the acq-hire, in which it purchases a company for its talent and then shuts down its services. (The social network did this last weekend with social sharing service Spool.)
“You never know what a company like Facebook is going to do when they take over, so tapping into their API proved to be a very smart move,” Salamunovic said. “Even if Facebook decides to shut down Instagram tomorrow, we still have that insurance in place.”
That’s not a likely scenario, as Instagram is even more popular now than it was in May. And that’s good news for CanvasPop: Since the acquisition, the number of orders the company has received for Instagram prints has increased nearly 40%.
Instagram Trumps Facebook
That growth makes sense. Facebook’s pending acquisition immediately exposed new users to Instagram which, in turn, boosted CanvasPop’s Instagram business.
What hasn’t increased, however, is the number of orders for prints of Facebook photos.
“At first, when we saw how much Instagram’s 14 million users moved the needle for us, we thought offering canvas prints of Facebook photos was going to be much bigger than it has been,” Salamunovic said. “The interest in Facebook prints is about one-tenth of the interest we see in Instagram photos. There’s a lot of different theories as to why that is.”
Salamunovic subscribes to the simplest theory: Photos taken with Instagram look better and are more print-worthy than standard mobile device photos.
Why Instagram Photos Look So Good
What makes Instagram photos look so much better? Salamunovic listed two main technical reasons: First, the filters the app uses make almost anything look better. And second, the square format makes it easier to compose striking images than the usual rectangular frame.
“When you’re dealing with a square format, the 2/3rds rule and other composition rules pretty much go out the window,” he said. “It’s harder to mess up a square photo.”
But there are other factors at play. The social nature of Instagram means people are looking for likes and taking their time to get photos just right. Salamunovic said the increase in the number of users has not diluted the quality of photos his company is seeing.
“At the end of day, the people who are drawn to Instagram are good communicators,” he said. “Whether or not they’re good technical photographers, they’re good at communicating visually, and Instagram has made it pretty simple for them to do what they’re good at.”
Instagram photos by Dave Copeland.