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What Will Happen to Instagram after Departure of Founders?

Left to right: Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger, new Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri, and Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom. Image source: Instagram

Social media marketers are wondering how Instagram will change following the departure of the founders of the Facebook-owned image-based app.

Facebook named Adam Mosseri, its current Vice President of Product, as the head of Instagram. He replaces Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom who together founded Instagram and then sold it to Facebook for $1 billion in 2012.

According to media reports, the founders encountered increasing tension with Facebook’s management over the app’s direction. The founders balked at what they perceived as Facebook’s meddling. A declining autonomy, rather than any single disagreement, prompted their resignations.

Zuckerberg gets Involved in Instagram

In one instance, when Snapchat gained users with its ephemeral video updates known as Stories, Facebook execs pressed Instagram to adopt a similar feature. Krieger and Systrom refused until Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally requested it, according to Bloomberg Business Week. There was also tension over a number other changes, such as how posts are shared between the two apps.

Instagram staffers saw their organization less as an independent company and more as a division of a larger organization. And with Instagram’s stellar user growth, many felt they needed Facebook less than Facebook needed them, according to Recode.

In announcing their resignations, Systrom and Krieger put on a happy face for the media. “We are thrilled to hand over the reins to a product leader with a strong design background and a focus on craft and simplicity — as well as a deep understanding of the importance of community,” they stated in a press release. “These are the values and principles that have been essential to us at Instagram since the day we started, and we’re excited for Adam to carry them forward.”

Tech observers generally view Mosseri as a competent leader and a natural choice for the position. However, some worry that Instagram could see significant, potentially negative changes without the founders on hand to resist Facebook’s aggressive growth and monetization efforts.

Mosseri’s title is head of Instagram, not CEO. That could be a subtle reminder that Zuckerberg and Facebook are definitively in charge, points out Andrew Hutchinson at Social Media Today.

A Beneficial Social Media Relationship

Both companies benefited from the 2012 acquisition. Instagram grew fast with Facebook’s help and gained Facebook’s advanced analytics capability. More brands recognized Instagram’s benefits for advertising and marketing. Facebook gained access to Instagram’s younger audience, an advantage from a marketer’s perspective.

Instagram has avoided Facebook’s problems with spreading fake news stories, data breaches and election interference. While Facebook’s user growth and revenue has stagnated, Instagram’s continues to grow. Instagram is thriving while Facebook is floundering. That means Instagram is important, even vital, for Facebook’s future.

“Without Instagram, Facebook is a completely different picture,” Jason Kint, chief executive officer of Digital Content Next, a publishing trade organization, told Bloomberg. Facebook domestic user growth has stalled and its international growth may also stagnate, meaning that Instagram will be “incredibly important” to the company’s prospects, Kint added.

Bottom Line: Departure of Instagram’s founders raises questions about the app’s future as well as questions about Facebook’s future. As Facebook suffers stagnant or slowing user growth and PR problems over data breaches and fake news, it may increasingly rely on Instagram for growth and good will. But some observers fear Facebook’s aggressive efforts to monetize Instagram will effectively kill the goose that is counted on to lay the golden egg.