The world of social analytics platforms is a competitive, confusing and often expensive one. When it comes to choosing the right tool, social media managers and analysts alike are often looking for the best option to give them the most information at the lowest price. But, what happens when a tool that so many rely on decides to bamboozle their loyal following of analytics professionals and switch from a free to paid platform overnight?
Iconosquare, formerly known as Statigram, is a free Instagram analytics platform. The unique tool is one of the few platforms where social media professionals can find reliable data about their Instagram accounts. It allows the user to view over 40 account statistics, including account follower growth, post engagement and gather other valuable analytics that Instagram does not provide publically at this time. With over 8 million users, it’s clear that Iconosquare has built quite the following since its launch in 2011.
You’re Killing Me Smalls
As you can imagine, these 8 million users were surprised on April 30, 2015 when Iconosquare sent out an email to all of their users explaining they were moving those previously free features to a paid platform. While it’s safe to say that users expected this might eventually happen because Iconosquare is such a widely used tool, they gave no warning to their existing user base that the analytics they relied on were going to be unavailable to them and left many people saying WTF. We see three major issues with the way this transition was handled:
1. Poor Communication
The first real issue was with the way that Iconosquare went about moving to a monetized platform and their lack of communication. Instead of giving their users advanced notice and a timeline before switching to a paid platform, Iconosquare closed their eyes, hit launch and hoped for the best. Due to this lack of communication, the Iconosquare community had no time to find an alternative solution for their analytics needs or account for the hefty $200/ month fee that they were about to be charged. Iconosquare blindsided their users and in doing so lost not only user loyalty but also the option to provide a highly sought after paid platform for Instagram analytics.
2. Value ? Price
The second cause for concern for many users was the fact that the price did not reflect the changes made in the platform. The new platform was completely redesigned, Iconosquare made it look very pretty, and some additional features such as better comment and engagement tracking were added. However, because most of the analytics provided in the paid version were the same as the free options, this did not give Iconosquare a lot of ground to stand on when asking for a substantial monthly payment. If you slap lipstick on a pig, it is still a pig, friends. It was easy to see that the value of the new analytics features did not match the pricing scale, and this left many users face palming over their computer screen.
3. Lack of Follow Through
Last, if there were a dislike button, we would surely be using it for Iconosquare’s follow through. Three days later on May 3rd, Iconosquare came creeping into our inboxes with another email explaining they were backtracking to their previous free version and would be sending out beta invites to the improved paid platform, talk about a bait and switch. While many welcomed this flip-flop, Iconosquare gave no reasoning for the change and did not explain to users why they were never informed that the change was coming. In addition, we have yet to see a beta invite come across our emails nearly a month later. The fact that Iconosquare set expectations that a beta invite would be coming and still has not delivered is another shining example of their lack of follow through and commitment to their users.
According to Iconosquare,
“Over the last few days the feedback we received from users currently trying our PRO version have shown that the platform is not stable enough to guarantee the best user experience. In order not to deprive you of key features such as analytics and comments tracker that we know are essential in your Instagram activity, we have decided to roll back to the previous version. Your Instagram analytics are being updated, your history is available and the comments tracker is fully operational.”
Do This, Not That
While it is possible that the biggest reason for the backtrack was the platform glitches (which probably could have been worked out in beta, cough, cough), we might not be seeing the whole picture. As social media professionals we understand why a platform like this would try to monetize itself, especially with such a huge user base, but instead of going about it in a way that would entice their users to sign up for a paid version of their tool, Iconosquare instead left users shaking their piggy banks upside down to fund a tool that was suddenly out of reach.
Iconosquare eventually did the right thing by apologizing to their users, we will give them credit for that, but they are going to have a hard time releasing any kind of paid platform from here on out. While many of their users ended up sticking around, because they enjoyed using a tool they were familiar with, we anticipate that many people have found another option. Tools such as Ink361, Squarelovin, and in the case of user analysis Simply Measured are great alternatives if you are no longer on board with Iconosquare and the way they run their business. Understanding a few key things when launching or updating a platform can save you from this sort of failure. First, find out if the product aligns with your user base and if appropriate steps were taken to gather and address feedback. Then, open up the lines of communication with your users and be transparent about your end goals. Also, make sure that the price you are charging matches the product you are offering. Most importantly, take the time to gauge the success of a platform before launching and make sure that you have covered all of your bases before releasing it to the public, we don’t want another Tidal on our hands.