Facebook Purchase of Instagram Highlights Weakness in Crisis Monitoring

So the big news this week is online. If you haven’t heard yet, the mega-social network Facebook purchased the social media darling, Instagram, this week for an obscene amount of money (I really like Instagram, but a billion dollars is insane). And there is no shortage of coverage or articles picking apart the deal, just Google it.

As is our way here, let’s ignore the herd and what it means for the future of social media, Instagram, the presence of any bubble, any of that. Instead let’s focus on the process, the sausage-making, as it was. How did we find out about the purchase? Not by press release, not by SEC filing or investor call, not by leak or broken embargo. Nope, by Facebook status update. That’s it. And I think there are two things we can learn from this.

First, this is a viable way to break news. Billion-dollar news. News that’s way bigger than almost anything you need to talk to the media about. Deriding it as a fad or anything less than the future of breaking news is tantamount to malfeasance as a communicator.

Second, once you’ve accepted that Facebook is a real breaking news medium, you should be realizing how poorly we monitor Facebook for breaking news. Sure, we’re getting good at monitoring Twitter and other breaking news media, but Facebook is so distinct, so large, so disparate… And sure, Mark Zuckerberg is a good newsmaker to follow, but what about that person you don’t know that will make news tomorrow? All of her social network will know before you, before your agency, before the media. It will be viral before you’ve even heard about it. Good luck getting ahead of that or “being first.”