If Instagram’s photo tagging feature had been built into its own app, you’d have the viral sensation Poparazzi, now the # 1 app on the App Store. With the new social networking app, made by the same people as TTYL and others, you can create a social profile where only your friends can post photos – in other words, make your friends your own “paparazzi”. To his credit, the new app perfectly implemented a number of options to drive growth on day one – from the TikTok hype cycle before launch, to pre-orders on the App Store, to the social buzz after launch, including cheap tweets supporters . However, in some cases, the app has also traded user privacy to amplify the network effects on its offering for the top charts. This is a risky move in terms of their long-term stamina.
The company positions Poparazzi as a kind of anti-Instagram rebelling against today’s social feeds filled with edited photos, too many selfies, and “seemingly effortless perfection.” People’s real life is made up of many imperfect moments worth capturing and sharing, explains a company blog post.
This manifesto hits the right notes at the right time. User demand for less performative social media has been growing steadily for years – especially as younger Gen Z users wake up to the manipulations by technology giants. We’ve already seen a number of startups attempting to steer users away from Instagram with similar rally screams, including Minutiae, Vero, Dayflash, Oggl and, more recently, the once lively Dispo and herd under the radar.
Even Facebook has sparked consumer demand in this space and is planning to introduce new features that will allow Facebook and Instagram users to remove the number of “likes” from their posts and feeds.
Poparazzi hasn’t necessarily innovated around its core idea – after all, tagging users in photos has been around for years. In fact, it was one of the first viral effects Facebook introduced in the earlier days.
Instead, Poparazzi reached the top of the charts by carefully executing growth strategies that ensured a missile ship-style launch.
@poparazziappcomment it! ## Greenscreen ## Poparazziapp ## Positivity ## Foryoupage ♬ Milkshake – BBY Kodie
The company garnered pre-launch buzz by driving demand through TikTok – a platform that has already helped shape app store hits like the mobile game High Heels. TikTok’s capabilities are still often underestimated, although its potential to send apps to the top charts has successfully boosted downloads for a number of wireless companies, including TikTok’s sister app CapCut and the e-commerce app Shein.
And Poparazzi not only built demand for TikTok, but captured it by directing users to the pre-orders page on the App Store using the link in his bio. When the starting day passed, the time had come a group of Gen Z users ready and willing to give Poparazzi a try.
The app launches with a clever onboarding screen that uses the haptics to hum and vibrate your phone while the intro video plays. This is unusual enough for users to talk and post about how cool it was – another potential means of generating organic growth through word of mouth.
After getting excited with excitement, Poparazzi makes it easy for you to access larger amounts of data.
First, users are logged in and authenticated using a telephone number. Despite Apple’s App Store policy that requires it, there is no privacy-conscious option for using “Sign in with Apple” that allows users to protect their identities. This would have limited Poparazzi’s growth potential compared to its phone number and address book access approach.
Then a screen will appear asking for permission to access your camera (an obvious need), contacts (everyone waiting?), And permission to send notifications. This is where things get trickier. Like Clubhouse in the past, the app requires a full address book upload. This is not necessary in terms of the usability of an app as there are many other ways to add friends on social media – for example, by scanning each other’s QR code, entering a username directly, or doing a search.
However, once Poparazzi gets access to someone else’s full contact database, he no longer needs to develop functionality for privacy enthusiasts. It can simply match your saved phone numbers with those saved from user logins and create an instant friends graph.
As you complete each entitlement, Poparazzi will reward you with green ticks. Even if you deny the requested permission, the green check mark will appear. This can confuse users as to whether they accidentally granted access to the app.
While you can “decline” the upload of the address book, a request with a TSK tsk a popup message – Poparazzi literally only works with friends, it warns you – You can’t avoid being found by other Poparazzi users who have your phone number saved on their phone.
When users log in, the app matches their address book to the phone number it saved, and then – boom! – New users immediately follow the existing users. And if other friends have signed up before you, they will follow you as soon as you sign in for the first time.
In other words, there is no manual curation of a “friend diagram” here. The expectation is your address book is Your friend’s diagram, and Poparazzi just duplicates it.
Of course, this is not always an accurate representation of reality.
Many younger people, especially women, have the phone numbers of abusers, stalkers, and exes stored in their phone’s contacts. This allows them to use the phone’s built-in tools to block unwanted calls and texts from that person. However, because Poparazzi automatically matches people based on their phone number, abusers can instantly access the user profiles of the people they want to harass or harm.
Sure, that’s a marginal case. But it’s not trivial.
It’s also a well-documented problem – and one that plagued Clubhouse and required full address book uploads in its early growth stages as well. It’s a terrible strategy to become the norm, and one that doesn’t seem to have created a permanent short-term bond with the clubhouse. It’s not a new tactic either. Path mobile social network tried uploading address books nearly a decade ago, and almost everyone at the time agreed that it wasn’t a good idea.
As meticulously designed as Poparazzi – (it’s even a blue icon – a color that indicates trustworthiness!) – chances are the company chose the compromise on purpose. It foregoes some aspects of user privacy and security in favor of the network effects that come from an instant friends graph.
The rest of the app will then ask you to continue to enlarge the friends graph and get in touch with other users. Your profile will remain the same unless you can convince someone to upload photos of you. With a SnapKit integration, you can beg for photo tags on Snapchat. And when you can’t get enough of your friends to tag you on photos, you may be drawn to the “Allow Pops From Everyone” setting, not just “People You Approve”.
There is no world where uploading photos to a social media profile by “everyone” does not lead to abuse at some point, but Poparazzi is clearly hedging his bets here. It probably knows that it won’t have to deal with the aftermath of those decisions until later – after filling its network with millions of disgruntled Instagram users.
Dozens of other growth hacks are also distributed through the app multiple pushes to invite friends scattered across the app to a very snapchatt-y “Top Poparazzi” section This will encourage best friends to keep their streaks of posting.
It’s a clever box of tricks. And while the app doesn’t offer comments or follower counts, it’s not an “anti-Instagram” when it comes to chasing clout. The posts, which can turn into looping GIFs if you line up a few in a row, may be more “authentic” and unedited than those on Instagram. However, Poparazzi uses “Respond to posts with a range of emojis” and how many reactions a post receives is publicly displayed.
For beta testers featured on the explore page, responses can be hundreds or thousands – effectively setting a bar for pop influence.
After all, users you follow have permission to post photos, but if you do no longer follow they – a sure sign that you no longer want them on your Poparazzi roster – can keep posting them on your profile. As it turns out, your squad is managed under a separate setting under “Allow Pops Of”. That could lead to problems. At the very least, it would be nice to see the app asking users if they also want to remove the untracked account’s permission to post on your profile at the time of untracking.
Overall, the app can be fun – especially if you are in the young, carefree demographic that it is suitable for. His friendship-oriented and ironically anti-glamorous stance is also promising. Additional privacy controls and the ability to join the service in a way that provides far more granular control over your friend’s diagram to improve protection against abuse would be welcome additions.
Biomedarticles tried to reach out to Poparazzi’s team to get an idea of the app’s design and growth strategy, but didn’t listen back. (We understand they’re head down for now.) According to SignalFire’s Josh Constine and our own confirmation, we understand Floodgate invested in the startup, as did the Dream Machine and former Biomedarticles co-editor Alexia Bonatsos Weekend fund.