How VSCO evolved after a self-titled viral trend

In 2019, before TikTok’s “clean girl”(Opens in a new tab)the vsco girl(Opens in a new tab) he was a prominent figure. The term, derived from the application(Opens in a new tab)referenced a cult of teenage girls and a distinctive aesthetic(Opens in a new tab) attributed to them. The VSCO girl wore neon-hued scrunchies, oversized sweatshirts, and ripped jean shorts; she used a Hydro Flask and drank frappuccinos from Starbucks; she probably had Birkenstock sandals and a pastel Polaroid camera. And she captured these facets that make up VSCO girl DNA with images leaked via the VSCO app, then posted all over Instagram.

The company’s current president, Eric Wittman, tells Mashable that the trend was “a really unique moment for the company, which was also unintentional.” The intense virality(Opens in a new tab) of the VSCO girl inadvertently became an opportunity for her self-titled app, which today is shaping up as a platform for the artistically inclined professional creator.

Previously known as VSCO Cam, the photography app launched in 2011.(Opens in a new tab), which offers an editing toolkit and a range of preset filters. The app has always provided users with a designated page for their edits, where users can post and comment on the content produced.

Wittman describes the spirit of the company, from the beginning, as a result of “people who lived and breathed creativity.”

“A lot of what the company was working on, the tools it built, the programs it built, was very focused on what we call the casual builder,” he explains. Now this user base has matured, Wittman says, with VSCO simultaneously pivoting to cater to professional creatives.

Credit: VSCO

“We’ve really recognized that supporting serious creators is now more important than ever,” he says, citing the “boom in the creator economy.”

The “serious creator” now may very well be those who were once considered “VSCO girls”: “Those people are still with us and we’re maturing with them,” he says, adding that users “can still use VSCO to get inspired.” , to connect with others, to get things done.” The demographics seem to be turning professional; artists, photographers, and videographers, for example, can turn to the app for their portfolio and professional needs.

VSCO has an interesting place in the broader social app market, since it’s not exactly a social app by nature. Compared to Instagram and TikTok, VSCO serves an alternative purpose, perhaps one that more closely mirrors Pinterest with its emphasis on aesthetics and inspiration. Wittman says that VSCO’s goal is to be a “creator to creator” platform, primarily for artists who create things. The company saw “a void” that the app can fill. “We don’t run by algorithms and ads, right? This is a community, with tools, with empowerment.”

VSCO, which has $90 million in funding, is likely to boost its revenue thanks to its membership model. Launched in 2017, a subscription to the app unlocks over 200 editing presets, along with video editing and other advanced tools. Free access to VSCO provides comparatively limited tools and presets. Annual membership starts at $29.99 and monthly starts at $7.99. According to VSCO, the company had more than 2 million paying members in 2018.

“[It’s] we’re driving to drive, rather than being an algorithm-driven model, that’s more of a pure consumer game, which is not our raison d’être at the moment,” Wittman explains.

A screenshot of Spaces, a component of the VSCO app.

Credit: vsco

VSCO’s rebranding also involved a greater emphasis on community, a reaction to the booming creator economy and a collective desire for social media engagement. Last year, for example, VSCO introduced collaborative galleries called Spaces into the app, allowing users to interact with other creators, share new work, launch projects, and most importantly, create shared galleries around themes, locations, or events, and receive feedback from others. . The goal of these “mini collectives,” as Wittman calls them, is to inspire users to develop their work, explore different themes, and establish regular interaction within the VSCO ecosystem.

While VSCO Spaces is a more interactive feature, it’s still niche, allowing for connection and communication in a very different way than other social apps. Given the demand for this in an increasingly saturated app market, these changes were likely crucial in keeping VSCO relevant. Wittman says Spaces was “a gamble” for the company, but claims the show has millions of viewers.

Spaces was recently updated to include text-based posts for “enhanced storytelling” as well as the option for “shareable assets” so creators and viewers can spread the word about the work they make and see. The company also hosts creator sessions every month, where a different creative presents their work to other users. In line with VSCO’s new direction, these updates reflect the app’s desire to be seen as a place where creators can produce and expand their work, alongside others.

Of course, artists also want to get paid for their work. Wittman says the company has seen an increase in brands coming to VSCO looking to be connected creators and artists for collaborations and campaigns.

“We think that’s a great opportunity for us as well – to connect brands and organizations with creators, so we can continue to help them on that journey of making a living with VSCO.” This is a component of its larger “mission,” Wittman says, and a large part of it is also a provider of a “safe and authentic” space.

“People are moving away from tools and services,” says Wittman, “where [they] I have to create an alternate persona.”

This is true: Over the past three years, social media users have openly craved truthfulness online and have moved toward platforms that offer it. People are increasingly deleting Instagram and avoiding BeReal for pretending authenticity; Aligned with this is the increased need for platforms that allow for expression without pretense. Is VSCO this platform? For some, especially the creatives that the app aspires to provide, it can be a competitor.

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
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