The 100 million strong photo-sharing community Instagram just launched web based profiles. It gives users access to their profiles through the web in a sleek yet oddly familiar Timeline-evoking design. Ironically, as Facebook is increasingly optimising for the SoLoMo future, Instagram is now working towards becoming more web-based.
The web profile displays the user’s recently shared photos (reminiscent of the Cover photo on Facebook), a profile photo and bio. It allows you to follow users, comment and like photos from a desktop. However, there is no news feed, so in order to explore profiles, you’ll have to know the usernames and enter them yourself: instagram.com/[username], such as instagram.com/nike.
Seen from the user perspective
”You’ve asked for Instagram on the web and we’ve listened.” This is what Instagram claims in the blog post announcing the new web profiles. The increased possibilities of browsing and sharing from desktop will certainly be given a warm welcome. Already existing websites like web.sta.gram and Statigram filled in the gap in the absence of an official Instagram web version and have even more functionalities then the newly launched official web version, such as the possibility of searching for photos. However, these services only allowed you to see single photos at the time and not entire profiles. I think the increased discovery possibilities will be well received as well as the option of seeing the pictures in a larger format – even if it is to the detriment of the quality.
How are web profiles advantageous for brands?
The Instagram web profiles provide brands with increased exposure as they can now showcase pictures seamlessly with basically everyone, and not only with mobile users operating on smartphone or tablets. This will most likely result in a boost of user-engagement as no one is excluded with both a mobile and web presence. The web profile also facilitates building awareness of an Instagram account across a brand’s entire social media presence, which will help brands boost their number of followers. But will people at some point get lost when surfing through various channels? As I wrote in a previous blog post, the average users can only operate a total of 1-2 social profiles, so there is a potential risk of saturation.
The new web profiles facilitate the tasks of community managers, who will now be able to manage Instagram communities from their desktop. However, what would make the community managers truly happy would be a multiple account function on mobile making it possible to interchange between a private and a brand profile – and what would add more value to the brands would be an analytics and monitoring function within Instagram.
The launch of web profiles might be a way for Facebook to finally get something out of their $1 billion investment: Monetising Instagram – but without alienating users by exposing them to ads in their mobile news feeds. People have become fond of Instagram as an ad-safe place, and I doubt that you in the near future will be seeing ads popping up in your mobile Instagram feed. However, people are so used to seeing ads on the desktop, that it would be less of a nuisance. The web profiles act as landing pages for brands and businesses to direct users to, making it somewhat similar to Facebook’s Pages, which, as you know, have a number of promotional options. Kevin Systrom, Instagram CEO, told the All Things D: “We believe this is a big step in allowing brands to have an Instagram home on the web where they can share recent shots with just about anyone. We’re obviously very excited by the adoption of Instagram by the world’s major brands and we’ll continue to build products that suit both them and users alike.”
Even though there are a number of obvious branding possibilities in having a desktop Instagram profile, it still makes me wonder… While Facebook is making changes in their Edgerank algorithm and putting more focus on strong visual content, what is the purpose of making a similar platform out of Instagram? Will this just make users confused about where to go for photo-sharing? Even though the web version of Instagram doesn’t allow for photo uploads and mobile thereby remains the key focus, I believe that an increased merge of the two platforms will make both platforms lose their focus and remove themselves from their initial purpose. In my opinion, Instagram needs to be careful not to alienate their loyal community by mirroring Facebook. What is your opinion?