Instagram’s New Web Profiles: The Value for Brands

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.

 

Business opportunities

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.”

 

Overlapping purposes?

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?

 

Get Ready for the Bots – on Facebook Messenger

2Facebook Messenger was released 5 years ago and now has over 900 million users. Originally receiving a flood of negativity towards a standalone messaging app, compared to one simple Facebook app, users seem to be warming to it. The decision to make it standalone does make a lot of sense, since messaging is a big part of people’s lives nowadays and Facebook even bought the domain messenger.com to launch a version for web browsers last year. Their 900 million users will more than likely be merged with Whatsapp’s 1 billion users, which means that Facebook will have the personal phone number of every single user – sounds like $19 billion well spent.

 

Open for Business

So that’s humans covered. Where to go next? Facebook is now venturing into their next Messenger-based project: bots. If you haven’t been keeping up, Facebook launched Messenger Platform last month, which holds within it, chatterbots. Luckily, these bots are not machine learning bots, such as the disaster that was Microsoft’s Tay. They do have some humorous replies if provoked but they ultimately steer the conversation back to the subject they’re designed to cater for. Thanks to their highly advanced Send/Receive API, these bots are able to reply with actual structured messages, including links, images, hotel reservations, the weather etc. You may immediately compare this to Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Now and Amazon Echo, but what sets bots on Messenger apart is the fact that businesses can develop them, which in turn gives them another way to develop customer service. Simply put, bots could end up changing the world by replacing humans in such job sectors. Without the bespoke customer service integration that Messenger bots provide, the above voice-activated services will most likely not be able to solve business-related queries themselves. Having said that, the way bots behave is very reminiscent of the way Siri does. Maybe they’ll talk to each other one day and we’ll get the best of both.

 

Customer Service and Added Value

So how can these bots work for brands? Well, eventually, every major company in the world will have an account, which will be a first port of call when contacting their company. The reason this is almost definite is due to Facebook’s already-mammoth-sized network of users. It doesn’t get any bigger than Facebook when advertising to individual people, so connecting Messenger bots (as customer sales reps, for example) is extremely attractive. Messenger codes, one of many things taken from Snapchat, will also make it easier for businesses to connect with their customers. One industry example is how bots will almost certainly change how banking works for the consumer, replacing an app or web-based system with a dialogue with a machine that is able to understand your every need. The option to send money within Messenger itself is highly likely too, like Snapchat allows. This could also eliminate the hassle of speaking to a bank’s voice recognition system when calling by telephone – no more time (and money) wasted by the dreaded “I didn’t catch that. Please try again.” These voice recognition systems are essentially bots done badly, but they’re based on voice, which is a lot more difficult to translate into zeros and ones. Plus, you cannot autocorrect your voice (yet). I can see this whole system being replaced by bots – it could even connect you to a human advisor with ease, as you’re most likely already using your phone. Even if you’re using the desktop version or Facebook Chat, I’m sure they’ll figure something out. Besides banks, what other markets will benefit from this? Restaurants, travel and possibly supermarkets with online shopping services are big industries for it to thrive. The healthcare industry could also be a large portion – Healthtap have already created their bot, which isn’t surprising considering one of the first ever chatterbots was called DOCTOR and simulated a psychotherapist. In fact, the potential amount of markets are endless for this stream of interaction – just like it is with human customer service.

 

At the end of the day, customers are moving towards messaging as their preferred choice of customer service. And as generations progress, it will no doubt become the standard – a phone call will most likely be reserved for long, meaningful conversations with friends and family, which in turn will add even more meaning to them. The phone call will no longer be taken for granted, but talking to robots will be.