Your Guide To The New Instagram Web Profiles

Coming to profile or Brand near you very soon… 

Also see Bret’s post

When Facebook acquired Instagram earlier this year, many wondered if the core of the service would be changed and if the giant social network would just integrate it into its own site. For its part, Facebook said it would keep it as a standalone app and let its 100 million users flourish through the mobile app.

What we are starting to see is something in the middle as yesterday Instagram started rolling out user profiles that is the very definite start of a web presence. When looking at the profiles you are immediately struck by their striking resemblance to Facebook’s timeline design with the one notable difference being that it is all gorgeous photos replacing any text.

We wanted to have a look through the new changes and see how they can be leveraged by brands. Also, it allows the opportunity to look at it all from a higher level and see where the relationship between Facebook and Instagram is headed. Can both live happily beside one another, or if it’s just inevitable that they just merge into the same thing.

Features

The first and obvious thing that will strike you about the new profiles (and something that has already been repeated ad nauseam) is that there are a lot of similarities between it and Facebook’s profile pages. It’s a very difficult comparison to get away from as both have cover photos, profile pictures, and both provide vital information like stats, descriptions and site links underneath. However, there are some key differences worth keeping in mind.

The first thing is the cover photo. There are seven image slots present and they’re formatted in such a way that there are six small spaces and one large space located on the centre-left. These spaces are reserved for your most recent and popular images. From the profiles we’ve looked at, popularity – the number of likes and comments an image got – seems to be the driving force behind whether an image appears on your cover photo or not.

Image layout goes from left to right, with the biggest image usually going to the third most recent image.

Also, while a static screenshot cannot convey is that these images regularly change depending on how many photos you have on your profile. Usually, it’s the seven most recent images you’ve posted and then the next seven, but popularity can mean this order – especially the second batch of images – can be adjusted. It has yet to be seen whether Instagram will allow brands to select the images they want – being able to choose what image to use for the main space would come in handy – but it might leave it this way as brands won’t be able to place call-to-actions on their cover photos.

Overall, profiles work the way you expect. Photos are arranged chronologically and scrolling down further will load up more images where applicable. Perhaps one handy benefit of these new profiles is that you can now get the individual URL for each image. You can do this by opening an image in a new tab or window by right clicking (or holding down Ctrl+click if you’re a Mac user) and you will see the URL at the top.

The Facebook Side Integration

Apps of all shapes and sizes are integrating with Facebook’s open graph as it tries to leverage the viral nature of the platform. Instagram was one of the first apps to use it to its advantage before the acquisition, but since then it has an even deeper integration with Facebook.

You are starting to see subtle design changes like multiple photos in the newsfeed and small subtle icons across photos that other apps can’t do. Instagram will continue to grow because of the sheer scale of distribution it has via Facebook. We’d guess that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of integration as well because the deal was only recently approved and work has only just begun. You’ll probably see much more integration with timeline and cover photos on the coming months.

Instagram For Brands

The new designs look absolutely beautiful, but you have to remember that they are currently an advertising free zone. We’d guess that it will be at least another year before you start seeing the ads appearing on the Instagram site so it’s a great time for brands to jump in and embrace the platform before it becomes saturated. There doesn’t happen to be as many rules and strict guidelines around competitions and promotions as there currently are on Facebook.

The beauty of this is that there is a great visual way of telling your story and engaging an audience, but it is going to mean brands will have to create their own visual identity and produce a lot of content. Words are out so pictures and images are taking their place. Our prediction is that 2013 will be a huge year of brands land grabbing on Instagram so we’d say start as early as you can.

Brands Presence

While Instagram has offered a select few examples of brands using the new profile designs, here are ten more that will give you a better idea of how profile pages will format.

BillboardLevi’sMTVPlayboyNPRGeneral ElectricPumaStarbucksNikeRedbull

Rules and Regulations

While the expanded web presence gives a lot more scope for brands to showcase their images and profiles, some brand will be glad to know that there have been no subsequent changes or additions made to Instagram’s terms and services. To simplify the community guidelines, don’t share photos that aren’t yours, don’t share images that have mature content, don’t share photos that contain illegal content, don’t spam and don’t be rude.

Unlike Facebook, the rules for running a competition on Instagram remain the same as before (provided you follow the general decency guidelines Instagram has placed) and so long as you place general terms and conditions for a competition, there’s nothing to worry about. The most popular way of holding a competition on the service is through hashtags and while it’s not new, there’s a way of monitoring new submissions via the web.

If you want to follow new images being submitted to your competition, you can do so via RSS feed by using the URL http://instagr.am/tags/[hashtag name]/feed/recent.rss (the part with hashtag name is where the name of the hashtag without the # goes). This will allow you to keep tabs of any new photos that are being posted with your hashtag.

There’s nothing to stop you from creating a call-to-action image to post on your profile. However, getting it on your cover photo will be a lot tricker as you need to either post a number of them, which would get annoying for those following you, and secondly they mightn’t even make it onto the cover as an image must be popular to make it onto the cover in the first place so it mightn’t be worth your while doing so.

What’s Next?

Well, for one, an explore function for the web presence would be a great start, especially in the case of competitions, it would be great to see groups of photos using the same hashtag in an official capacity, but for now, you’ll have to settle using a third-party source like Webstagram or Copygram to view them. It’s unclear whether Instagram will want to go down this path or not as it could feel that it will take away from the mobile service, which is how it built up its success in the first place.

There could also be the possibility of the company introducing business specific features much like Facebook and create brand profiles for the site, but this would happen much further down the line (late next year) should it ever happen.

However, it’s clear that Instagram is making strides towards making its service a brand friendly place. With this expanded web presence, combined with Instagram’s recent business blog and focus, the next year will see it build upon the foundations it’s placed.

via Your Guide To The New Instagram Web Profiles.

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