Will Instagram Profiles Change the Visual Branding Game?

You may not have noticed, but Instagram (undisputed king of online “food porn“) made a big announcement this week: the service has begun moving away from its status as a purely mobile application to establish a major web presence with Instagram “profiles.”

These new web pages very closely resemble Facebook profiles, which should surprise no one considering Mark Zuckerberg‘s recent acquisition of the nascent imaging service. In place of the Facebook “cover photo”, visitors will see a rotating lineup of recent images posted by the Instagram user in question.

Instagram on the web is, for all intents and purposes, a purely visual version of Facebook.

One potential problem has emerged, and it will be familiar to many Facebook users: Within a week or so, everyone with an Instagram account will also have a page with a default “public” setting, which means that anyone online can visit a given user’s profile and view his or her images. Does this amount to an invasion of privacy? The service will almost certainly need to address the issue in the days ahead.

But we expected Instagram to encounter a few bumps in the road as it expands. The big question: what does this new feature mean for brands?

The announcement could well be a “big deal”, especially for brands with very visual sensibilities like, say, Nike or MTV (which recently became the first brand to reach 1 million followers). Web surfers who want to peruse a constantly updated stream of Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift photos will now find instant gratification in a single location.

Obviously not every brand will drive revenue with its Instagram page. The layout clearly favors businesses that rely on visual impressions like those in the food, fashion and design industries. Yet, just as every business on the planet now seems to have a Facebook page, we can only assume that the market will soon demand that every business looking to expand awareness of its brand will soon have an Instagram profile–even PR firms.

What do we think? Which names will benefit most from this new feature?



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