New Instagram Feature Allows Users to Tag Brands

Will ads be next for the photo-sharing platform?

Instagram added a new Facebook-like tagging feature on Thursday that could give brands higher visibility on the youth-oriented photo-based platform. Called "Photos of You," the feature allows any Instagram user to tag any other Instagram account in their photos.

This means that the Instagram accounts of businesses and products can tag regular users. So if, for example, H&M were to tag Beyoncé, she could choose to add the photo to her stream, exposing the ad to her 3.6 million followers. Beyoncé (and everyone else) can curate the photos tagged with her name, choosing which to showcase on her profile.

Instagram sees the feature as a way for consumers to interact with brands. "People can now add their favorite band to their concert photos from last night, the clothing brand they’re currently wearing or the coffee roaster who brews their morning cup of coffee," the company said in a blog.

So if, for example, Beyoncé wanted to post a Hefe-filtered photo of herself at the combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bell, she could tag the two chains, and the businesses could showcase her user-submitted photo that highlights the product. This feature is meant to add a personal dimension to corporate photo-sharing as well as unprecedented consumer reach.

The change comes as Instagram moves into its second year under Facebook ownership. Though the fast-growing photo-sharing site—which now has 100 million users—does not yet sell ads, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said ads are "something we're thinking about." Ads could in fact stunt Instagram's rapid growth, so Zuckerberg is looking for other ways to commercialize the platform.

"They're really doing well and growing quickly and that is the right focus for them," Zuckerberg said in an earnings call on Wednesday. "They have the opportunity to .  . . build community."

The photos in the "Pictures of You" section will become public to Instagram users on May 16. This gives users some time to fiddle with the features and figure out privacy.

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