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Picture perfect marketing

Two years and after making its debut in the App Store, mobile image editing favourite Instagram has launched brand new, web-based profile pages. Soon, all 37 million Instagram users will be able to browse photos and comments in a way that is eerily similar to Facebook… Well, not that eerie, considering Facebook has owned Instagram for months now. The user profiles even have a similar layout to Facebook Timeline, with a collage of images making up the user’s cover photo. Instagram founder Kevin Systrom has already implied further integration between the Instagram and Facebook models further down the line, telling TechCrunch: “It’s not the last thing from us you’re seeing on the web.”

Instagram have attributed the new profiles to “overwhelming” user demand, but for such an innocuous addition they have been surprisingly divisive. Certain pundits are criticising Instagram’s web-based pages for being a transparent attempt to sell advertising space at best, and a betrayal of Instagram’s mobile-based origins at worst. In a piece on entitled ‘Is Facebook Already Making Instagram Uncool?’, Eric Jackson crystallised the main issue for many of Instagram’s loyal, trend-obsessed users: “Web isn’t cool any more. Mobile is.”

And Instagram is nothing if not “cool”. It was far from a revelation that Facebook was interested in acquiring Instagram earlier this year; the app achieved substantial market penetration among big brands within a fairly short window considering its relatively young status. Instagram lends itself particularly well to visually heavy retail brands, e.g. clothing and luxury products. It has been noted before that large luxury and retail companies would do well to get involved with visual networks like Instagram and Pinterest, if only for the simple fact that they have a largely female user base. Gucci and Burberry both have high volumes of followers, and Tiffany & Co. attracted fans by offering three unique photo filters. Instagram isn’t just for girls though: gender neutral giants like MTV and Starbucks have gained significant numbers of followers, while brands like Audi and Nike do better in terms of engagement.

Whether Facebook acquired Instagram in order to pre-emptively quash a potential competitor, or simply to capitalise on the Instagram team’s mobile expertise, the Facebook app developers are certainly making the most of their new friends. After the launch of Facebook Camera back in May, Instagram-esque photo filters are now available on the native Facebook app. Twitter is also currently working on adding filters to their ‘twitpic’ function, most likely in an attempt to keep up with key rival Facebook now that it owns Instagram.

Instagram isn’t the only social network to be taking page design cues from Facebook. Professional network LinkedIn also recently revamped its official company pages to be more image-centric and cited stronger corporate branding as motivation, suggesting an even greater visual focus in marketing trends going forward.

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