This week saw an exciting development from Instagram. The funky photo-sharing social site took a step away from their mobile-only roots — where they’d been named the App Store’s App of the Year and garnered record Android downloads — by launching web-based profile pages. Though many forecasted this move after Facebook purchased Instagram for a cool $1 billion $750 million last April, what does this feature really mean for you and your brand? 

As Instagram continues its meteoric rise, brands are taking notice. The network boasts a high adoption rate among big brands with 40% of the Interbrand 100 reporting that they have an Instagram presence. Perhaps this unprecedented user growth is accelerating the app’s need to become a larger, multi-platform player rather than the low-key, niche network that many love because it’s not big and complex like say … Facebook.

But does this development impact your brand? Let’s take a look at Instagram’s new web-based profile pages and what they mean for you.

Just the Facts

Instagram profile pages launched Monday via an announcement on their blog. They’re rolling them out this week, however, it appears that the big brands have already been migrated over. They cite Nike but you can also see MTV, Starbucks, General Electric, and others. You can do everything you can do on the mobile apps such as like, comment, and follow. To find a user just add their Instagram username after the ‘/’ at the end of the URL

Why It’s Good for Brands

Our brand is doing great things on Instagram, Ms. CEO/Board of Directors/Stakeholder! What’s that? You want to see what we’re doing? Come gather ’round my iPhone … Regardless of whether or not you have the newest iPhone or Android phone with a larger screen, it’s still hard to show off your Instagram activity to other stakeholders. An official web-based version of Instagram profiles allows brands to easily share activity with those that might not be mobile users (official = RIP Statigram?).

A web-based reference point for your Instagram profile also slightly extends the shelf life of your photos as they struggle against the network’s news-feed focused mobile home screen. If a user is following enough people, your content could get forgotten about or, worse yet, not seen at all. A web-based profile provides a longer tail by making it easier to get a snapshot (pun intended) of a user’s activity and even makes it possible to share once again on other platforms in a very basic sense as your Instagram content now has an official URL.

For brands, an extended content shelf life has the potential to increase engagement as it could provide another avenue for likes and comments. As it’s easier now for others to share links to your content, you could also net additional Instagram followers.

To be clear, I am tempering any talk of increased engagement opportunities with words like ‘potential’ and ‘could’ as this development certainly establishes a presence on another screen but is far from a rich multi-directional experience.

Where It’s Lacking for Brands

instagram audiFind a brand on Instagram by typing stuff in after a URL and a slash? No search feature?? No homepage with a wall?!? Nope and nope — the homepage of still pushes users to the mobile apps, which is understandable at this stage but one has to wonder how long this will continue. As it stands, this approach is pretty clumsy to discover new brands. If you already follow a brand it simply provides an online reference point for sharing.

What’s that? Sharing? Nope, they still don’t have that on Instagram, either on the mobile side or on the new web-based extension. The mobile experience is so wonderfully simple and sparse you almost don’t miss the ability to share other users’ content. A web-based version could set itself apart from its mobile predecessor by experimenting with sharing. The larger photos and displays that desktop-based web viewing offers would be less disturbed by the addition of this feature.

Another enhancement that a web-based presence could give them room to experiment with is analytics. Currently Instagram insights are pretty light beyond basic engagement data such as likes and followers.

What’s Next?

When Instagram was acquired by Facebook I warned that we need to make sure that “Lenny didn’t get excited petting the rabbits” and hurt the fun, little social network. At first glance, this move seems like a good one, providing brands with an official “web permanent,” slightly more shareable utility if nothing else. After a second glance, many can’t help but have that Planet of the Apes “Statue of Liberty” moment when you see that these new profiles look a lot like Facebook profiles and brand pages.

My warning still stands. Instagram has grown at the rate it has largely because it’s uncluttered and does one thing — fun, on-the-go photo sharing — very, very well.

Without killing the golden goose, what feature would really help your brand on Instagram?

Featured image via (Naturally!)