Back in March, re/code reported that Instagram was working on a range of new features to promote more advertising and brand activity on the platform, including analytics tools, the ability to buy Instagram ads via mobile and specific profiles for businesses. While there was no set date listed for the release of these new brand tools at the time, re/code's sources suggested they would all be available within the next few months. And now, the first images of the new brand pages for Instagram have been spotted, with Later.com posting images of the new profile format - or, at least, how the new brand profiles look at this stage of the testing process.
As you can see, there are a few new features there, including a prominent 'Contact' button and a category listing under the brand title. For comparison, here's how the same profile currently looks on my phone.
Once clicked, the 'Contact' option brings up a new menu with options to either 'Get Directions' or 'Email' the business.
The option to contact the business direct resolves one of the major headaches for brands on the platform, given the inability to include links in your content (other than the one available in your profile space). Giving users an immediate means to get in touch will make it easier for brands to connect with potential customers, while they also won't have to waste any bio space on putting their e-mail address into their description (in non-clickable format).
As noted by TechCrunch, it's also interesting that Instagram's opted to provide an e-mail connection, rather than using the platform's in-built messaging functionality, but I suspect the platform might eventually be looking to add more options to this menu, including the ability to contact the brand via Facebook Messenger, which is an avenue for eCommerce that Facebook's extremely keen to push forward at the moment.
Clicking on the 'Get Directions' option brings up a map screen with the business location highlighted with a drop-pin.
This is also a helpful addition which will, again, save businesses wasting their bio space on such details. The addition of a specific business address will also enable Instagram to better categorize brand pages for relevant search queries and ad targeting options. You'll also be able to get to this location screen by clicking on the location listing at the bottom of the business profile header.
And the third significant addition is the categorization of the page, seen here immediately beneath the business name field.
This is another tool for Instagram to use in categorizing each business for search, with a view to streamlining the connection process for people looking for specific products and/or services while also helping users quickly see what the brand page is about.
Instagram's confirmed that the new business tools are being tested with a small group of users, with a full roll out expected within the next few months. The changes could have a significant impact on how brands interact on the platform, and could also play a part in how brand content is filtered within the coming Instagram algorithm. As we noted recently, the Instagram algorithm, right now, would have no way of specifying which content is from a brand and which is from a personal profile, which should see all content treated more equally - as opposed to Facebook's News Feed algorithm, which has slowly but surely reduced organic reach for Page content. This update obviously changes that consideration.
That said, even with the addition of brand profiles, Instagram's algorithm is still likely to be more favorable to brands that Facebook's, as the network doesn't have the same affinity measures to take into consideration when weighting post relevance. The increased levels of personal data Facebook has access to enables their algorithm to factor in more relationship elements, like whether a person is a friend or family member, due to various factors like network proximity and how you've categorized your connections (e.g. noting someone is a relative or putting them on a list). Instagram won't be able to measure the same levels of personal connection, meaning all content, from brands and people, will likely be viewed from a more equal footing, as connection strength will be less of a factor and how you interact with each profile and post, specifically, will have more prominence.
It'll also be interesting to see how these new branded profiles affect Instagram engagement - the platform's grown from 200 million users in 2014 to 400 million now, with their user base sharing more than 80 million photos on the platform every day. There have been some reports that engagement on the platform has declined since they opened up their ad platform to all businesses, but whether those declines are enough to slow the visual network's overall growth remains to be seen.
But either way you look at it, the addition of Instagram profiles is pretty much a foregone conclusion. The platform's looking for more ways to monetize, they have an active engaged user base that brands want to reach - providing them with better tools to do so is a key step in advancing the network on this front.
The new Instagram brand profiles will likely be hitting your timelines soon.