Brands Show Early Enthusiasm for Instagram Web Profiles

Sharpie, GE, BMW and Others Experiment in Curating Images for the Web

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After the rollout of Instagram web profiles last week, some users fretted that an online repository for pictures carelessly posted of their voter ballots or Halloween costumes was reason to make their accounts private.

Brands, on the other hand, are showing some enthusiasm for Instagram web pages, even if they don't quite know what to do with them yet.

While brands Ad Age surveyed haven't yet observed a rise in followers attributable to web profiles, they're intrigued by the prospect of having a place to showcase their content in one place and possibly to direct users there from other media.

For brands like Sharpie -- which has a follower count of 38,000 and is geared toward teens with a colorful set of hand-drawn images that are created in-house by a 26-year-old community manager -- a web profile is an opportunity to create a portfolio. Sharpie social-media lead Susan Wassel said her team plans to promote the Instagram page on its blog and Facebook page this month.

"By doing so, we hope to tap into fans who do not have access to an iPhone or Android device, giving them the opportunity to see the collection of Sharpie inspirations posted on the web profile, thus continuing to inspire creative use of our products," Ms. Wassel said in an email.

Kate Alini, BMW of North America's social media and emerging technologies manager, seconded the idea of Instagram web pages as a "canvas" but said her team will continue to focus on mobile users.

"I don't see Instagram necessarily becoming like a Pinterest destination," she said.

That said, the growth of the platform, which crossed the 100-million user mark in September, makes it hard to predict how usage of it will evolve. Ms. Alini noted that when Instagram emerged as a platform to think seriously about roughly a year ago, her team had thought the account could be handled in-house, but now they're having agency partners "really focus on it as a channel," she said.

General Electric (with nearly 137,000 Instagram followers it feeds a diet of magnificent turbine and engine photos that it also serves up on platforms like Tumblr) represents what seems to be the prevailing view among brands that web profiles won't impact their Instagram strategy for now.

While there's potential for viral sharing of Instagram photos to be sparked by the ability to now cut and paste URLs from a desktop, it has yet to become a fact. GE's director of global digital marketing and programming Paul Marcum said there are no current plans to proactively drive traffic to the company's Instagram site.

"It's going to depend on how many additional hooks Instagram builds into the browser experience," he said in an email. "If it becomes a rich engagement environment, then we'll consider it."

Instagram doesn't yet allow page owners to pick and choose a web page and says it pulls in images to the header images based on how recently they were published.

Huge 's global creative director, Joe Stewart, who mans the digital agency's Instagram account, says he might think twice before posting an off-color photo now. When web profiles went up last week, a picture Mr. Stewart had taken of a bathroom in a bar landed in the header image. The photo was still funny, but it wasn't exactly how Mr. Stewart wanted his agency's brand represented.

"When everything's highlighted and put into a hierarchy, it speaks to who you are a little bit more," he said.

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