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Instagram opens new doors with web profiles for users

Responding to its growing popularity and requests from users, the photo sharing service Instagram has announced the arrival of online user profiles. Instagram has always allowed users to share pictures through email, text or across other social networks, but the service has until now not provided a single location on their own network for people to showcase their pictures.

Instagram profiles will be different from those on other social networking sites in that they will remain focused only on pictures produced by mobile devices. Users will not be able to upload pictures or share pictures from across the web. If Instagram sticks to this policy, it will keep the network more niche focused than competitors like Twitter or even their parent company Facebook, where uploaded pictures and memes abound.

Instagram claims that the new profiles will give people, “a simple way to share your photos with more people and to make it easier to discover new users on the web.” Until people adjust their privacy settings to their liking, it may also result in the unwanted sharing of some pictures. In the past not all images posted to Instagram were automatically shared. Users had to choose to post them to either Twitter, Facebook, Flickr or Tumblr. Without web profiles, when someone saved a photo to Instagram, they were in effect only archiving it for themselves and their followers. Now, unless you specifically request that your profile be private, all pictures shared to Instagram will automatically be shared with the public at large. Non-Instagram users will be able to see public profiles.

For Instagram users, profiles will be set up automatically at the url www.instagram.com/[username]. The profiles are not available to all users yet, but will continue to be rolled out over the next several days. They have a distinctly (and unsurprisingly) Facebook-like look:

What does this mean for attorneys?

Firms will have access to one more social profile and will have to make a tactical decision as to whether they want to focus some attention on integrating Instagram into their marketing efforts. It also means that attorneys should consider coming up with some basic standards for photo sharing through Instagram.

Craft a story. Much of the practice of branding and marketing involves creating an overarching narrative that people can both recognize and connect to. Pictures shared to Instagram must reinforce that narrative. That is not to say that they cannot be diverse. It just means that they cannot be all over the map. Maybe leave the pictures of the beach to your personal account, unless of course your firm is at a beach as a part of an awareness walk or other fundraising or community event.

Create a firm-specific account. The difficulty of optimizing an Instagram web profile for a law firm is that pictures are only attached to one user. Like Facebook, Instagram accounts are associated with an email address. Unlike Facebook, companies cannot create pages on which people with multiple email addresses can share pictures. You firm will have to have a dedicated username and email that people can log into and out of when taking marketing or firm related pictures. Since most users are automatically signed in to their Instagram apps, reminding firm personnel of the marketing account will be important. (And reminding them to log out before sharing personal pictures is also critical.)

Get everyone involved. Getting attorneys and staff involved in creating an Instagram photo library can provide a real asset for firms. Candid moments showing real people interacting with each other are much more valuable than stock images that any other attorney can pay a licensing fee for and use. Firms can show behind the scenes moments, host photo contests and share pictures of community events to help generate interest and connect with followers.

Much of Instagram’s appeal comes from the ease with which it allows people to enhance every day pictures and create sometimes striking images from basic mobile camera shots. It’s fun. If done correctly, harnessing that fun and creative energy can provide a benefit for firms.

Photo courtesy Instagram

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