Last night, I pulled out my phone, snapped a photo and began cycling through Instagram filters looking for the best one. Nothing unusual there. I chose to share this particular image on Twitter and Facebook as well (something many Instagrammers do somewhat judiciously, lest we be spammy), and a few moments later noticed something a little different. Suddenly, I was getting an uptick in Facebook notifications telling me that people liked my photo. Not my post but my photo. Wait, what photo?
For as long as Instagram has been around, it has published photos at unique, Instagram-hosted URLs, which were then linked to on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. The link to the image could be retweeted or "liked" on Facebook, but the image itself remained off on a cold, lonely island on Instagram's servers. The only people that could interact with the photo itself were your Instagram followers who, of course, could only do so using the photo-sharing service's iOS app. Well, that just changed.
Now when you opt to share Instagram photos on Facebook, instead of linking off to the image, it actually imports it into Facebook and posts it in a photo gallery. This seemingly minor update actually changes the social dynamic around Instagram images in a noticeable way. It not only gives greater visual prominence to the photo itself within Facebook, but enables things like tagging and resharing of the image.
It makes Instagram's Web presence a tad more engaging and useful in lieu of an actual official website, something Techcrunch's Alexia Tsotsis pointed out. To date, Instagram has yet to roll out a Web interface or Android app for the beloved photo-sharing service, which is enjoyed exclusively by iOS users.
The integration may also serve to boost awareness of Instagram itself, which has about 15 million users. It's not completely analogous, but when Spotify and other music streaming services integrated with Facebook last year, they saw a dramatic increase in sign-ups. Of course, that was for a relatively new service that anybody with a desktop computer can access. Still, there's always room for more growth on iOS and the company could be dropping that Android app any day now.