The tool does present some opportunities for brands to increase engagement, such as by offering exclusive deals to people who follow them. It's less clear, however, whether Instagram would be able to make money directly from its private messaging feature. Instagram's feed is well-suited to ads, which the company calls "sponsored" posts and videos, because the company can charge businesses to have them placed broadly across the site.
But it might be a pipe dream to think consumers will be receptive to promotional photos and videos appearing in their private inboxes, if they don't already interact with those brands.
"This is not necessarily a feature built for advertising," Brian Blau, an industry analyst with Gartner, said of Instagram's new tool. If businesses were to use it to send content to users who didn't ask for it, Instagram Direct could become more like a junk folder.
Instagram Direct might bomb as a monetization tool, he said. "But you never know."
On Thursday, Instagram's Systrom did not say much about whether the company would be using the function as an advertising tool. "We're taking it very slowly," he said of Instagram's larger monetization efforts. "That's a good thing for a service producing ads."