Instagram’s sale to Facebook earlier this month for $1 billion was the crescendo of the startup’s rapid rise and dominance in the mobile photo-sharing market. But within the Instagram universe lies another market -- small businesses allowing you to customize products using photos from your Instagram account. From flipbooks to T-shirts to posters, a myriad of websites have sprung up around the ability to turn your Instagram photos into physical or decorative mementos. Apart from creation, startups have also come up with new methods for browsing Instagram and sites where you can look at statistics and insights from your account. Consider it the Instagram Economy.
One such Instagram-inspired creation is Stitchtagram, a Washington, D.C.-based company that allows you to craft 15-inch throw pillows with photos from your Instagram account for $95 plus shipping. Stitchtagram is the brainchild of brother-and-sister duo Doug and Rachel Pfeffer. Doug works for Internet ad agency The Barbarian Group while Rachel leads Rachel Pfeffer Designs, a jewelry store.
“My sister and I had been talking about it for a while and we wanted to get it out there into the world in time for our Christmas and holiday orders, so it has only been a few months,” Doug Pfeffer said of Stitchtagram’s November launch. “I’m not going to retire off Stitchtagram just yet, but it’s been a great project so far.”
For Adrian Salamunovic, co-founder of CanvasPop.com, a site that blows up, prints and frames your Instagram photos, Instagram's user base of some 40 million people has been a fertile customer pool. "We could tell early on that Instagram was going to explode,” he said. “We knew we had to be the first company to allow this huge marketplace to print large images and we achieved that. Fast forward six months later and we've sold tens of thousands of prints to our fellow Instagram fanatics, with almost no advertising."
Instagram’s clean, intuitive interface and easy access for third parties have allowed this secondary market to grow alongside the popular photo-sharing app. Apart from technical matters, Instagram photos are inherently practical for businesses printing and using the pictures.
“It’s a simple thing to go in there and access your photos,” Pfeffer said. “Instagram has this great API, so it makes it really easy for third parties to go in and pull the photos out of there. A side effect of this simplicity is that all Instagram photos are the same dimensions so it actually makes it way easier to print.”
“What makes Instagram so perfect for doing business is that they have a highly influential, early adopter, connected, creative audience that loves to share stuff -- in other words, the clients that everyone wants,” Salamunovic added. “These people look for cool authentic products they can get behind. More importantly Instagram never had a focus on monetizing their audience, so we did it for them via their API that they provide for free to developers.”
For CanvasPop, their printing extends beyond purely Instagram photos -- offering prints and canvases for SLR photos and even Facebook pictures. Pfeffer echoed that he was hoping to open up his pillow creation tool to Facebook photos to expand his audience and offer more variety in pillow creation for customers.
With Facebook’s high-profile -- and high-priced -- purchase of Instagram, there has been a ton of press and a flood of new users using the application. With the release of the app for Android and the big news of the purchase, Instagram added more than 10 million users in only 10 days, bolstering its user base to 40 million strong.
“One reason a lot of people, including me, like Instagram is because it seems like it’s more of a closed network of people you’re interacting with,” Pfeffer said. “As far as business goes, more people is never a bad thing."
Here's a look at some of the more creative third-party Instagram companies:
Close up of a Stitchtagram pillow.
Rachel Pfeffer hard at work making Stitchtagram pillows.
<a href="http://www.canvaspop.com/" target="_hplink">CanvasPop</a> creates enlarged prints of your Instagram photos and frames them for you. Prices run $29.95 for a 12x12 print and $59.95 for a 20x20 print. Shipping is free for orders over $150.
<a href="http://instaprint.me/" target="_hplink">Instaprint</a> is a location based photo booth for Instagram that is capable of printing your photos. Each box is preconfigured with a hashtag or location, which when tagged while cause a photo to come out of the Instaprint box. You can submit a request for an <a href="http://instaprint.me/rent/" target="_hplink">Instaprint rental for your event here</a>.
<a href="http://printstagr.am/" target="_hplink">Prinstagram</a> is a one stop shop for prints of all sizes for your Instagram photos. Among the creations available are mini-flipbooks, t-shirts, posters and stickers. Pricing varies depending on order: 252 little stickers ($10), a minibook of 50 photos (two for $12), a tinybook of 24 images (three for $10) or a 20 x 40-inch poster of your tiled Instagram images ($25).
A poster (20x40) made with Instagram photos using Prinstagram.
<a href="http://www.casetagram.com/" target="_hplink">Casteagram</a> is a site that offers you the ability to customize a case for your iPhone from your Instagram photos. The case is $34.95 with free shipping worldwide.
<a href="http://www.instamaker.com/" target="_hplink">Instamaker</a> is another site that allows you to customize products in various arrangements with your Instagram photos. Among the items you can make are T-shirts, coffee mugs, postcards and pendants.
<a href="http://postagramapp.com/" target="_hplink">Postagram</a> is an app that allows you to send postcards from your phone using your Instagram photos. The photo within the postcard can be torn out along perforations to be used as you please. Don't own a smartphone? Postagram also allows you to <a href="http://postagramapp.com/photos" target="_hplink">send photos via the the Internet as well</a>.
<a href="http://stickygram.com/" target="_hplink">StickyGram</a> allows you to create 50mm x 50mm (about the size an Instagram photo appears on your iPhone) magnets out of your Instagram photos. They cost $14.99 for a pack of nine and shipping is free.
<a href="http://www.instamapapp.com/" target="_hplink">Instamap</a> is an app for iPad and iPhone ($1.99). Among other views, Instamap allows you to browse Instagram photos on a map. You can use the app to subscribe to geographical locations, venues, users or tags and see the photos as they are posted in real-time.
With <a href="https://www.imagesnap.com/" target="_hplink">ImageSnap</a> you can create ceramic tiles using your Instagram photos. The ceramic tiles range in size from 2" x 2" ($4) to 12" x 12" ($35).
<a href="http://statigr.am/" target="_hplink">Statigram</a> is a website that allows you to view your Instagram feed and interact with it by leaving comments and liking photos, much like you would on the mobile app. In addition, the site offers statistics for your account including your most liked photos, what day of the week you upload most and your favorite Instagram filters among other interesting insights.
<a href="http://carousel.mobelux.com/" target="_hplink">This $1.99 desktop client for Mac</a> is a simple and lightweight means to browse the Instagram universe. You can view your feed, popular photos, your photos, comment, like, save photos and more. Carousel offers a 15 day trail for free for those on the fence.
<a href="http://snapstagr.am/" target="_hplink">Snapstagram</a> considers itself the fastest and easiest way to print your Instagram photos. You can print your own photos, photos you've liked and photos organized by hashtag. It's $6 for 12 high quality 4x4 prints and $29 for an 8x8 framed canvas with free shipping.