Instagram, a smartphone application that allows users to shoot, edit and publish photos online, was bought last spring by Facebook for $1 billion, and its no small wonder the social media giant was eager to gobble up the technology startup and its dozen employees.
Founded by Stanford University alums Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the California entrepreneurs injected experience into the startup from stints at such tech luminaries as Google, Microsoft Powerpoint and another startup named Odeo that would spawn the popular microblog Twitter.
Inc. Magazine says that by the time Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called them up, Instagram had grown to more than 30 million followers including celebrities like Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian and Barack Obama.
Available through the iTunes App Store and Google Play, Instagram can be downloaded for free to any smartphone with a functional camera. From there you just log into your account, point, shoot and let the app take over.
“Its like Twitter but is all based around photography,” says Thimblepress owner Kristen Ley. The Jackson letterpress printer posts many of her new cards and designs on Instagram. “I’m a visual person and learner so it appealed to me,” Ley says. “I can actually show my product or the process and it gives the customer or buyer a glimpse into my personal life, as well.”
Using Instagram, amateur “phone-tographers” can use Instagram to scale or crop a photo, add captions and apply retro effects and filter settings like Sierra, Willow and Low-Fi. The photo is then published to a public feed similar to Facebook’s News Feed.
“It’s our favorite social media platform,” says Adam Myrick, co-owner of the Click Boutique in Hattiesburg. “Its a great medium for us more so than Facebook and Twitter.”
Anne-Lauren Fratesi, a social media expert with the Ramey Agency advertising firm in Jackson, has an Instagram profile that allows her to post personal pictures and follow the accounts of brands or people that interest her.
“It’s a great way to tell a story for your brand or give consumers VIP access to your brand,” Fratesi says. “I love photography so I’m interested in seeing and discovering new photos.” The Ramey Agency operates Instagram accounts for a few clients including the Women’s Fund and their new sexual health campaign “Fact Not Fiction.”
The best way to promote Instagram pictures is through its hashtag system. Similar to Twitter, pictures that are posted can include #Mississippi, #landscapes, or #weddings depending on the type of photo and how it should be categorized.
“I’ve actually had a couple of retailers pick me up because they looked at the letterpress hashtag and found me through that,” Ley says.
April Bullock, owner of Eve Marie’s in Hattiesburg and Ivy Boutique in D’Iberville, takes pictures of all of her new clothing lines.
“We have a lot of customers that search the hashtags and we ship to them,” she says.
Bullock says Instagram is perfect for two reasons: it is a great way to showcase bold and colorful outfits that can be targeted to a younger demographic and audience that matches her customer base.
Posting pictures on Instagram even attracts customers that may not actually be in your immediate area.
Hernando pharmaceutical researcher-turned-photographer Melissa Vincent recently was contacted through Instagram by someone wanting to license some of her pictures to big box retailers such as Target and Bed Bath & Beyond.
It’s a way for the stay-at-home mother to finally profit from a hobby after some of her art-house inspired pictures were featured in Time Magazine and National Geographic photo collages.
“I do all my work on my iPhone,” Vincent says. “I don’t have any background in photography but am self-taught.”
While she may not use an SLR camera or PhotoShop, Vincent is very familiar with many photo editing apps that work with Instagram like Image Blender and SnapFeed and often beta tests photo editing mobile apps for developers.
Vincent was recently a top finalist for the Mobile Photographer Award and has a series of pictures from William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak home showing in San Francisco.
“That’s my goal as an artist to give everybody a view of Mississippi that is nice and beautiful and interesting,” she says. Her more than 200,000 followers can’t wait for what’s next.
GALLERY: Instagram pictures from Mississippi businesses.