After early traction in the music industry on Twitter, six-month-old start-up Chirpify, a platform for in-stream commerce on social networks, has expanded into Instagram. The move is part of Chirpify's long-term strategy to maintain a presence on all social networks where conversations are taking place.
As a result of the announcement last week, Chirpify, so-called because CEO Chris Teso says he wanted a name that could eventually be used as a verb and initial focus was on Twitter, was slammed by traffic and new members. That caused intermittent site outages for about two days. The site has since been stabilized, Teso says.
Chirpify enables businesses to easily sell goods - and consumers to easily buy them - on Twitter and now Instagram.
According to Chirpify, 40 percent of the world's most popular brands are on Instagram. With the addition of the photo-sharing network, Chirpify has a potential audience of about 250 million people and brands for in-store and online purchases, donations, and fund exchanges.
"Instagram has a short update with a photo that people can comment on - similar to a tweet," says Teso. "I like both platforms because they're super-clean. The Facebook news feed is noisy with baby photos and Farmville updates. But Instagram is very clean."
Teso says "a ton of" brands have joined Instagram recently to add photos of their products, which also influenced Chirpify's decision to expand to Instagram next.
"We're taking a look at a lot of networks," Teso says. "We're really interested in networks that are clean, real time and mobile, like Tumblr - I think that's a good one. Obviously, Facebook's the gorilla in the room. We haven't gone there yet, but we're looking. We want to do this everywhere."
To sell within Instagram, sellers and fundraisers can post a photo and set the initial comment to "#InstaSale $amount." Chirpify will create a listing that people can transact with by commenting back. Fundraisers can list requests for donations by setting the initial comment to "#InstaFund $amount." Similarly, Chirpify will post back a comment on the photo that instructs followers how to purchase.
Consumers use Chirpify to securely connect their Instagram and PayPal accounts. Once linked, they can comment on an Instagram post to transact with "buy" or "donate." Chirpify sends a secure download or receipt via email. Teso says the number of Chirpify users is "in the tens of thousands."
Refunds are issued through PayPal, although Teso says only two people out of thousands of transactions thus far have wanted to cancel a Chirpify transaction.
The only difference between Chirpify for Twitter and Chirpify for Instagram is that there are no peer-to-peer payments on Instagram because it has no messaging feature, Teso says.
Early on, Teso says Chirpify got a lot of traction in the music industry with the band Green Day selling MP3s and albums. But Chirpify sellers have also included authors, as well as users with listings on Etsy and Craigslist.
Taco Bell used Chirpify to raise money for world hunger, Teso says. Hewlett-Packard and Nestle have also used Chirpify for in-stream Twitter transactions.
In addition to its Instagram news, Chirpify said the creators of film and awareness campaign KONY 2012 by Invisible Children, actress and singer Kat Graham, tattoo artist Kat Von D, KEEN Footwear, hip hop artists Meek Mill and Wale, Bogs Footwear, Fearless Records, and social impact digital communications agency Love Social will be launching Chirpify social commerce campaigns on Instagram and Twitter.
Chirpify launched about six months ago. It is backed by a seed round of $1.4 million. Voyager Capital was the lead investor. The company has eight employees.
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
March 19, 2014