Use Instagram for picture-perfect brands

Looking to build a brand for your organization or yourself? It’s a snap with photo sharing site Instagram.

Next to Pinterest, Instagram is one of the Internet’s newest and most popular sites. (Facebook acquired the company in April for $1 billion.) Instagram is also simple to use. With your smartphone you take a photo, choose a filter to alter its look and post it to Instagram. You can share the photo simultaneously on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. And you can “like” and be liked by followers.

Individuals can use Instagram to chronicle their lives, their vacations, their cities and towns. Businesses can use Instagram to forge closer ties with their customers. Two examples: Women’s online retailer ShopExcessBaggage created a trend-setting page where followers can post and vote on popular styles. And accessory boutique RequiredFlair uses Instagram to showcase the many ways to wear the company’s jewelry. The experience is visual, personal and interactive—all of the ingredients for social sharing.

Ready to share your brand? Here are a few tips from Mobile Media Lab co-founder Brian DiFeo.

  • Start with your existing audience. Announce your presence on Instagram on social sites such as Facebook and Twitter and through communications channels such as websites, email lists and newsletters.
  • Post photos that are consistent with your brand, or that will advance your causes.
  • Use relevant hashtags such as #fashion so users searching Twitter will discover your work.
  • Run contests that encourage interaction with followers.

Once you’ve collected a few photos on Instagram you’ll want a central place to display them. While you can view your collection on a smartphone you can’t see them at the Instagram website. For that you’ll need another service like Gramfeed, which can display your work and that of the people and companies you follow. From there you can pin your images to Pinterest. You can see my collections at Gramfeed and Pinterest.

Want more information? Mashable has a solid primer on its website.

— Jeff Widmer

TinEye not picture-perfect but it’s a bright start

Ever find a photo and wonder about its origin? There’s a search engine for that. It’s called TinEye, billed as a reverse image engine that uses image identification technology rather than keywords, metadata or watermarks. According to the company, “You can submit an image to TinEye to find out where it came from, how it is being used, if modified versions of the image exist or to find higher resolution versions.”

How does the beta site work in the real world? Well, with some limitations.

TinEye

I tried it with a representative sample of images—people, objects and logos—with mixed results.

The first search, using a portrait of John F. Kennedy, yielded 81 results, including partisan blogs, poster suppliers and dating-gossip sites. (The link to the Slate online magazine did correctly identify the former president.) The search engine also led to the correct identification of singer Lady Gaga (through mtv.com), novelist John D. MacDonald (through blogs in the U.S. and Russia) and Dilbert, even though the comic strip contained three frames and multiple images. TinEye showed no results for personalities such as magazine finance writer Dyan Machan.

A search using the Leaning Tower of Pisa turned up 31 results, including several postings on the photo-sharing site Flickr. A search using the image of a bottle of Coca-Cola yielded a 2009 blog post about one of the company’s marketing campaigns, along with 19 other results.

For the final search I used the logo from one of my agency’s business-to-business clients, GGB. TinEye found the image on a French industry-directory site, correctly identifying the company as the manufacturer of metal-polymer plain bearings.

The conclusion? TinEye is good at finding images of popular people, objects and brands. In my limited sample it did not lead to official sources, so if you need to annotate research reports, the service may lose some value. I also could not consistently find information about image location, use or version, but that may apply only to certain types of images.

As an image search engine, TinEye isn’t picture-perfect but it could have a bright future, especially as it enlarges its database. On the whole, the service is a fast way to identify common images, and a fun way to view the Web.