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Building on Instagram

Instagram, the picture-sharing application that Facebook bought earlier this year, has not yet figured out a way to make money. But some of its users have. These entrepreneurs have realized that they can piggyback on the popularity of Instagram, which has more than 100 million users, and create their own businesses, some of which have turned out to be quite profitable. Services like Printstagram, for example, let people turn their Instagram images into prints, wall calendars and stickers. A group of designers are building a digital picture frame for Instagram photos.And others have simply realized that the app is a great place to post photos of things they are trying to sell. Jenn Nguyen, 26, has 8,300 followers on Instagram, where she posts images of lavishly made-up women who are wearing her brand of false eyelashes. "When we post a new picture of someone wearing our lashes, we instantly see sales," she said.New waveNguyen is part of a wave of entrepreneurial Instagrammers who have transformed their feeds into virtual shop windows, full of handmade jewelry, retro eyewear, high-end sneakers, cute baking accessories, vintage clothing and custom artwork.Those who want to sell things on Instagram have to resort to surprisingly low-tech tactics. Instagram does not allow users to add links to their photo posts, so merchants have to list a phone number for placing orders.Most of the people taking this sales approach are small-scale entrepreneurs and artists, looking for another way to find customers for their consignment shops and jewelry businesses. Instagram is a compelling medium "because a photo translates to any language," said Liz Eswein, a digital analyst "It's easier to get lost in the shuffle on other networks like Facebook and Twitter," she added.The mini-industries cropping up are fuelled by the service's explosive growth. . In October, the mobile service had 7.8 million daily active visitorsmore than Twitter's 6.6 million.Both Facebook and Instagram declined to talk about how Instagram might make money directly.But analysts suspect that Facebook will try to weave advertising into the Instagram app at some point, much as it has with its own app. Since its early days, Instagram has invited developers and entrepreneurs to tap its technology and build their own applications and not tried to charge for this privilege.But other Internet companies have cut off the add-on services that helped expand their appeal to users. The most recent example is Twitter. At first the company welcomed outside innovators, but then it felt pressure from investors to make money and started to shut off access.Kevin Systrom, Instagram's chief executive, has said that he will consider e-commerce as a possible source of revenue for the service. In an email, Systrom said Instagram had no plans to curb Instagram-dependent services anytime soon, as long as they did not violate Instagram's policies. - New York Times News Service

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