Instagram In December 2010, I installed Instagram on my phone.

Six months and more than 215 photos later, I now enjoy using my mobile phone to take pictures as much as I enjoy using my digital camera. And in doing so I join more than five million users of a photo app less than eight months old.

What’s the big deal? Some suggest it’s Polaroid nostalgia. But the app’s power is in its utility, simplicity and community. Instagram is an easy to use, but powerful, social camera. It allows you to point, click, edit using one of 11 filters and share all within a single app. It’s essentially a microblogging platform focused solely on pictures.

Regardless of what you call it, Instagram introduces you to its community and their stories one photo at a time. Here are 10 things I’ve learned using Instagram that will make your experience with this app even better.

1)  Community: Check out to meet new, passionate fans. Created by Phil Gonzalez, the site features users and includes tips, tutorials and a photo of the day contest. It’s a great way to connect with people and to see how creative users are getting within the apps constraints. Or if Facebook is more your style, check out the Instagram Community fan page.

2)  Ambient Awareness: From fashion, music and luxury brands to news outlets, non-profits, startups and some of your favorite beverages, there are a lot of brands on Instagram. And with any new platform; it’s interesting to see how brands use it to interact with fans. We’re already seeing examples of news releases, activism and extreme branding.

3)  Stats & Back (that pic) Up Hacks: Instagram’s open API has inspired a flurry of sites that create a richer web-based experience for this app. There are more than I can list in a single post without losing your attention. But if you only check out one, make it Statigram. It provides you with analytics around your Instagram account.

For those of us that want to back up our photos for archival purposes or just to make it easier to share with others, we have a couple of options. Facebook fans can use Instasync to create a Facebook Photo Album. Dropbox users can tap into Instadrop to automatically make a copy of your Instagram pics as they’re posted. Or use Copygram (currently in beta) for a more universal back up option. These are great when you find yourself with too many pictures on your phone.

4) Flickr: Yep, for me, Instagram and Flickr provide two different things. In this case, head over to Flickr and check out the Instagram group. If you’d like to mash up the two sites, Gramjunction is worth checking out. Juan Sanchez tapped the Insta-API to create a site that takes your Flickr pics tagged with Instagram and serves them up in a stream. Clicking through takes you to the Flickr page/account for that photo. This allows Flickr Fans to continue to focus on their site of choice and still parse out their instagram pics.

5) Instaview Sites: By far the web-based sites allowing users to interact with and view Instagram pics are the most popular choice for developers tapping into the API. There are a ton of these “Instaview sites,” but most require you to be a member of Instagram to access them.

Regardless, I enjoy using Inkstagram for its interface (it doesn’t work on IE, fwiw). But there is something for everyone in this category from sites including Extragram, Gramfeed, Webstagram, Instagrid, Listagram and a viewer that lets you view popular photos by filter used. You can even create a screensaver (web-based or Mac-based) with your Instagram pics. Or create a widget to bring your pics to your blog.

6)  Novelty View Sites: Novelty view sites are like Instaview sites but they come with a twist. Are you a cat person or a dog person? Anecdotal evidence tells us there are more cat people using Instagram but maybe it’s better to compare kittens and puppies?

Or view pics based on geography (map-based), color or geo-location (near you). Hot or Not fans will appreciate Instawar and Pic A Fight. Or if you just want to gaze at the popular crowd, visit Rrrewind to do so across a variety of social content.

7)  InstaMake Sites: If you thought the novelty view sites were cool, a host of sites take it offline to create Instagram souvenirs. Teeny Tile and Stickygram offer magnetic attraction. Instatees and IGTees let you wear your Instagrams. Hatchcraft and Keepsy allow you to frame your pics or make them into a scrapbook.

And while Instaprint was one of the first options for printing your Instagrams (using a pre-identified hashtag), it has been joined by Postagram, stickers, Instamaker and other Instagoodies as well as posters and contact sheets from Printstagram, Social Print Studio and Printo.

8)  Challenges: I can frame this section up with a single name: Josh Johnson. @JoshJohnson is a photographer with daily tips and a rotating set of photo challenges that get the Instagram community congregating from around the world. Challenges are one of the best ways to engage with Instagram (participation = social media satisfaction, hmmm, sounds like a meme) But while Josh is the most active and prolific Instgramer I know, Spenser Kaufman @deceivexxdeny, also provides some interesting opportunities amongst others.

9)  Tag It: Much like Twitter, hashtags are a critical device with this app. They’re used very creatively on Instagram to tell stories. All of the challenges rely on tags and tagging your location is a great way to meet folks in your community using Instagram. That can come in handy for photowalks.

10) Photowalks: Photowalks take the Instagram community offline and in person — where it’s most important and powerful. They’re an amazing way to get inspired, meet other photographers and take a ton of pics. There was a global Instameet earlier this year. But you don’t have to wait until next year to have one. Just head to Instameet and create your own. Or find one to participate in. Psst, the Cincinnati Instameet is on Saturday, June 25th. Join us!

Instagram is APPtastic
Phew! In an earlier post, I focused on mobile photo apps and left out Instagram. And now it’s probably obvious why. It’s inspired an ecosystem of sites Now it might make more sense if I tell you that, on average, 10 photos are posted to Instagram every second.

To check out the above link storm, uh, hacks in a curated page, check out my Scoop.It on Instagram sites.

It’s a far from exhaustive list, believe it or not. So if you have a site to add, do it there or share it in the comments below. Or post about it on Instagram and copy @prblog.

Cross-Posted at My Work Blog

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