Chirpify, the social commerce platform that launched six months ago as the only in-stream way to make purchases on Twitter, is now starting to spread its wings: today the company is announcing that it has integrated with Instagram, the photo sharing service owned by Facebook. The move means that people who have signed up to Chirpify’s service, and entered their PayPal and shipping details, can go to any items that are being sold via Instagram — tagged with #instasale — and enter the word “buy” in the comments for an instant transaction to take place.
Similarly, Chirpify will be offering a charity equivalent. “Donate” under a specific charity campaign picture with a specified amount will let users contribute to social causes. Those that have signed on for the Instagram launch include Invisible Children, Kat Graham, Kat Von D, KEEN, Meek Mill and Wale.
Update: And it looks like the launch has taken Chirpify’s site offline.
Chris Teso, the CEO of the Portland, Oregon-based company, tells me that the Instagram integration is just phase-one of the company’s growth. It plans to go to other social networks, and is in discussions with a retailer to also integrate its instant buying service directly on its website. The basic idea will remain the same across all of them, and solves a painpoint that so many others are also trying to tackle: “We want to create a portable, frictionless way to check out in a transaction,” he said. “We want to make it dead simple to buy things.”
As it is the case with Twitter, Chirpify has not directly partnered with Instagram. Rather, it is riding on the social network’s APIs to create its service. That means no direct endorsement from the companies, but it also means that Chirpify is not sharing any revenues with them, either. (It does however take a 5% commission on all goods sold through its platform.)
But while some third parties have had API issues with Twitter, Teso says that Chirpify has remained in the company’s good books for now. “They love us at Twitter,” he told TechCrunch. “We are building value there.”
The reasons for that are two-fold: not only does Chirpify help drive the message for consumers and brands that Twitter can be used for commercial means, but it also helps with engagement on the site, rather than sending people elsewhere to buy things. Teso says that Chirpify has been working closely with both to develop the service.
Instagram has already had a turn as a marketing vehicle. Companies like Vitrue have long been helping companies run campaigns that, using hashtags and Facebook/Twitter integration, encourage engagement with brands. This, however, is a new chapter in that commercial development, with users now also being able to buy items that appear in pictures. This also positions Instagram as more of a rival to other services like The Fancy.
Currently, Chirpify works only with PayPal accounts, although Teso says that by the end of the year this will expand to other services as well in order to get more people using Chirpify. Teso will not reveal how many registered users it has picked up since its launch six months ago, but it notes that it is in the range of “tens of thousands.” But among those, only about 75% have entered payment details into Chirpify, and only one-third have used the service to buy something.
The track record up to now has been positive. An Amanda Palmer t-shirt campaign, he says, had a conversion rate of 4%, “double that of traditional e-commerce.” The band Green Day also used Chirpify to distribute a new album. Teso says that also did “really well,” but could not share specific numbers.
Longer term, Teso wants Chirpify to become a seamless way to pay across all of the social web, “similar to what happens when you walk out of an Uber cab, when the payment just happens without you having to do anything.” He says that the company is looking at “all platforms,” including Pinterest and the Fancy. And there are also opportunities, he points out, in integrating with bigger marketplaces where sellers are also using social media to promote their wares — many of Etsy’s 800,000 sellers posting on Instagram, Pinterest and the rest being one example. But ironically it may hold off for a while on the very biggest platform of them all, Facebook.
He calls the service “noisy” and also serving some very fundamental, noncommercial purposes. “Maybe people are there just to look at pictures of babies.”
So far, he says that Chirpify has not met with any blocks or hurdles in its service, although it seems that if Twitter or the others eventually want to offer a rival service themselves this would make Chirpify’s position untenable. Teso says that so far that has not been the case, though. “I don’t want to speculate on what Twitter is going to do,” he said. “But I think they’re really concentrating on their ad platform and business model right now.”
Chirpify raised a seed round of $1.3 million led by Voyager Capital five months ago and Teso says the company is currently not seeking more funding.
Instagram is a free photo sharing application that allows users to take photos, apply a filter, and share it on the service or a variety of other social networking services, including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, Flickr, and Posterous. The application is compatible with any iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch running iOS 3.1.2 or above or any Android device running Android 2.2 or above. In an homage to both the Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid cameras, Instagram confines photos into a square...