A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Points: Topguest Hooks Up With Instagram

Everyone loves loyalty points. But it’s often a pain to get them because different companies all have their own programs that require you to remember numbers. Topguest’s goal is to unify that experience by letting you earn points simply by checking-in on social networks like Foursquare and Facebook. And now they’re adding a new layer to the mix: Instagram photos.

Yes, beginning today when the integration goes fully live, you’ll be able to earn reward points at venues around the world simply by taking a picture and sharing it on Instagram. This may mean hotel points, air miles, or other benefits at the over 10,000 places Topguest currently works with. All you have to do is link up Topguest to your Instagram account (via their new API) and make sure your picture is geotagged at the venue.

To celebrate the launch, Virgin America is launching a special competition. The most-liked Instagram photos taken at various Virgin America-related venues (like airport terminals) will win 1,000 bonus Elevate points (their frequent flyer program). They’ll be giving this reward away on a weekly basis. For context, regular Instagrams at Virgin America spots will earn 25 points.

From Topguest’s perspective, the Instagram partnership is an expansion of a good idea and interesting model. “This isn’t about deals or specials. What we’re doing on the enterprise side for our customers is actually pretty unique — in a way that’s explicitly opt-in for the user —we’re merging the user tables from all these disparate social networks with the member tables for a valuable but old-fashioned/outdated industry: traditional loyalty programs, starting with the travel space. Social activity mapped to loyalty program numbers unlocks a lot of new value for our market,” co-founder Geoff Lewis says.

For Instagram, this is an interesting step for the photo service. They’ve often said that they aim to connect users to the real world through their pictures, and this is certainly a unique way to do that. Some may worry that this will lead to pictures that get taken simply to earn points, but the fact of the matter is that people are taking pictures at these venues anyway. What’s the last thing I do before I’m about to take off on a flight? Send an Instagram out. Now I’ll just earn points for it.