The great technology blog at The New York Times offers some nice bits of information regarding startups; just recently I read an article by Jenna Wortham about the third-party ecosystem that has sprung up around Instagram, a startup that allows cellphone users to ‘trick out’ the photographs they have taken on their cameras.

In the article, Wortham makes an interesting observation as she says Kevin Systrom, the co-founder and chief executive of Instagram, “compared the flurry of activity around his service with the third-party ecosystems that have flourished on top of social networks like Facebook and Twitter.”

Essentially, what we can learn from the momentum that has built behind Instagram is that startups, if properly place within a viable niche market, can actually further create a market on their own. This, obviously, isn’t news to us, as the growth surrounding Facebook and Twitter perhaps best exemplifies this phenomena.

So what does this mean for those of us interested in founding our own startups? Here are a few tips:

  1. 1. Know the ecosystem that you are trying to join inside and out.

A third-party startup mentioned in the article is Farmville, an insanely popular game on Facebook. While the game can exist as a standalone product, Farmville enthusiasts know that the game works because it hews to the same social media strategies under which Facebook operates. As such, it is absolutely instrumental that you know the ecosystem, its users, and its features.

  1. 2. Distinguish yourself with a product that coheres within the ecosystem but is completely different, too.

While it is important to be able to blend seamlessly within the ecosystem in which you hope to settle in, it is just as important to distinguish your product or service from the millions of third-party applications out there. Find a way to enhance the ecosystem’s experience while not copying everyone else. Business Week ran an article of some of the most prominent third-party application on Twitter, including the TweetDeck, which organizes yours and others twitter feeds, and StockTwits, which funnels out much of the irrelevant tweets and feeds such that only stock tips come up. Each service that BW discussed was unique but simultaneously enhanced the Twitter experience.

  1. 3. Do your research about what it takes to market a third-party application.

Just as with any startup, it’s a long shot that it will be successful, and the only way to ensure anything getting off the ground is through aggressive marketing. Your product or service could be the most creative, most useful one out there. But if no one knows about it, then it doesn’t matter. So do your search on marketing, specifically for third-party enterprises. CNET recently published an interesting article that discussed what it takes to get an app to rank highly on the Apple App Star. This is a great place to start.

Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online college. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to

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