• That’s a lot of latte. It turns out that Starbucks—not a company in the mobile payments business—was the first company to make in-person payments by mobile phone mainstream. According to recent statements by the coffee giant’s representatives, Starbucks shops handled seven million mobile payments weekly last year, accounting for a whopping 90% of all mobile payments to U.S. retailers in 2013. A Starbucks app available on Apple iOS and Android devices allows coffee aficionados to maintain, on their phones, a prepaid Starbucks card just like physical Starbucks payment card that the company’s fans have been carrying in their wallets for years. The coffee giant’s customers’ familiarity with a prepaid-card system likely contributed to the early popularity of mobile payments at Starbucks stores.
  • Social notworking. Workplace-related chatter on anonymous messaging apps like Whisper and Secret has inspired the creation of Canary—an anonymous messaging app that will feature threads authored exclusively by the employees of a particular company. The threads will be public, but only verified employees of a company that is the subject of a post will be able to contribute to that post. To make sure a poster is a bona fide employee of a company he or she is writing about, Canary will require the poster to provide his or her work email address. In order to contribute to a thread dedicated to gossip about the goings on at, say, General Motors’ offices, a Canary user would have to provide his or her GM work email address. Although Canary’s creators insist that its users’ anonymity will be protected, the pundits are skeptical about social media users’ willingness to gossip publicly about their employers. In any event, employers – you’ve been warned.
  • A picture’s worth 1,000 text messages. A lot of companies make Facebook or Twitter the center of their social media campaigns, but Katrina Craigwell, General Electric’s head of digital programming, has chosen to portray GE’s products in uniquely visual ways by focusing on GE’s Instagram and YouTube accounts. As a result of her efforts, a series of videos about GE products that might seem unlikely to generate clicks—we’re talking hydrophobic coatings, here, folks—actually drew eight million viewers. The secret: cutting-edge photography and GE scientists’ relatively simple explanations of the technology. Craigwell recently told Tech Republic, “If I give you a white paper PDF on a GE jet engine, your eyes might glaze over although it’s a beautiful piece of machinery. If I show you that engine rigged up in our test cell or on the wings of a Dreamliner plane, and it’s beautiful, it starts to get your attention.” OK, but can that hydrophobic coatings video truly compete with those photos of cute kittens in my Instagram feed?