By Angela Moon
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> has launched a social feature called Spark that allows members to showcase and purchase products on its platforms, the retail giant's first clear move into the world of social media.
Spark, which is currently only available for Amazon's premium paying Prime members, encourages users to share photos and videos, just like popular social media platforms Instagram and Pinterest. The new feature publicly launched on Tuesday for use on mobile devices that use Apple's <AAPL.O> iOS operating system.
Spark users can tag products on their posts that are available on Amazon and anyone browsing the feeds can instantly find and purchase them on the platform. Users can also respond to posts with "smiles," equivalent to Facebook's "likes."
"We created Spark to allow customers to discover - and shop - stories and ideas from a community that likes what they like," said an Amazon spokeswoman.
"When customers first visit Spark, they select at least five interests they'd like to follow and we'll create a feed of relevant content contributed by others. Customers shop their feed by tapping on product links or photos with the shopping bag icon."
Amazon has also invited publishers including paid influencers and bloggers to post on Spark. Their posts are identified with a sponsored hashtag.
Many Amazon users on social media called the service a cross between Instagram and Pinterest with a touch of e-commerce.
Brand strategist Jill Richardson? (@jillfran8) said: "Been messing with #AmazonSpark all morning and I am LIVING. It's like Pinterest, Instagram, and my credit card had a baby and it's beautiful."
Community manager Lucas Miller? (@lucasmiller3) also tweeted: "So #amazonspark is going to be a dangerous pastime. The app is already too easy to shop..."
Amazon shares closed up 0.2 percent at $1,026.87 on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)