The answer, of course, is an Instagram. Listen, I’m not going to tell you that’s a great joke, simply a relevant one, because the social picture sharing and food-photo-filtering site has been making waves this week with their announcement that all your photos will soon be theirs. Everywhere, millions of voices are crying out against the image of Instagram CEOs diving Scrooge McDuck style into a big pool of blurry photos of cats and duck-faced girls. This might not be completely accurate, but the grim reality is that it’s not too far off either. I’m not sure why everyone is so surprised though, as anyone who does marketing with Twitter and Facebook knows that this is the same old song and dance.
Let’s quickly go over what’s happening exactly. As of the middle of January 2013, Instagram’s TOS will read, “You agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos … in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”
There is no refusing, there is no opting out, and resistance is futile. If you don’t want your pictures shared and sold without your permission, your only recourse is to delete your page entirely. Some people are claiming this is unfair or a breach of privacy, I would agree that they’re right, but they are also living in the past. These days, if you are using a social service that is completely free, the most likely explanation is that the product being sold is YOU.
So what is the proper course of action as a business? There are two main things to consider.
The first is that, for all their complaining, most Instagram users aren’t going anywhere. This isn’t to say anything bad about them, the reality is that they love the service and they know the chances of their pictures being used are very, very slim. The risk/reward proposition is in their favor. So as a business, if you’re having success marketing on Instagram, you won’t need to stop for lack of an audience.
The second implication is more serious. You upload photos from your business, Instagram owns them. You wouldn’t legally sign away rights to your promotional materials in another context, so you need to be very careful about how you do it here. Be especially careful for the first month or two after the switch until we see exactly how it all plays out. With all the social media backlash, I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual language was altered before that January deadline.