Why I’m Cheering for Instagram From the Cheap Seats

19 12 2012

Yesterday the social media world was in a frenzy. Instagram released their new Privacy Policy and the wording within the statement implied that Instagram could use our photos for their own gain… WITHOUT having to have our approval. I sat back and watched as friends deleted their accounts and went shopping for other FREE services to post their beloved images.

While I personally applaud Instagram for their efforts to protect the images that ride on their system, I yell a long deep “BOOOOO!” from the cheap seats because of HOW they mismanaged the communication of the policy. They vastly underestimated the push back their “wording” would be perceived by it’s users.

This is honestly not surprising at all, considering Facebook owns Instagram and Facebook is famous to changing policies and practices without care for how their users will react. Of course they, like all FREE social media platforms, don’t really have to poll the crowd. They know they are the best game in town and most follow Apple’s methodology of change. “Remove the floppy drive,” said Steve Jobs. Then, “No, we’re not putting Blue Ray DVD players in our machines,” he said. Then, “remove the DVD drive all together”. Steve was right because he understood the big picture and could see the future. Floppy disks were a horrible medium to be followed by a less than practical format with the CD-ROM and then the DVD. He saw the promise of the cloud, and he knew the only way to get there was to remove the very thing that was stopping us from moving forward. The major Social Media platform providers see the future too. They will make changes to protect their assets. It just so happens that their assets were created by us!

Instagram wants to be able control who uses the images that are stored on their system. They produced a privacy policy that seems, to us, that they want to take advantage of us. In fact though, they are protecting us. Previously they had no ability to go after any organization that snagged those images by normal means.

An example is this Taco Bell Los Taco’s ad.

The images that appear in this ad seem to be taken directly from Instagram users. In my own job (Communications), I’ve taken images posted on Instagram and used them for promotional purposes. Granted the images were tagged with a custom hashtag and all of the people who shot the images knew how they were going to be used. However until Instagram created this new Privacy Policy, any company, anywhere in the world, could, in theory, use Instagram as a free stock photo service.

Not anymore though. Those images are now (or at least will be after Jan. 15, 2013) protected. Only Instagram will be able to use those images. Some people will continue to go nuts over the fact that the images they took and then posted on a server somewhere so that other people could see them are now going to be considered “Controlled by Others”.

Me? Well, I’m not going to go nuts over it. I’m going to continue to post images as often as before. And I’m going to remain smart about it. Posting images online is fun. It’s a way to express yourself. It’s a creative outlet. My kids are cute, I’m proud of them and I want the world to know about it. My wife is incredible and I want the world to know how I feel about her.

I’m glad Instagram is adding teeth to protect the images so that some company I’ve never heard of can’t use them. Can Instagram use them? Sure they can. But they would be stupid to use an image of a minor in an ad without written permission first. And although Instagram and Facebook are not great at communicating the advantages their policies being their users… they aren’t stupid. Does the policy provide them the right to sell the images to others? Yes it does. Will they? Probably not the images themselves, but for sure the data that is hidden within them.

For instance… I post images of my 1974 Jeep CJ5 a good bit. A company that sells accessories for my Jeep wants to target their ads at Jeep owners. Instagram’s data mine knows that I have a Jeep and so that company pays Instagram to place ads in my photo stream. Or because my zip code is part of my digital footprint the accessory supplier will buy ads in areas that have a high concentrations of people who own old Jeeps. Before the policy was in place, that company could have paid some other data miner (think of data as gold) to dig up that information and then connect it to my other online footprints. Instagram wants that money. They need that money to install more servers to provide more room for us to post pictures. And of course to pay stock holders.

I say that I am cheering from the cheap seats because I’m not a stockholder. I’m a user of a FREE service that makes it’s money using the unseen data I provide. It’s as simple as that. If I have to look at ads, I’d prefer them to be about something I’m at least interested in. I’ve noticed in the last 5 years that the ads on the right side of my Facebook page more closely resemble my tastes and lifestyle. That is because companies, or at least their Ad Agencies, are learning and now understand better how Social Media works. I for one am grateful for the free service and I’m happy that I rarely see ads for things like feminine hygiene products or acne treatments.

Product development teams at all major companies want and need the data that is mined from Social Media. If you want better products and services for you and your family… post pictures on Instagram! Make statements on Twitter! Post your thoughts on Facebook!

Trust me. Instagram’s new policy has very little to do with the images that you posted of your kids playing in the indoor playground at the fast food place down the street… It has to do with the fact that the fast food place wants to know if you were having a good time… if your kids liked the food… if you enjoyed hanging out with your “Mom’s Group”… if you used the wifi system they just installed… if it was too crowded… how often you are there… what time you were there… Every little nugget costs money and Instagram’s new policy means they are the only ones who can mine for those nuggets.

I’m okay with that because I understand that the big picture is made up of thousands and thousands and thousands of images taken in places all over the world, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Everyone of them leading to better ideas, better solutions and better products.

So take those pictures! Share them online! We’d all like to enjoy them with you!


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