Wed Pro Wednesday: Why The Instagram Policy "Scare" Should Make You More Aware

So, in the #fail heard round the internet, yesterday Instagram attempted to become the world’s most profitable Stock Photo Company by adjusting it’s privacy policy and enabling them to sell your content (images) without telling you about it or paying you. Really a brilliant plan because imagine how much money Corbis or Getty could make if only they could cut out that expense line of paying the photographers when a 3rd party buys their image?  The back lash was rapid and immediate, with one of the vocal outcries coming from CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s (facebook>instagram) own Wedding Photographer.  Today, Instagram released a revised policy that removed the language in question and one of the Co-founders posted on his blog that “The language we proposed … raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement…We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question.”

OK Great, so we don’t have to have a debate on image ownership…. TODAY.

It is however, in this rapidly changing landscape, the opportunity to recognize, re-evaluate and refine how you use social media for your business…

On the one hand, I would love to think that services like Instagram/Twitter/Pinterest could come up with a less smarmy way to make money…but on the other hand, I don’t fault them for trying to earn revenue PARTICULARLY because we, as business owners, utilize these services to promote our businesses.  Yesterday, as we basically realized that we would (had the policy not changed) close our Instagram account, the immediate thought was that we’d lost a branding tool.  I was sad that I’d never taken full advantage of this tool that, essentially allows you to run ads for your business for FREE (well, not free… we give our info & privacy in exchange for cool photo filters).

If you hadn’t thought about things that way, I invite you to do so VERY quickly (before these big giant companies figure out how to charge us tiny businesses for their services).

A quick example: Jose Villa has a stunning Instagram feed.  Every time he puts an image out there it is pretty (of course), but it’s like a tiny, bit sized advertisement for WHO Jose Villa (the brand) is.   He carefully minds his Instagram and I don’t think I’ve ever seen any half eaten omelette pics or some of the other random things I myself have taken pics of.   Every thing he posts is a reinforcement of his brand.  It’s all beautiful.

We, as creative business owners, cannot afford to be mindlessly participating in social media.  Yesterday taught us that we can’t absent-mindedly clicking yes on privacy policies and, to take this one step further, mistaking our “social media” as anything other than “business media”.   Social media has offered small businesses an unprecedented opportunity to market themselves at little to no cost.  The price that we pay is a public and interwoven personal/professional life.

Every time you use Instagram, or Twitter, or post on Facebook, YOU are using the service to promote YOUR business and reinforce your brand.  Consciously or unconsciously, if you engage in social media and work in an industry as small as ours, every image, tweet, and Facebook post is a reflection of who you are and, you ARE your brand.  Your colleagues and clients (potential and current) google you just the way you google them. They might friend you on Facebook, they definitely check out your twitter feed.   So, since we know that, we have to (myself included) be more conscious about how we use it, aware of the content we promote AND curate the quality of the images we produce/post.

Another quick example:  late in October we met with a potential client.   After the meeting, I sent her a proposal.   I also went on her twitter and saw that she was a VERY vocal Romney supporter.   We had already made the conscious decision to tweet our views on the debates and our support of Obama.   I recognized that tweeting my political views could potentially cost us business and we chose to do so anyway…because the tenets of why we supported him are very much in line with who we feel we are as a brand.  But it was a conscious choice. We never heard from the bride again.  It wasn’t necessarily because of our differing views, but to eliminate our twitter feed as a potential factor would be naive.

The dawn of a new year is a great opportunity to set some personal standards/ policies for your own social media communication.  Why let Big Bad Corporations be the only ones with policies, right?

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