THE BLOG
12/20/2012 02:45 pm ET | Updated Feb 19, 2013

Coffin, Meet Nail: The Cautionary Tale of Instagram

"Thinking my time on @instagram will come to a close..." I wrote on Twitter this week. That's because Instagram, founded in 2010, announced sweeping changes to its terms of service that would provide the company (owned by Facebook) with the ability to make money off of (prostitute) my photos without me sharing in the profits, and without my consent.

Increasingly ghastly was their claim that even "private" photos would be subject to the highest bidder.

Call me a millennial, but I quite like the Internet's "shadow of free." Namely that Google, Facebook et al. sell my vitals (age, likes, demographics info) to advertisers on their platforms so that I can access their platforms, communicate with my friends and keep a record of my life for "free." It's a lovely relationship, really. They don't put too many ads in front of my face whether or not they match my purchase intent, and I happily upload terabytes of my personal data onto their servers in the name of a sustained symbiotic relationship.

Well, brands should take note. Instagram users have spoken and the verdict isn't too favorable for the likes of Facebook's $1 billion infant. National Geographic suspended its account, scarred and distrusting of Instagram's announcement and subsequent reversal on Tuesday saying it would not allow "advertisers (to) pick and choose among user-posted photos." That's quite a reversal from the rush of companies that saw Instagram as the shiny social network du jour over the past several years, including Burberry and Audi. The latter are just two of the "54 percent of top brands" that made a home for themselves on the service according to Interbrand's recent survey. While brand content is all well and good, user-generated content is what advertisers are vying for. Oh, and Pinterest, I'm still not sold on you-even if 97 percent of users are women, with (seemingly endless amounts of) time on their hands.

If general market consumers flee from Instagram to alternatives, its advertisers will lose their interest in the platform and brands will similarly lack the eyeballs they want for their original and curated content that they pump through the platform. There won't be a campaign worth activating (marketing speak) on the channel and the net result of all of those resources from all sides will scarcely add up to two years of visual porn. A foot note on the spectrum of digital photography and storytelling courtesy of Kodak's 1975 innovation in producing the first digital camera.

In earnest, I was fine when Facebook bought Instagram. Then when they began their updates and slowly bullied their way to owning the process of photo sharing, and sparred with Twitter, my eyebrows rose. When Instagram stopped playing nice with Twitter altogether and my photos stopped appearing on my Twitter feed, my lips pursed. But now they've pushed me one step too far, and who knows, by the time this blog post goes live I will have closed my account and my photos will no longer be like-able, share-able, comment-able or otherwise -able to be used by anyone other than me. How much do you think you'll make off of me then?

Oh, and how's that for an about-face, Instagram?

#ttfn
pedro