Instagram and Pinterest: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Marketing has taken more evolutionary leaps in the past two years then it has in the time since cave men adorned their spears and clubs with rocks and bones to differentiate their awesome possessions. Throughout the history of marketing and advertising, there have been a couple of commonalities: The first is that design by committee has always screwed things up for a product and the second is that a picture is worth a thousand words.

The father of modern advertising, David Ogilvy, in one of his overpriced books said, “show the product!” We all love images and the most successful ads were the ones with BIG pictures. We are, after all, visual beings and quickly becoming illiterates, who can no longer comprehend the written word, present company accepted as you are reading this.

Quickly backing away from the insulting statement in the previous paragraph, just look at the social media sites that have added the easy posting of images. Twitter added an easy image posting, Flickr and Photobucket have been around for quite some time and, of course the almost-and-should-be-gone Myspace and private information slave trading Facebook are popular sites for image sharing. Google+ has become so intuitive with image sharing you can’t snap a picture on your phone without it being uploaded before you can send it to a friend or family member. Now some heavy-hitting businesses are turning to Instagram for image sharing for marketing, as has President Obama and other politicians.

instantShift - Instagram

Instagram has had 15 million users sign up in the past year and upload more than 400 million photos. Co-founder and CEO, Kevin Systrom (which is a great name for someone in the tech field or a science fiction movie where the hero creates an out of control software app that threatens mankind… which Instagram might just do at this rate), reports that users are uploading an average of 26 new pictures every second and new users are joining at a rate of one per second.

Instagram is a photo sharing application that lets users take photos, apply filters to their images (filters can be applied even before the user takes a photo, because the company rewrote how the filters work to make them much faster, and higher-resolution photos are now supported because it made that faster as well), and share the photos instantly on the Instagram network and other social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and the stalker-like site, Foursquare, among a growing ability to use all social media channels. While it is only available for iPhone devices right now, an android app isn’t far behind. A web-based application is also in the works.

Instagram is more than just social media outreach as it makes use of mobile technology. As the mobile phone with a built in digital camera… some with more megapixels then cameras most people own as well as the fact that almost 100% of cell phone owners are never apart from their phones, marketing via mobile devices is a growing trend with no foreseeable boundaries in the future… once apps are no longer restricted to only iPhones.

Who’s Using It?

Quite a few businesses, fashion designers, news channels and sports teams have discovered Instagram. Starbucks, the purveyors of global caffeinated sludge, for one, uses visuals through Instagram for not only marketing their deadly, delicious products but they also use it for “inbound marketing” (where customers supply content through uploading their own images). How many times do you “check in” at Starbucks on Foursquare? Every time you do, you’re marketing for them. How many times do you take a picture of your Latté to post? Probably too many times. Starbucks, as well as other corporations use images to tell stories, show processes, spotlight special products and create warmth and familiarity for consumer experience… even when you are not having an experience with their product.

instantShift - Product and arts from Sharpie
Sharpie uses heavy inbound marketing with its product and the art users create.

General Electric used its Instagram account to run a contest of submitted consumer images. The winner was flown to Wales to photograph an aviation facility and experience the excitement of turbine engines. Despite that once-in-a-lifetime chance, almost 4,000 Instagram photos were submitted with the designated hashtag #GEInspiredMe and then posted to Facebook, where fans voted for the finalists. Was it the promise of sunny, balmy Wales and sexiful turbine engines? The ease of submitting material? Many turbine-loving freakazoids out there? Probably a bit of each but the response, considering the prize, was overwhelming.

instantShift - Turbines from GE
Sexy turbines from GE’s inbound marketing competition.

Other companies have used Instagram to bring consumers into the inner workings of the company, introduce new products and generate the social part of social media, engaging consumers. In the article, “23 Brands Using Instagram And What They’re Doing Right,” author Jason Keath spotlights some interesting examples of how these iconic brands use Instagram. Their usage is sure to inspire even small businesses and individuals as to the reach and power this tool has.

How Would It Apply To YOUR Business?

As a small business owner, you can also use Instagram whether you produce turbine engines, are a restaurant, sell appliances, are a graphic or web designer, etc. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Create your marketing plan. Do you want to show process of how something is produced, showing the steps via photos? Do you want to show your latest products? Do you want to spotlight a special or sale? Certainly you can do all of these but part of the plan should be to keep it up once you start.
  2. As with point number one, plan to keep up with your image marketing. Will you post once a day, once a week, or use Twitter and/or your blog or mobile notifications to alert consumers that a new image is posted? You need to establish a presence to keep standards for your social media outreach. Maintain a consistent posting frequency to grow a following.
  3. Encourage consumer participation but monitor uploads carefully to assure brand protection. The wrong image can cause damage to your reputation!
  4. Think QUALITY! Have a professional take your photos if you aren’t good enough to take your own photos. Bad photos speak of a bad product or service!
  5. Integrate your Instagram strategy with your other social media networks. You can use hashtags and share images on other networks like Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, and Foursquare. If you can’t do it yourself, consider hiring a social media expert to run the show and keep it going. Always remember that the proper labeling and tagging will bring in better SEO and more views/hits!
  6. Highlight innovative ways to use your product or show consumers and how they use your product. Even better, have consumers upload their photos. People love being a part of the action!
  7. Engage people and yourself in the conversations and comments about the images on your account and others (check the image tag on Google search to see if they are being reposted. Thank people for reposting and ALWAYS leave a comment). You also need to keep track of what people are saying about your images to protect your brand. Respond to negative comments in a calm and helpful manner to correct any misunderstandings. NEVER get into a flame war! Some people just want to be nasty but if you keep a clam head and comment(s), people will respect you and your professional demeanor.
  8. Use available apps to make the most of Instagram! Here’s a handy list of some apps you should use. Another handy app is gramfeed.
  9. Make it fun! If it’s fun, you’ll enjoy doing it for the long haul and consumers will feel that enjoyment and be engaged.

instantShift - Fast food items for Facebook competition

instantShift - Fast food items for Facebook competition

instantShift - Fast food items for Facebook competition

instantShift - Fast food items for Facebook competition
Just for fun, I would create ungodly mixes of fast food items and post them to Facebook for, “Name The Combo” competitions. The response was tremendous and fun. No one was able to guess that the unidentifiable scoop with fries was actually Haggis.

What about Pinterest?

instantShift - Pinterest

Another hot app/site is Pinterest. Simply put It’s a digital bulletin board for everything you care to place upon it and keep or share with others. This video from CBS goes into some more detail.

A tutorial shares some more detailed information on using Pinterest.

In a way, it’s like creating your own web site or blog with a few clicks and no original content. Of course, you CAN use your own original content, too. The big question is; how do I use this in place of Instagram or in conjunction with it for marketing?

Pinterest is a mix of Facebook and Twitter and will allow you to amass followers, share items you have “pinned” and email items, too. It is easy and fast but then again, so is a blog and a blog will have the same functions but allow you to have free reign over your brand.

Demographics for Pinterest are impressive. @7.4% are between the ages of 25-34 with 22.1% of users falling into the 25-44 age bracket and 17.9% between the ages of 45-54. 18-24 year-olds have a 17.3% usage. Traffic referral percentages for Pinterest is greater than Youtube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined! Of all Pinterest Facebook fans, 97% are women (figures based on findings published on Mashable).

Pinterest has a place in rising social media apps but has not evolved to a level for which it is most probably destine. The same can be said for Instagram.

Instagram, however allows for others to submit content to your Instagram account, which suits inbound marketing. Pinterest, at this place and time does not. You can post Instagram content to Pinterest but you can’t put Pinterest onto Instagram.

The ugly side!

If it sounds too good to be true, you haven’t read the fine print. We all click the “I agree to the terms of service,” wanting that juicy app functioning right away but who really reads the terms? Instagram, to its credit, changed terms after some negative social media made the rounds on the web. Pinterest, as with many other apps and sharing sites before them, contain terms you probably don’t want to accept.

Instagram had some terms giving it full reign of terror when it came to your own images. As with other sharing sites, it held the right to license your work in perpetuity and to third parties. They have since rethought this policy and have the following passage for proprietary rights (you won’t read them, so I’ve bolded the REALLY important stuff):


The Instagram APIs are owned by Instagram. (hereinafter “Instagram”) and are licensed to you on a worldwide (except as limited below), non-exclusive, non-sublicenseable basis on the terms and conditions set forth herein. These terms define legal use of the Instagram APIs, all updates, revisions, substitutions, and any copies of the Instagram APIs made by or for you. Instagram user photos are owned by the users (the photographers) and not by Instagram. All rights not expressly granted to you are reserved by Instagram.

a. You shall:

Comply with the Instagram Terms of Use at

Comply with any requirements or restrictions imposed on usage of the photos by their respective owners. Remember, Instagram doesn’t own the images – Instagram users do. Although the Instagram APIs can be used to provide you with access to Instagram user photos, neither Instagram’s provision of the Instagram APIs to you nor your use of the Instagram APIs override the photo owners’ requirements and restrictions, which may include “all rights reserved” notices (attached to each photo by default when uploaded to Instagram), Creative Commons licenses or other terms and conditions that may be agreed upon between you and the owners. In ALL cases, you are solely responsible for making use of Instagram photos in compliance with the photo owners’ requirements or restrictions.

Comply with any other terms and conditions a user has attached to his or her photo. For example, if a user marks a photo as “private” after using your service, your application must reflect those changes as soon as reasonably possible. If your application has any cached copies of photos that have become “private,” you must remove as soon as reasonably possible.

Remove from your application within 24 hours any Instagram user’s photos or other information that the owner of the photo asks you to remove.

Disclose in your application through a privacy policy or otherwise displayed in the footer of each page, how you collect, use, store, and disclose data collected from visitors, including, where applicable, that third parties (including advertisers) may serve content and/or advertisements and collect information directly from visitors and may place or recognize cookies on visitors’ browsers.

Pintrest has terms that harken back to the days of serfdoms. Of specific interest to users:

By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.

These terms, unfortunately, are similar to just about every site we use on a daily basis. In the case of the once popular MySpace, suddenly new bands and artists discovered the terms to which they had eagerly agreed gave the site owner, FOX News Corp., rights to use, distribute and sell to the devil all their material, copyrighted, trademarked or patented. Material was quickly deleted but that little passage seen in user’s terms on many sites; “we will cease distribution as soon as practicable,” doesn’t actually spell out what time period is “practicable.” It very well may be several years if a licensing contract has been granted a third party.

If you joined Facebook before 2009, you are most probably still bound to the terms of service you clicked without reading:

You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.

It also used to contain another bit that is now missing.

You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.

Current terms (revised April 26, 2011) still have passages that give license of your work to Facebook, unless you delete your account or the content:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).

Lest we not forget how Facebook makes money off of you:

We can analyze your application, content, and data for any purpose, including commercial (such as for targeting the delivery of advertisements and indexing content for search).

Can’t do without it?

Of course it’s hard to not be involved with the hot apps and sites, even with these heinous terms of service. With sharing and social sites, one must remember that they need to make an income and WE are the product they sell. Either it’s our personal information or the material we post to the site… or both!

Certainly large corporations won’t sit still for their material to be printed on T-shirts and such but they have an army of lawyers to protect their content. If you are a designer, photographer or artists, what about commercial assignments you’ve done for a client? Are they willing to have their content put onto these sites with the terms you have signed? What about content on your site that a fan might want to “pin” on Pinterest or show through Instagram? Pinterest has released a code, which will allow you to prevent material from being used by others. When a user tries to pin from your site, they will see this message:

“This site doesn’t allow pinning to Pinterest. Please contact the owner with any questions. Thanks for visiting!”

What can you, as a small business owner or freelancer do to protect your content but still take advantage of these apps as well as the ones that will go live in the future? When you do a Google search for images, what do you find? Inevitably, the image you want is owned by a stock service and they have their watermark emblazoned across it. Try using THAT on a product or site! At least if someone is going to lift it for his or her site, it will have your information on it. One might look at it as advertising.

When I first left art school, I was approached by a company to do some humorous illustrations for their non-humorous products. The assignment was quite simple, as explained by the marketing person with the most gigantic forehead I have ever seen, even to this day. I was to do two or three-dozen illustrations and they would pick the pieces they wanted to use. Naturally, we should never do speculative work but I was young and foolish and the promise of money was strong. I did a few dozen black ink drawings and went into forehead’s office the following week. She threw an absolute screaming fit at my work. I had placed the word, “PROOF” in red ink on the front of each Xerox copy. Obviously her intent was just to take the art and use it without paying some stupid recent art graduate and there was no way she could get rid of the red ink over each piece. These days, it would be easy to scan and remove the red ink but a watermark across an image presents a lot of Photoshop work.

What are the costs involved?

The other evening, I attended a design meeting that had a patent/trademark attorney speaking about the laws and protecting one’s rights. I had to ask about the articles I write. Sure, they are my content but via sites like this, they will be distributed to other sites via the RSS feed and still others that just pick off the content and place it on their pages… pages with ads that they garner income from using my content as the draw. As my record is a Google return of 74.4 million on one article, I would like to think of what one-dollar per site that wanted my content would bring. The fact is, I won’t get it. Even with sites that don’t link through the RSS, I would never be able to sue or send a cease and desist… and, to tell the truth I wouldn’t. The advertising of my name and work is worth more to me. I am now able to go to some big online publications and ask for writing assignments because they have picked up my work via the RSS feed, which means they see value in my writing. Maybe, one day, they will actually return my emails and the free advertising will pay off with assignments from them!

I will be using each and every new site and app that can help my business but I will also try to protect my work and certainly the work of my clients.

If hard decisions must be made for time and cost for one’s marketing outreach, I would choose Instagram. As with my exit from MySpace long ago… truthfully, my forgetting my email and password about ten years ago and not really caring to find out what they were, I’ll be closing my Flickr and Photobucket accounts and ending their reign of terror over my original images. Eventually, as more of my friends cancel their Facebook accounts and move onto Google+, I’ll do the same. It’s not being frivolous or flaky – just changing with the technology. Some might say “evolving” with the digital age as a point of rationalization. It’s not rationalizing moving forward. Would you keep your VCR because you spent $159 to buy it in 1989? Life moves forward and so does our need to keep in step with our industry that is driven by changing technology.

I will, however bad the terms of service, keep an eye on Pinterest as we should see quick evolution of the functions and the need for the parent company to draw more professionals and businesses into joining by easing their draconian terms of service. The web, it seems, changes almost minute by minute. What app will spring up tomorrow? I can’t say but I’m sure there will be some news of a new site and app being reported by the end of this week. Hooray!

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  1. Good Post!
    I would like go through the importance of content writing with relation to web design. These points will not make your website more compelling to visitors but will also rank high in search engines:
    1. Ensuring that your spelling and grammar are correct should be top priority.
    2. If you’re at a loss for what to write, hire online content writers. There are many talented individuals. Just remember that you always get what you pay for.
    3. A simple way to reduce the complexity of content is to take what you have and narrow it down to 50%. It may seem a lot, but reduction in content will force one to focus on the important aspects.
    4. Writing your content before you start designing your website can help you better approach the coding stage as you can pick the right elements that describe your content’s value.
    5. If you sacrifice the quality of the content for the design of the website, your visitors will probably not even read your content and never return.
    So with this said always remember, content is king!

  2. woow i like it realy

  3. Awesome tips. Good to learn from you. Thanks

  4. 4/9/12 – This just in via Mashable… Facebook buys Instagram for $1 billion.

    • Think it’s a good investing

  5. There’s been a lot of articles on Pinterest but this is really helpful and thorough in showing the good and the bad in detail and not just skimming over what we all already know. Thanks!

    • ” Marketing has taken more evolutionary leaps in the past two years then it has in the time since cave men adorned their spears and clubs with rocks and bones to differentiate their awesome possessions. )))))

      Thanks for article, very usefull tips.
      I Prefer instagram as there are so many ways and tools to boost your account. I mean bots and services like toligram leongram and many more.
      What tools do you use to boost your Pinterest account?

  6. If this was a vote I would choose Pinterest who is with me ? (I mean not to hate or anything to take sides it is just that I was with pinterest before instagram and I have sorta grown to it ya know) I mean they are both GREAT sites but I have to say I like pinterest more
    1. Because it is not only an app it is a website too.

  7. Being a Mobile marketer I lean very hard (Almost to the point of tipping) to Instagram.It is the promised land for my people. The people who wear their mobile device like a second skin.

  8. Marketing has taken more evolutionary leaps in the past two years then it has in the time since cave men adorned their spears and clubs with rocks and bones to differentiate their awesome possessions. )))))

    Thanks for article, very usefull tips.
    I Prefer instagram as there are so many ways and tools to boost your account. I mean bots and services like
    Pinterest is good but instagram is the best.

  9. Now I will read the terms before installing new progs

  10. Cool articke

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