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Hey, Instagram: Philly Tourism Office Has Its Eye on You

Shortly after the popular photo-sharing service was purchased by Facebook, Instagram announced a change to its Terms of Service (TOS), suggesting users' content could be used by advertisers without users' permission. After an outcry, Instagram has now withdrawn the controversial TOS, but wariness remains.

There are at least half a million photos of Philadelphia on Instagram. With the new TOS, it seemed that any one of them could have been used to represent the city—and given that more than 14,000 are tagged "phillycheesesteak," that's kind of scary. We asked the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation's Director of Social Media Caroline Bean to talk to us about using Instagram to make the city look good.

GPTMC just started using Instagram this year, first with a uwishunu account, and more recently with visitphilly. Both have proven useful, she says.

"It gets to one of our goals: image building," Bean says. "In addition to getting people to visit, it's our mission to show people Philadelphia rather than talk about it all the time." She says the most popular photos on the visitphilly Instagram page tend to be skyline pics and iconic views, like an image of City Hall taken from Broad Street. But the tool allows for flexibility. "The good thing about Instagram is we can go into the neighborhoods and show off sides of Philadelphia that people don't necessarily know as well."

The change to Instagram's TOS presented Bean with some challenges. "We do want our images to be used far and wide to show off the city. We would rather a blogger use our photos of Philly than a bad one they stole off of Google Images." But that's in the context of editorial content, Bean says. "With advertising we walk a finer line."

Then there's the issue of the photographers who take those shots. They agree to have their photos used by GPTMC for discrete purposes, but if the photos were posted on Instagram and a new TOS made them vulnerable to use by third-party advertisers, "that's something we'd have to reconsider," Bean says.

A couple weeks ago, the visitphilly Instagram account tried something new. "We have started reposting other people's photos—always with permission. What we like about it is it helps engage with consumers and they have fun knowing that they're helping promote the city." If Instagram were to go through with that TOS, "we would have to reevaluate that."

For now, Bean isn't too worried, even if she's not quite convinced we've heard the last of the TOS changes. "We definitely are paying attention," she says.