Last updated: February 20. 2013 12:57AM - 424 Views

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Restaurant Manager Drew Billek scrolled through his iPhone apps as a chef slid a pork sandwich lunch special toward him. In the blink of an eye, he captured a photo and posted it to a popular website to entice customers.

Billek, of Canteen 900 in Forty Fort, wasn‚??t alone. Customers also used Instagram, a photo-sharing app, to post photos and gush about the special they had ordered.

‚??I really think it (Instagram) is a good marketing tool,‚?Ě said Billek, 30. ‚??I can take one picture and share it on four different sites with the click of a button.‚?Ě

For the employees, owners and customers of Canteen 900, Instagram has in the last year become a service they like and on which they depend. The app allows users to take photos, apply digital photo filters and share them with followers on Instagram and other social media sites.

Using the social media to generate interest in products and services to increase customer bases has been growing in recent years.

The 2011 Impact of Social Business in Small and Medium Business Study reported 50 percent of small businesses use social media. Additionally, local businesses enjoy using Instagram because it‚??s a free marketing tool that gets their photo to the public in seconds.

Proposal upset users

For a brief period last month, Instagram created a stir with its users. On Dec. 17, Instagram updated its terms of service, and immediately there was public outcry. Many users felt the new terms would allow Instagram to use their photos without compensation and sell them to advertisers.

Kevin Systrom, Instagram‚??s founder, apologized and assured users that Instagram did not plan to sell users‚?? content.

Prior to Systrom‚??s apology, many users ‚?? celebrities, businesses, teens and adults ‚?? were outraged. Kim Kardashian and LeBron James were among the celebrities who threatened to quit Instagram. The hashtag ‚??#boycottinstagram‚?Ě was trending on Twitter, as some users said they deleted their personal accounts and encouraged others to do the same.

However, Mountain Top resident Connor Scalleat, 17, a daily Instagram user, believes the movement to boycott Instagram was short-lived.

‚??Personally, I have never witnessed my friends quit any of the services after a TOS (terms of service) change,‚?Ě said Scalleat, who said 80 percent of his friends with an iPhone use Instagram. ‚??Overall, I feel as if people do a lot of talking and threatening to quit, but at the end of the day no one does.‚?Ě

Facebook, which bought Instagram last year for $715 million, also has changed its terms of service in the past. Similarly, users threatened to boycott Facebook, but the social media site currently has nearly 1 billion users.

Alexis Kropp-Kwon, an associate at Dawe Consulting Firm in Wilkes-Barre, believes Instagram‚??s new terms of service are reasonable, especially because it‚??s free.

‚??It is human nature to get excited when we feel like we‚??re being taken advantage of,‚?Ě said Kropp-Kwon. ‚??The reality is we live in a hyper-connected world. If you are on a social media site, then you agree to play by the developer‚??s rules and privacy terms.‚?Ě

New way to interact

That hyper-connectivity is working to the advantage of Canteen 900 and others.

‚??People always respond to the specials and give feedback to tell me what specials they are interested in,‚?Ě said Billek of pictures he posts to Instagram. Users who search ‚??#canteen900‚?Ě on Instagram can view photos of the restaurant‚??s latest specials.

Billek‚??s sister and owner of Canteen 900, Abby Billek-Singh, also said the app provides a digital connection between the restaurant and customers, which wasn‚??t present before their social media use.

‚??Someone could be eating and post a picture of their sandwich and experience at Canteen 900,‚?Ě said Billek-Singh, 31. ‚??And it‚??s really awesome to see customers interacting with food just as much as we interact with food ... it‚??s good to interact with them at that level and not just on a personal level at the table.‚?Ě

Other area organizations such as the NEPA Miners, the semi-pro football team in Scranton, said their Instagram use will continue, but the team will evaluate the situation after the season.

‚??During the off-season we will review the policy further. For the most part, Instagram gets the word out for what we are doing,‚?Ě said Dan LaMagna of the organization, which uses Instagram to provide followers with a visual image to complement play-by-play commentary.

Additionally, Wyoming Seminary Upper School in Kingston uses social media frequently for marketing, admissions and to keep its community informed. But it has decided to wait to post photos to Instagram.

‚??Because we had planned to encourage the Sem community to share photos on the Instagram account, we were cautious when the news broke that those photos would become the property of Instagram and could be used for advertising purposes,‚?Ě said Patty DeViva, Sem‚??s director of communications.

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