Facebook, which owns Instagram, decided to block users from adding links to other social apps, namely Snapchat and Telegram, to their profiles. Facebook’s justification?

This was a rare use-case, and not the way our platform was intended to be used.

Telegram’s founder Pavel Durov believes that Facebook’s action is targeted at specific apps, like his, that might be perceived as a threat to the Facebook empire.

Indeed, this isn’t the first time Telegram has been dented by the world’s largest social network.

The messaging app competes with WhatsApp, which Facebook acquired for more than $19bn in 2014, and private messaging looks to be social’s next big ad frontier

That might explain why URLs to Telegram profiles have been appearing in plain-text and not linked in WhatsApp messages since late last year.

With Instagram, Durov suspects that Facebook might be concerned by Telegram’s growing userbase, which now tops 100m active accounts, and features like Telegram Channels, which give users the ability to use the app for one-to-many broadcasts as opposed to just one-to-one messaging. 

“From their side, they might’ve noticed more and more Instagram users setting links to their Telegram accounts and channels in the website section of Instagram,” he suggested to TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas.

The importance of owned media

While Instagram users are apparently still able to add links to other social networks, including Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube, the fact that Telegram and Snapchat have seemingly been targeted raises the possibility that other social networks could be blocked by Facebook in the future.

Those other social networks could retaliate, making it much more difficult for brands to effectively cross-promote in social channels.

That brands have no guarantee they will be able to link from one social channel to another is a reminder of the importance of owned media in a day and age when so much time and money is being invested in rented media.

Unfortunately, social platforms themselves have been pushing for brands to do more and more on their platforms, and giving them incentives to do so, which in turn complicates matters for brands hoping to eventually convert some of their rented media to owned media.

The good news is that the social platforms themselves might be relenting just a little bit on this front.

For example, Facebook is allowing some publishers using Instant Articles to collect email addresses and it isn’t balking at those who are using their Instant Articles ad space to drive traffic to their own properties where they can solicit email newsletter signups as well.

Given the uncertainty that exists around social cross-promotion as companies like Facebook and Snapchat vie for control of billion-dollar markets, wise brands will take advantage of every opportunity they get to reap owned media rewards from their substantial social investments.