Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gone in an Instagram

There's a new verb in my vocabulary today:


It's what happens to companies who cavalierly alter their terms of service without properly consulting and communicating with their user base.

When Instagram slipped the following clause into their Terms of Service the other day, the firestorm was as swift as it was inevitable.
A business or other entity may pay Instagram to display users' photos and other details in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.
Yeah, that was going to go over well. Allowing advertisers use photographs without the consent of or compensation for the owner of the image. It went over so well in fact that yesterday tens of thousands of Instagram users backed up their images on other services and closed their accounts.

I understand their desire to make money, and as revenue models go this isn't a bad one. But Instagram forgot one simple step: ask for permission.

Rather than just set up a blanket policy to profit from user photographs, they could have created and marketed a program that Instagram members could opt into. Then when advertisers found images they wanted to use, Instagram could share a percentage of the revenue with the user. This would have created both monetary and emotional benefits for the users who would take pride in seeing their images in an ad somewhere.

Would they have made as much money? No. But then again, they wouldn't have had to issue this apology.

What this demonstrates yet once more is how fragile a brand is and how those brands that take their customers for granted can be gone in an instant.

The next time you're thinking of making a change to your product or service, think about your customers, or yours might be the next great brand to get instagrammed.

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