5 PR Concerns Instagram Should Have Addressed


It’s been a crazy couple of days for Instagram.

Just yesterday the maverick social media brand updated its privacy practices and sent the entire planet into a digital uproar. Customers across the seven continents expressed outrage that Instagram would take their precious photos and leverage them to turn a profit.

We broke down the fiasco in this post, but now that Instagram has apologized and retracted its new policy and the smoke has begun to clear, it’s time to break down what happened and determine what Instagram could have done better from a PR perspective.

1. Be clear. Instagram’s big mistake was making a confusing and awkward delivery. The public is busy, and we doesn’t have time to read through the small print and legalese deciphering what, exactly, new policies mean and how they might relate to our personal pictures. Instgram should have provided concise language addressing customers’ primary concerns, namely what these changes in policy mean to everyone’s privacy.

2. Privacy is paramount. The public regards its privacy with the same concern as its own health. Nothing is more personal than our privacy–which is why people react so passionately, defensively and aggressively when they feel their privacy is being threatened or exploited. For Instagram, a lack of clarity regarding privacy settings quickly led to a very basic and human reaction: distrust and outrage.

3. Know thy customer. What Instagram failed to understand about its customers is that they feel entitled to privacy on the Internet (let’s ignore the ridiculousness of that statement for a moment). Instagram should have started by educating its customers: both Facebook and Instagram are in the business of making money, and once users agree to Instagram’s terms, they are in a business relationship. Nothing is for free. That’s just how the world works, even on the Internet.

4. Test drive your policies. The greatest thing about the public is that we are everywhere. When launching a major initiative or policy change, why not take a smaller, representative sample of your customer base and examine how they react before going global? It’s disconcerting to see brands that seem so helpless in regard to what their customers are thinking. Don’t know? Ask.

5. Be honest. You’re in it for the money. The public lives in the real world, and we’re happy to see companies succeed. Instagram should be honest about its desire to make a profit and explain how its financial success was achieved not by abusing content, but by partnering with its users and their talents. No one is angry at Instagram for wanting to be profitable, but the brand should admit this fact, because it puts everything else into perspective. We all have kids to feed.