Instagram’s miscommunication causes backlash, drop in stock
In mid-December of last year, the popular photo sharing app Instagram, now owned by Facebook, released a change in their terms of service that angered many users and ignited a boycott of the service. Moreover, skewed numbers released by AppData claiming Instagram had lost 25% of its users because of the policy change influenced a drop in Facebook’s stock by 3%.
The policy, scheduled to go into effect next Wednesday (16 January), stated that “[a] business or other entity may pay” Instagram to display users’ photos and other data “in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.” This insinuated that users did not own their content, and Instagram could sell their photos to companies for advertisements without giving credit or payment to the account holder. Furthermore, the only way to opt out of this agreement was to delete your Instagram account.
In response to the backlash, Instagram CEO and co-founder Kevin Systrom published a blog post clearing up the confusion. The new policy, says Systrom, “was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos.”
The policy’s language failed to clearly express that “[i]n order to help make a more relevant and useful promotion” to businesses, Instagram could show “which of the people you follow also follow [a] business.” So, if you’re following a business, your profile photo might show up in their feed. That’s far from selling your photos without compensation.
Systrom handled the crisis fairly well, but this all could have been avoided with clear and simple language in the first place. Many companies fail to realize how important transparency is, especially when communicating with its consumers. Hopefully Instagram/Facebook has learned from this snafu and they’ll use clearer language in their communications next time.
What are your thoughts on policy communication? Should companies spend more time refining their copy to avoid such backlash?