There is always something a little fascinating about seeing a giant company make a huge, public mistake: UK retailer Gerald Ratner wiping £500 million off the value of his chain by describing his own products as “total crap”; Netflix losing 800,000 subscribers after attempting to split off its DVD-rental service as a new company called Qwikster; and now Instagram, which has its lawyers to thank for producing a new set of terms and conditions that were so wide-ranging that even the New York Times interpreted them to mean that the company was looking to sell its users’ content with no opt-out and no compensation.
It is too early to say exactly how much damage those legal writers have done. Certainly the response from users has been savage and angry, especially from professional photographers (and their publishers) who rushed to remove their business assets from a site that appeared to be intending to treat them as their own. It is possible that some of those users will come back, and it is possible too that many of Instagram’s 100 million users were not too bothered by the thought of someone else profiting from their images.
The company has moved fast to try to clear up the mess. In a blog post, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom insisted that it was all a misunderstanding. The company just wants to use advertising, he claimed. It never had any intention of selling users’ images and the new terms will be changed to reflect that.
That is probably true. Instagram is not a stock site and selling those images would have been difficult but it is clear that the Facebook-owned company is now suffering from a major loss of trust. And it could not have come at a worse time. Less than a week earlier, Flickr announced the release of a revamped iPhone app complete with the same sorts of filters that Instagram’s hipsters love so much. The Yahoo-owned site, which was once the favorite of photography enthusiasts before being left behind by the rise of mobile and social media, is now poised to make a comeback. Within hours of new of Instagram’s new terms breaking, Flickr was a trending topic on Twitter.
Should You Join the Rush to Flickr?
The question for social media marketers is whether they should be following the flow from Instagram to Flickr.
The answer is probably not… at least not yet. You should have a Flickr account because the sets and collections make your corporate images easier to browse than on Instagram. But since the rise of Facebook as a place for sharing casual images, the site is now largely used by photography enthusiasts rather than brand loyalists who want to know what their favorite companies have been doing.
Continue to use Instagram (although with at least one eye on their terms and conditions) and continue to share your pictures on Facebook and Twitter. But keep another eye on who is following you on Flickr. If you are seeing that your Instagram followers are flowing to your Flickr page, you might want to think about downloading that new app, and have a great Christmas holiday.