TOS Change Spurs Boycott of the Popular Service
On Monday, photo-sharing service and online hipster club, Instagram, released that it would be changing its terms of service within the next 30 days. Essentially, the announcement left the door open for Instagram to use photos shared by users for Instagram’s advertising and would allow other third-parties access to those photos (presumably at a premium). A lot of sites are having a difficult time trying to monetize their, often awesome, features and Instagram is a big player in the social space trying to do just that.
Loyal users took to (other) social media platforms immediately to share their uproar, spawning the quick proliferation of #BoycottInstagram and sending the hashtag up the Twitter trending flagpole. In short, the idea of Instragram letting companies pay for user’s personal photos without their permission was too much for Instagramers to handle and, being social media inclined, they made sure to speak up.
In just over 24 hours after the terms of service had been released, and the ensuing backlash heard, Instragram co-founder Kevin Systrom posted a blog response aptly titled “Thank You and We’re Listening.” The blog post assured users that, “Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos” and that he really heard the message of their users.
There is a lot we can learn from Instagram’s response. Here is what they did right:
- React…Quickly: Instagram didn’t just respond to their customer’s complaints, they did it promptly. Because the complaints were made in a real time medium, they responded in the speed that is required of “real time.” These days, if you don’t respond to social media complaints within 24 hours, you are leaving your customers hanging. In many cases this will make them doubly angry, and an angry customer is a customer lost.
- Respond in the Same Medium: Too often companies that have an issue respond to complaints in ways that don’t quite seem congruous with the complaint. But if your house is flooding, you aren’t going to pull out the fire extinguisher. Similarly, if you get a letter of complaint, you should respond with a letter. In today’s online era, if you get a complaint online, you also need to reply in that way.
- Acknowledgment of the Specific Complaints: Unless you are getting thousands of letters every day (like the President) there is no reason you shouldn’t personalize your response. By acknowledging the specific issues that your customers (you know, the people that make you money) are having, you are showing that you are really truly listening to you customers. In turn, they feel appreciated and confident that you are capable of solving the issue, simply because you understand it. With a simple, “we’ve heard loud and clear,” Instagram shows they have been listening… seriously.
- Show Appreciation: Although it may be negative feedback, it is still your customer talking. If your customers are taking the time to verbalize specific complaints, and not just drop your service, it means they want to know you heard them. Additionally, the feedback is an amazing resource because it allows you to hear directly from ACTUAL customers, which you can use (if you’re smart) to make your business better and appeal more to your clientele In the future, I bet instagram will be a lot more sensitive to all issues around privacy.
- Share Resolutions or Timetable: Even if you don’t have the solution yet, in times of crisis it is more important than ever to be transparent. The trust between the business and the customer has been broken causing visible outrage and even users to drop your service. The first order of business, especially if your in the business of collecting peoples personal info and lives, is repairing that trust. The best way to do that is to fix the issue. Unfortunately, in the 24-hour news cycle of today you barely have time to breath before issues can explode. The next best thing then is sharing HOW exactly you plan to fix the issue.
BONUS: One thing Instagram SHOULD Have Done
- Say Sorry: So often companies in crisis will respond by only fixing the issue. In this case, Instagram acknowledged the complaint, but rather than apologizing for their actions that led to their customer’s issues they provided an excuse: “Legal documents are easy to misinterpret.” Acknowledging that you made a miss-step actually makes you more human and relatable When people complain, especially in social media, they are doing it in part because they want to heard, not just because they are upset. If they were just angry they would stop using the service. Saying sorry tells your clients you hear them and value their opinions. One word, 5 letters can make all the difference.