Is Instagram TooLateagram?

It seems a bit ironic that an iconic brand with “instant” in its name may be severely impacted in crisis response by offering “too little, too late.”  “Too late” is now the classic story of much crisis response and may well describe the latest attempt of Instagram co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom to quell the storm and restore trust.

The good news is that he has come forward with the appropriate response regarding the attempt to change Terms of Service language to allow the photo-sharing service to sell users photos. His first attempt was weak at best: in it he said basically, legalese is hard for dummies like you to understand but you should know we never intended to sell your photos. Maybe you never intended it, but your lawyers made sure you had that right.

The second attempt is much better. Now Systrom says: “I want to be really clear: Instagram has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did. We don’t own your photos—you do.”  Again, he is saying “intention.” But the critical key is action. He removed the offensive new language and reinstated the old language related to advertising. That is the key.

Big lesson here–he kept talking about intentions, but the language allowed beyond what he said his intentions were. Actions speak louder than words. The only meaningful thing he did was to remove the silly and offensive language.

Systrom also has committed to engaging with his customers before doing something this crazy again. Good idea. I don’t know how many big brands will have to stumble and even fall before they realize we live in a different era than a few years ago. Bank of America, Verizon, the Gap, Komen Foundation, Netflix, even the US Congress all have had learn a painful lesson that we no longer live in a time of making decisions behind closed doors, no matter how rational those decisions seem to be. Basic business decisions that used to be the sole right of the C-suite and board to decide on now require consultation.

Now Instagram will be added to that list of those who had to learn that lesson painfully. Engage, folks, engage. Or potentially pay a high price. And, if you forget that lesson and fiind yourself facing the wrath of the digital lynchmob, for the sake of your future, take action instantly–not days later. Or you may be another “Tolateagram.”



2 thoughts on “Is Instagram TooLateagram?”

  1. I used to describe issues as ‘incidents in slow motion’, but I don’t say this any more. Core communication priorities are the same in an incident or an issue, with only the pace of response changing to match the pace of escalation. I used to think that issues took longer to gather steam and emerge as organization-threatening events, where incidents by definition occurred instantly, with no warning.

    Now it appears that the roles are reversed: In today’s communication world, issues often erupt more rapidly than incidents.

    At the core, incidents are bound to a physical location with physical constraints. Issues suffer no such constraints.

    In an incident, responders often have the benefit of knowing more than their stakeholders for a period time, having the event occur in an isolated location, having time to forecast any physical impact and prepare for it, maintaining the ability to mitigate or avoid physical consequences and even being able to isolate the impact area in the name of ‘public safety’.

    Emerging issues are not constrained by physical action or location, not restricted to a geographic area, nor moderated by isolation or obscurity. Issues can erupt spontaneously across the broadest geography, immediately engaging masses of stakeholders who are instantly upset as even the most remote or obscure circumstance.

    Time to escalate issue response preparation ahead of crisis response preparation for organizations who are truly concerned about stakeholder engagement!

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