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Posted by on Dec 19, 2012

Trust, Instagram and Christmas shame

Trust, Instagram and Christmas shame

Hypothetical question: if you wanted to make your PR mark on the year, when would you choose to do so? I can imagine many of you mouthing the words: “I’d launch my campaign at Christmas”. And why not? Clearly that’s what other people do. Everyone knows that Christmas is the time of year when we’re paying attention. We’re at home, we’re socialising, we’re frequently online, and we’re in the sharing mood.

Yet each year, at this time, at least one organisation forgets that the same holds true for reverse publicity; t’is also the season for a perfect PR storm. While we’re busy sharing, chatting, reconnecting, we’re also thinking altruistically – we’re thinking of others, we’re combatting materialism in ourselves and our children, we’re ripe for debates about trust and integrity. Seemingly each year, come December, there’s an organisation who publicly puts their desire to make money ABOVE respecting the trust their customers hold in them and each year it leads to a public Christmas shaming.

This time last year there was the Paypal crisis – if memory serves correctly it involved denying services to a group that hoped to provide Christmas presents for needy children. Obviously this was a topic that would garner support and predictably it spread like wildfire. The damage? Speaking for myself, previously I thought of the Paypal brand as pioneering, an intrepid organisation that helped forge small-scale personal and small business payments on the web. Subsequently I see them as a brand who are so intently focused on tending their commercial business that they are unwilling to serve the little people who need them, and who helped them become who they are today.

This year’s anti-hero of course is Instagram. With a spectacular display of both lack of foresight and poor timing, Instagram updated its terms of use policy in the critical weeks before Christmas, apparently enabling them to use and sell their customers’ images for advertising without paying usage fees, from January. In their hunt for monetisation, they have crossed a line of trust that leaves many speechless, but even more wanting to share their outrage with like minded peers in the Yuletide season. (Yes, me too!)

As 2012 draws to a close perhaps it’s time for Instagram, and indeed Facebook, to consider the value of the trust that their customers place in them, and whether or not they can think of better ways to earn cash and allow their social engagement models to mature while protecting the concerns of their devoted communities.

And perhaps everyone’s PR strategy for 2013 should include avoiding these antisocial displays, especially in the run up to Christmas.

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