Instagram, in a recent attempt to belatedly create a business plan, indicated their intent to use user-generated imagery in advertisements. The reaction from their user base was swift and severe, with calls to cancel accounts (the worst punishment Instagram could possibly receive). Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have all but become necessary utilities in the minds of many users, and these services’ presence in their lives has become a given.
Much has been written about the generalized perspective of those in Silicon Valley (information wants to be free; share everything) and those elsewhere (whoa there, pardner, let’s see about that). Instagram’s mistake of course was to fail to understand its user base’s perspective and world view. Most of us with accounts are happy sharing much about our lives, but want control over how the information is used.
Instagram/Facebook could have come up with alternative business models for the service. They could have offered premium services (e.g., enhanced filters, non-square crops, promoted posts) in exchange to those who allowed their images to be used. They could have begun charging users a subscription fee (which of course would itself cause an uproar but those who valued the service would still use it). They could have adopted a freemium payment model, where users paid a few pennies per image, but less or nothing if they allowed their images to be used by the company.
In the end, it was really all about giving its end users control over their own content. Instagram failed to understand this fundamental feeling and shows no signs of an impending enlightenment. You, on the other hand, can consider this and think about your own clients and how you work with them, how you manage their data and how you share it, and of course most of all consider how your actions make your clients feel.