Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Is Instagram Really "Social"?

I appreciate people who are taking the time to investigate social media platforms' Terms of Service like Karine Joly, who has started a weekly "Social Media TOS Tuesday." She recently blogged about Instagram's Terms of Service (TOS) and what we can and can't do on our brands' accounts.

One of the points Karine made was that re-posting other users' content on your account violates Instagram's TOS. I've seen many colleges and universities doing this and doing it well - many ask for permission to re-post and then credit the person behind the original post, which I think is a critical piece to going this route. But this is frowned upon by Instagram because it's not the brand's original content.

This is also true on Facebook. Creating a Facebook album of your community's best Instagram photos also violates the TOS, unless you're using an API or linking directly to the person's content. For our community, students don't want us necessarily linking to their accounts. In talking with some of our students, they'd love for us to post their content, but even though their accounts are public (since we can see their content), they don't want just anyone looking at them. 

Learning all of this was a real eye-opener for me as Instagram has become a very popular tool for us and where we've had a lot of success in the last 10 months. It's made me question Instagram: Does their TOS allow us to be truly "social" on the platform?  Karine's posts leave me extremely frustrated with Instagram (not with her, of course!) and thinking undoubtedly yes because in many ways, they don't allow us to foster a community of sharing and engagement like we've been trained to do with other tools. Rather, the platform focuses on metrics such as simply "liking" photos, something I don't think means much at all..

In higher education, many social media "teams" and managers are actually one-person shows who can't be everywhere at once and not always around to grab that perfect sunset photo or events that students are capturing every day. Re-posting photos is a way to show your community the bigger picture of your brand (and crowd-sources, which often yields much better content!) and I'd think would make the content creator feel really good about what they're doing and feel even better about your institution.

I'm all about giving credit where credit is due, which is what this all comes down to - I don't care about likes or comments on our own posts, but pushing out great content that reflects who we really are -that's what social media is all about. I think linking to a person's Instagram account in the caption/comments, you're linking people back to the original content creator. Should that violate anything?

If we choose to follow Instagram's TOS, it really limits us in what we're doing for our community. If they created a re-post option where the person's work that was re-posted received all the likes and comments, then great! I actually like that better than the idea of a brand getting all the engagement for another's work. They should be the ones seeing and relishing in that. Then they'd see how valued their work is and be really proud. Our community wants that and in my fantasy social media world, I'll hope for a resolution of some kind as Instagram evolves - either in creating a re-post option or amending the TOS.

Until then, for those schools or brands who have found success in re-posting, will you continue doing so? What are you doing to stay in check with Instagram's TOS, if anything?

1 comment:

  1. Oy! Our Instagram account is almost exclusively others' content reposted. We're in the midst of rebranding, redesigning the website, revamping the admission/marketing materials, and in all cases, one of our directives is to show, not tell. Reposting Instagrammers' photos of campus, events, alumni happy hours, sporting events, sunsets, et al, allows us (me/the school/the brand) to sink into the background, and our community becomes the star. That's the point and the purpose. Visitors to our Instagram feed get a feel for what the school is like BECAUSE it's not the school "talking."

    Our current student government has also redesigned its website, and has incorporated a live feed of our uni Instagram account with the intention of projecting the website home page onscreen in the dining hall. The page features rotating announcements and the student government Twitter feed, as well, and the students told me they knew students would be excited to see their photos pop up on the uni Instagram account. In fact, they believe it will inspire more students to tag the university in their photos.

    We have talked internally and believe that if we make it clear that photos tagged a certain way may end up on our feed, then we should be fine. Others we stumble upon will have to be requested individually.

    I could not agree more that a simple "share" or "repost" function *within* Instagram is the real solution.