A couple days ago, I received an Instagram notification that a local beverage shop had tagged me in a post. Initially, I was excited. I was a fan of their products. Like many, I was taken with their pink tiles, humorous tea puns, and fanciful drinks. I even bought a pink tote bag with their logo. A repost by this brand meant that they liked my photo enough to promote it on their curated Instagram feed. Being reposted by a larger account is like a pat on the back—it’s a way to thank your customers for loving you enough to not only buy your product, but promote it to their friends.
“Taking photos from social media accounts is also often cheaper and faster than creating a traditional marketing campaign.”
Reposting photos with proper credit fosters community and helps users discover new content and feeds. For all accounts, it can result in exposure and new followers that organically like and comment on their photos.
Planoly, a popular visual planner for Instagram explains that,
“Creating content is the hardest hurdle for a brand and business, especially if you’re shorthanded. What better way to promote and encourage your consumers to wear, share and spread your brand to their friends and family than by reposting their content.”
I can completely understand the struggle, as I am also creating content for my feed. What I cannot condone is companies pulling content without permission or proper credit.
What is proper credit?
“If you would normally seek out permission to use content in the offline world, you should do so when posting another’s content to social media.”
The responsible route to take is asking permission first. This can be done in a variety of ways, from commenting on the photo itself to sending a DM or an e-mail. More companies are adopting a User Generated Content Policy which clearly states what permissions are given and what the company intends to do with that content.
This company didn’t ask me for permission before reposting. What about credit? They simply tagged me in the photo with no mention in the caption. What’s the problem with that? Hootsuite’s Kendall Walters explains in How To Regram: Best Practices for Reposting Instagram Content,
“Note that simply tagging the user in the photo is not considered best practice because it isn’t a visible enough means of providing attribution. As tagging is typically used to denote who appears in the photo, it’s not a sufficiently clear method of indicating who created the image.”
Later.com echoes this sentiment in Taylor Loren’s article entitled “How To Legally Repost User-Generated Content on Instagram“,
“When giving photo credit, you always want to reference the original photographer in the caption — simply tagging them in the photo is not enough.”
With this in mind, I reached out to the company through Instagram DM to kindly ask them to add photo credit to the caption. After receiving no response, I figured their social media coordinator must be busy. Almost 3 hours later, I sent a follow up message. Again, no response. I posted a friendly comment on the photo, asking directly for credit. Nothing. At this point, I was frustrated and confused. I refused to believe that a company I loved and supported would treat a loyal customer this way. Believing that there was a break in communication somewhere, I wrote an e-mail to the info account listed on their website hoping for a reasonable resolution.
Here was the result:
As industry leaders have explained, the best practice for reposting is to give photo credit in the caption. This company stated they don’t for “consistency reasons” and the “general look” of their feed. The general look of a feed without photo credits is a feed with original photography, not reposts. At first glance, their feed looks like authentic and original content because of this lack of information. Upon further inspection, many of their high engagement posts were reposts from users like me. In fact, my photo received over 1,000 likes over the course of the day—an engagement success!
About 30 minutes after the company’s e-mail response, I received this reply to my DMs. At this point, it was clear they weren’t going to give me photo credit. Just so all parties I was communicating with(if it was actually more than one) were on the same page, I wrote back asking that it be removed in the DM as well.
Up to this point, I gave this company the benefit of the doubt. I assumed they would comply and remove the photo. They didn’t. In fact, later that evening they even went so far as to “like” my comment requesting photo credit from both their main US account and Japan accounts. I was dumbfounded.
With no further official response from the company and this new petty behavior, it was clear they had no intention of removing my photo. I contacted Instagram and filed a copyright infringement form. You may find this page handy: Copyright Infringement Form.
I woke up the following morning to an email from Facebook informing me the photo had been removed. Upon checking the company’s Instagram account for verification, I was met with this:
I had been blocked.
I had to laugh, because for such a simple request to escalate to this point was unreasonable and completely avoidable. My love for this company went from 100 to 0 in less than 24 hours, all through direct interaction with company representatives—and in the case of my email, probably the founder himself.
It’s safe to say that I don’t love this company so matcha, anymore.