6 In Food & Drink/ Life

But First, Ask Me If You Can Use My Photo On Your Instagram

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.

An article bonInstagram and Other Social Media, Redefining Social Engagement” in the NY Times states,

“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?

As Oliver Herzfeld and Marc Aaron Melzer explained in this Forbes’ article about “Fair Use In The Age Of Social Media”,

“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.

 

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  • Megan Rae

    Thank You for sharing your experience with this. A photographer I work with had to do this on a photo of me that she shared and a random account who puts quotes over the photo took without asking. Needless to say we were both blocked from him and the photo eventually came down. Hopefully one day all business accounts will run and share photos in a more professional manner.

    • Digital content is so easy to copy–it doesn’t help that re-posting is so common. It can be a very positive thing when done correctly. Unfortunately, some accounts including business accounts haven’t read up on or simply don’t care about industry best practices.

  • SK

    That’s so unprofessional and rude! People should get credit for their photos, it doesn’t ruin your brand ‘look’ at all!

    • I agree on both counts! A photo credit can be as simple as “?: @thelauralindsay”. Easy. The only thing it ruins is the impression that the brand is actually taking the photos. ?

  • Kendra

    You handled this situation so well. Thank you for sharing this! Other bloggers and influencers need to know that it’s ok to stand up against this kind of stuff. We work hard to create our image and content and deserve credit for them!

    • Kendra, thank you for the kind words! Lately, reposts have less and less worth to me. Even with proper credit, I don’t notice a lot of new followers or comments on the original photo in my feed. Meanwhile, the brands are benefitting by free content and publicity! Since this happened, I’m rarely tagging brands in my posts and thinking twice before I geotag a company as well. I love creating content, but it takes foresight, creativity, and time! As creators, the minimum we should receive is proper credit.