Instagram’s Terms and Conditions – An Inside Look

Instagram Logo

In December, Instagram, the Facebook-owned mobile photo and video-sharing social media platform, hit 300 million active monthly users. Forty-one percent of these users are between the ages of 16-24. Do you think people in this age group are taking the time to read through their favorite app’s terms and conditions? Probably not.

Generally speaking, Ts and Cs tend to be extremely long and difficult to understand due to their excessive legal jargon. But combing through them would give social media users a breakdown of what they’re getting themselves into. How does Instagram promise to keep its users safe? Are there any risks involved with having an Instagram account? Are the terms ethically sound? I’ve decided to take a closer look at Instagram’s Terms of Use to see if there are any potential ethical problems.

Instagram Terms and Conditions

The first thing that caught my eye was that users must be 13 or older. Can you imagine a 13-year-old trying to understand Instagram’s Ts & Cs? Because Instagram’s average user tends to be on the younger side, it’s even more important that its terms be written in plain English. In fact, since Instagram is often referred to as the “cooler” Facebook, it should have a “cool” terms and conditions section, filled with witty humor, images and an easy-to-navigate format, such as is the case with Facebook’s privacy basics page.

“You must not create or submit unwanted email, comments, likes or other forms of commercial or harassing communications (a/k/a “spam”) to any Instagram users.” While this rule is clearly spelled out in Instagram’s Ts & Cs, I see it broken every day by users who leave spam comments on celebrity photos. What is Instagram doing to reduce the number of times this happens? Are they terminating these users’ accounts like they say they will?

Kylie Jenner Instagram

I think the part that most sticks out to me is Instagram’s rule about not abusing, stalking or bullying other users. In its Ts & Cs, Instagram only spells out what users can’t do but not what it will do to help combat the bullying and abuse that occurs on its platform. The closest it comes to providing some sort of solution is on its Abuse & Spam page, where it recommends that users report such behavior using the app’s built-in reporting features. But how does this give users peace of mind that their issue will be resolved, especially when its Ts & Cs note that “”Instagram does not have any obligation to prescreen, monitor, edit, or remove any Content?” As I mentioned in my reading reaction this week, safety is a two-way street. Users signing up for Instagram want to be rest assured that, if they abide by all of the platform’s rules, they will be well taken care, should an issue arise.

In my opinion, the statement that could use the most improvement is the one that says that Instagram has the right to change its Terms of Use from time to time and notify you of the Updated Terms by posting them on the Service. Isn’t a lack of clearly communicating its Ts & Cs what got Instagram all of that negative press two years ago? I think Instagram could benefit from notifying users of term changes via a blog post or an email announcement.

After reviewing its online documents, what I liked more than Instagram’s Ts & Cs was its Community Guidelines document, which clearly and concisely spelled out what users can and can’t do as well as additional things they should keep in mind.

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Instagram: A Social Network and a Content Community

Ben & Jerry's Capture Euphoria

Instagram has greatly evolved from when it first launched in 2010 as a mobile photo-sharing platform. In March of this year, it was reported that Instagram had reached 200 million active users. “Meet Content” writer Georgy Cohen attributes Instagram’s success to the fact that it allows users to combine personal moments, real-time publishing and community, all of which are extremely powerful for crafting successful content. As Stephanie Frasco mentions in her recent “Social Media Today” article , Instagram is more than just a mobile photo-sharing and editing platform, it’s a great way to build community. “Instagram users want their pictures seen.  They want them liked. And they want you to comment on them. By liking and commenting on Instagrammers’ posts, you’ll see them return the favor,” she said.

Instagram’s use of hashtags makes it easy for both users and brands to like and comment on those photos that interest/pertain to them. For instance, if you’re trying to target fashion bloggers, you might want to try #ootd. If you’re trying to target people who frequent outdoor music festivals, you might want to try typing #coachella, #ultramusicfestival or even #edm, just to name a few. Through hashtags, Instagram makes it easy for people to connect with others who share similar interests, even though they likely have never met these people before. Utilizing hashtags and keywords that represent your brand will allow others to find your photos and possibly even repost them for their followers to see.

Many brands have also used contests and question-and-answer sessions to increase user engagement. ABC Family’s hit show, “Pretty Little Liars” selects a “liar of the week” to feature on its Instagram page. To enter, users simply visit the Pumped for PLL app and show off their selfie. The show then selects one of its fans’ pictures to feature on its Instagram. Ben & Jerry’s ran a successful Instagram contest last year called “Capture Euphoria,” in which it asked its Instagram followers to “use #captureeuphoria to share photos that best depicted the exhilarated feeling that comes from eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.” Ben & Jerry’s featured the winning images in custom-made ads with a shout-out to the original Instagrammer. Celebrities conduct question-and-answer sessions on Instagram to better connect with their fans. They’ll choose a few select questions and answer them either through a post or through a video. Those lucky few who get chosen are likely to share their excitement via other social networks as well.

Instagram is both a social network and a content community. It allows both brands and users to tell a compelling story through photos, engage their followers and post their photos to other social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. The key to having a successful Instagram is, of course, original content.

Victoria’s Secret Lies in Its Social Media

Victoria’s Secret serves as a great example of the dos of integrated advertising, or combining several different media channels and tools under one big idea in order to produce a greater experience for the consumer. The largest American retailer of lingerie has an extremely active online and offline presence. But Victoria’s Secret’s marketing success is not new. During Q1 of last year, Expion, a social media management company, ranked Victoria’s Secret in the top 10 retailers in social media. The company utilizes victoriasecret.com, sends daily emails and maintains accounts with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram to build excitement around new collections and events such as the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. It also relies on more traditional forms of advertising, such as TV, print, billboards and direct mail.

Online Advertising

Victoriasecret.com

Victoriasecret.com has a global Alexa ranking of 1,481. It ranks as the 499th most popular website in the U.S. The site is very easy to navigate and contains many large, high-quality images of models showcasing the latest items. It maintains a consistent color scheme of pink, black, white and gray throughout. Besides the eye-catching photos of its models, what immediately draws people to the site is the fact that the first image is always promoting a current sale that its having. Who doesn’t love a good deal?!

Email Blasts

I signed up to receive daily email promotions from Victoria’s Secret about a year ago. While I don’t always get the chance to take advantage of them, I find the company’s choice of images in its email blasts as well as the email subject lines to be extremely engaging. Through these emails campaigns, the company does a great job of making women look and feel beautiful and making sure its customers are aware of current in-store and online promotions.

Victoria's Secret Email Campaign

Facebook: 25,300,751 likes 

Last year’s Expion study found that Victoria’s Secret and fellow social media powerhouse Walmart were posting on Facebook about twice as often as other brands. The week of 5/25/14 Victoria’s Secret received as many as 37,600 likes on one of its posts. The company posts approximately two to three eye-catching photos a day of gorgeous models, new products and current promotions. It also does a great job of utilizing its Facebook to handle customer questions and issues.

Victoria's Secret Facebook Comment Highest

Twitter: 3.97 million followers

The company has an extremely active presence on Twitter, posting to its profile an average of three to four times a day. What I like most about its Twitter is that it answers as many of its customers’ tweets as it possibly can, regardless of whether the customer has a complaint, a question or is simply stating that they recently purchased a product from the retailer.

Victoria's Secret Twitter Customer Service

YouTube: 462,349 subscribers

The Victoria’s Secret YouTube channel features more than 425 videos, including behind-the-scenes footage, TV commercials and exclusive interviews with the Victoria’s Secret Angels.

Pinterest: 181,350 followers

Victoria’s Secret’s Pinterest has 25 boards and 4,170 pins. It posts the same images it already does on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, plus so many more. If you ever wanted to get an inside look at every model and product photo imaginable, this is the place to do so.

Victoria's Secret Pinterest

Instagram: 4,534,152 followers

As of today, Victoria’s Secret has posted 1,267 photos to its Instagram. Almost every photo has more than 100,000 likes. The company averages between two and three posts a day that feature its models, also known as Angels, product shots and even some videos. The Victoria’s Secret Angels each have their own Instagrams, so loyal Victoria’s Secret customers have the option to follow them as well.

Victoria's Secret Instagram Cover Photo

Offline Advertising

Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

Victoria’s Secret utilizes this annual fashion show to promote and market its goods in high-profile settings. Last year, 9.71 million people tuned in to view the TV special that featured the current roster of Victoria’s Secret Angels modeling high-end lingerie.

Victoria’s Secret Angels

One of Victoria’s Secret’s greatest marketing strategies has been to heavily promote its models. Victoria’s Secret’s models, known as “Angels,” are a major part of the brand’s image, appearing in the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, catalogs, stores and advertisements. The website features a “VS All Access” section for learning more about the group, which includes Adriana Lima and Alessandra Ambrosio. Unlike other retailers, Victoria’s Secret wants its customers to really get to know the women who are modeling its products.

Victoria's Secret Angels

But wait…there’s more

Victoria’s Secret also utilizes print, billboard and TV advertisements to promote its brand. Loyal customers can expect to receive notifications of product promotions via direct mail and see advertisements strategically placed in their favorite magazines. Victoria’s Secret is also known for buying billboard advertising in key locations, such as on the side of buses, and in high-traffic areas, such as Time Square.

VICTORIA'S SECRET using Showcase in Chicago

Overall, Victoria’s Secret’s integrated marketing communications strategy is top notch. It is both consistent and engaging.