Instagram vows to keep app ‘positive, creative, safe’

The platform is touting a new anti-harassment feature. Users and brand managers can now remove offensive comments from posts. Here’s how PR pros can emulate its approach.

For many, social media is a venue for self-expression.

In a blog post Monday, Instagram chief Kevin Systrom says he deeply values the diversity of the platform’s 500 million-member community and feels responsible for the well-being of its users.

Systrom made one other thing clear: He’s against cyber-bullying and trolling.


He doesn’t detest it for the reasons that many brand managers might cite—that it can decrease brand loyalty and cast brands in an unfavorable light. Instead, he says “unkind comments” take away from “the beauty of the Instagram community.”

In light of that, Instagram execs are standing against bully culture online.

From Systrom, on the platform’s blog:

To empower each individual, we need to promote a culture where everyone feels safe to be themselves without criticism or harassment. It’s not only my personal wish to do this, I believe it’s also our responsibility as a company. So, today, we’re taking the next step to ensure Instagram remains a positive place to express yourself.

Although the Facebook-owned photo/video-sharing app already lets users delete comments, report abusive remarks and block accounts, the new function takes safeguarding a step further.

Systrom announced a keyword moderations tool that any user can activate:

When you tap the gear icon on your profile, you’ll find a new Comments tool. This feature lets you list words you consider offensive or inappropriate. Comments with these words will be hidden from your posts. You can choose your own list of words or use default words we’ve provided. This is in addition to the tools we’ve already developed such as swiping to delete comments, reporting inappropriate comments and blocking accounts.

Here’s how it will look:

Adopting Instagram’s approach

In PR, Instagram’s move to protect its user base would categorize it as a “purpose-driven brand.”

Are safety or anti-bullying policies among your brand values? Make that known.

According to an Edelman study, 53 percent of consumers took a brand’s purpose-driven activities into consideration when deciding whether to buy from that company.

Here’s more from the study:

Brands aligning themselves with causes are not only securing more consumer consideration, but [they’re] also earning their dollars and support. Nearly half (47 percent) of consumers have bought from a brand that supports a cause at least monthly.

More and more, brand building and loyalty are determined through an organization’s behavior—not marketing. Consumers want to know what an organization stands for, and they want executives to deliver on that mission.

From marketing consultant Jeanette McMurtry:

Today’s consumer seeks purpose outside of the traditional methods of religion, volunteerism and random acts of kindness. Many of us seek to further our sense of purpose with our choices at the grocery store, [in our] online shopping carts and more.

Systrom says Instagram wants to maintain a certain standard for online sharing:

My commitment to you is that we will keep building features that safeguard the community and maintain what makes Instagram a positive and creative place for everyone.

In PR speak, here’s how McMurtry sees that playing out with consumers:

The new state of consumerism is a big flag to brands in all industries to integrate “corporate social responsibility” into their brand fiber, customer experience and marketing programs. Defining your brand’s purpose and corresponding CSR efforts is the first step to developing emotional and psychological bonds with internal and external customers. When you make your CSR actionable by engaging others in your cause.

How do you think social media managers, consumers and PR pros will respond to Instagram’s rollout, Ragan readers?

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