Digital engagement ... lessons from the front

The announcement by Instagram of a change in terms of service unleashed a huge reaction from #igers (Instagram users) and the broader community alike.  It resulted in a carefully worded message from Kevin Systrom, Instagram's co-founder a day later.

Many libraries, museums, archives and galleries use social media tools for digital engagement with their clients and the community.  Due diligence includes monitoring the shifting sands of terms of service in this space and active risk management but there are other aspects of digital engagement and lessons to note:


Large scale digitisation of assets in cultural institutions means objects have their own addresses on the internet.  In the best case scenario these addresses would be persistent identifiers that can be relied on in a linked open data world.  Many clients will use these addresses to reference items in digital research, online publications and to build their own tools and interfaces.  (eg. Dr Tim Sherratt’s work mining the treasures of the Trove Australian newspaper database)

A change to the URLs assigned to digital assets, due to a change of domain or content management system, could cause a cascading problem with broken links., a company that allows Instagram users to create canvas versions of their own photographs responded to the changes at Instagram with an announcement of their own.

Community "ownership":

The #igers community reacted swiftly and expressed their anger and dissatisfaction with the changes to the Instagram community they regarded as their own.  Libraries host and interact with more and more online communities in social media forums and through crowdsourcing projects. 

The sense of ownership and engagement in these communities may also generate large scale client / community reaction to decisions and changes to services, requiring careful handling, effective communication and online community management.  Changes may also drive dissatisfied community members to leave the community or disengage with the institution.

Communication wildfire and back burning:

The speed with which the Instagram news travelled around the internet burning up Twitter, news feeds and even resulting in posts to Flickr was astonishing.  It's also a global world so the waves of distress and outrage swept around the world, echoing back and forth in different time zones.  This means that often people react to a tweet or message in their own ecosystem without checking if there has been an update. 

Posting accurate information in multiple forums at intervals seems to be the only possible way to fight this type of communication situation.  Actively using the hashtags that are employed in the conversation will also help in getting the message out.  Including the hashtag could have made the tweet from Instagram acknowledging the debate and an upcoming announcement automatically part of the global conversation.

The future:

The outcome of the changes at Instagram are still being played out, and could affect institutions like Brooklyn Museum, Museum Victoria and Queens Library who currently use Instagram to engage and communicate with their communites ... but that remains to be seen.


NickH's Gravatar This is an interesting post, it would be interesting to hear a bit more about the SLNSW's approach to digital engagement. I did think though that perhaps this post would work better on another blog, this blog being for the eRecords Project - I love hearing about how this Project is going, are there any more updates on discoveries?
[#] Posted by: NickH | 9 January 2013 at 12.05 pm

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