The Difference Between Customers And Users

I’m always amused to see people throw a fit every time a free social media service updates their terms of service or privacy policy. The latest incident is Instagram’s updated Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

People don’t seem to understand difference between customers and users when it comes to these free social media services. A company like Instagram is in the business of content and exists to make money at the end of the day. This money comes from paying customers. By customers I don’t mean the people who use the service for free. I mean companies who pay to promote and advertise their stuff to users who use the service for free.

For a service like Instagram, users are the only means of getting customers. So they invest time and money to build stuff to give away and run the service for free for years with the idea that one day they we will reach a point where they can start monetizing the users. So I find it amusing when people cry foul when this actually comes to pass. As one of my Twitter friends so eloquently put it yesterday.

Which is why you will see me post all kinds of stuff on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms. But you will never see me post pictures or videos of my wife and kids. If I want to share something intimate with my friends and family I use email. I don’t post it on some free service that could one day use my son’s picture to promote some company’s product without first seeking my permission or providing any sort of compensation.

Bottom line is I do not want to be in a position where an ethical or unethical social media service rightly or wrongly uses or abuses anything that I post on their free service because I understand that I am a user and not their customer.

  • Rande Robinson

    Well said (written)…

  • Ricardo

    Dear Deelip,
    thank you for your article. I would like to put a question regarding privacy. When you send the pictures of the family by email, is it practicaly not the same as posting it on a free social media? By using your email, you are anyway sending the pictures to some server outside your home, with very few control over it…. Thank you !!

  • Nancy Johnson

    Deelip, thanks for the perspective on this, but it seems to conflict with the actual statements from Instagram. Are you basing your reaction on what “could” happen down the road?

    From the link you provided (Instagram’s updated Privacy Policy and Terms of Service):

    Ownership Rights
    Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period.

    I always want you to feel comfortable sharing your photos on
    Instagram and we will always work hard to foster and respect our community and go out of our way to support its rights.

  • P.R.S. Sivakumar

    Very much enlightened. Thanks for the article

  • With copyright laws as nutsy as they are these days, services that provide free tools to users are already at high risk, as they don’t technically own anything that any individual creates, whether it was uploaded to their service or created using their service. If I sneeze, I own a copyright of the pattern of my snot (that’s only a slight exaggeration). So, what are these services trying to sell to their real customers? As much of a fantasy and the users experience.

  • P.R.S. Sivakumar

    Fantastic – an eye opener – though I have not posted my family pics (I would never) I have my serious photography (hobby) posted or they are there in their albums. Should I remove these now? Thanks in advance.

    P.R.S. Sivakumar – Architect, Madurai, India.