Betraying Your Brand Promise

There has been a significant amount of buzz around social media over the last month. More than usual as Instagram and Twitter both announced exploration into removing the chronological nature of the news feed. As predicted, this announcement has caused a mass of online frustration and outrage around the Twitter-sphere. But why do their customers feel betrayed?


Social media brands reinvent themselves all the time. Sometimes they change the functionality of the product to refine its core purpose. Sometimes they add in an advertising channel to monetarise the system. But all hell breaks loose whenever the word ‘algorithm’ is mentioned!

Facebook famously faced this problem back in 2013. As the network began to become more and more cluttered, the powers that be sought to find a new way to deliver customers the content they enjoyed with the aim of increasing their customer experience. This meant prioritising certain posts over others and ultimately removing the chronological news feed. Outrageous! Or at least that was the public’s perception at the time. Facebook was going to be ruined by this change.

Now Twitter and Instagram are doing the same thing. As their networks grow to incredible sizes, they are looking to further enhance the customer experience and deliver their users with the information which really matters. Twitter’s first step was the introduction of the Moments tab which is essentially an expanded trending list featuring in depth information on important events. Yet, alike Instagram, they have announced their plans to employ a similar algorithm to Facebook. Again . . . Outrage has rung throughout online communities.

These social media giants aren’t the only prestigious brands who change their product design. Apple famously does this every year or two with the release of a new and improved iPhone and they are met with rapturous excitement. So where does this outrage come from?

Ultimately it comes back to the brand. What was the core brand promise which encouraged you to sign up to Twitter and/or Instagram? To see what your friends were thinking or seeing when they thought or saw it. The main premise of these social media sites was the instantaneous element. Without the instantaneous element there was no need for them to exist. You would eventually have a conversation with your friends to hear their opinions or sit through large photo albums from island vacations while pretending to feign enjoyment. It is the instantaneous element which differentiates them.

Just like the Facebook change, the introduction of an algorithm betrays this core brand promise. No longer will you see immediate content from all the people you choose to follow, you will see the content that the Twitter or Instagram gods have deemed worthy of your attention. That is why its users are having issues with it – it wasn’t what they signed up for!

On the flip side . . . need I remind you of the Facebook situation? Everybody pledged to delete their Facebook account when this change came into action, but in reality the platform has gone from strength to strength growing from 1.2 billion before the change to almost 1.6 billion monthly users this month. Why? Because while it defied the brand promise, it actually ended up delivering a better customer experience! (Twitter and Instagram probably will to!).

I’d be more worried if I was a brand trying to get the most out of these free channels . . . but we’ll talk about that next time.