How Not to Build Your Brand on Instagram

Last Updated:Thursday, January 25, 2024

When used wisely, social media can be powerful business tools. These platforms give immense visibility to your brand, and allow you to connect and interact with your customers on a more personal level.

If you already have an established company, presence on social media can be an opportunity to attract new customers and to further develop your business.

With 800 million active users as of September 2017, Instagram is now one of the most popular social media worldwide.

The interactive, influential platform allows quick information sharing, and its posting and editing functionalities are pretty simple to use. Much more than a social network, Instagram allows instant visual sharing, thus providing an audience for your content.

Having an immediate, global audience is a major exposure and advertizing opportunity for business owners.

All brand owners may not be familiar with the current social media landscape. Mastering Instagram etiquette is easy to learn, and will help you take advantage of social media's benefits to grow a successful business.

The following case is an example of an Instagram mistake to avoid at all costs if you want to build good relationships with potential customers.

Max Dubler's Story

Professional photographer Max Dubler is a notorious figure in downhill skateboarding industry. In charge of the influential website, he also writes articles for a downhill skate magazine, and is frequently hired by major downhill brands to shoot photos during events.  

In July 2017, he started posting his pictures from various skateboard events on his website and on its Facebook page to increase web traffic.

Dubler did not add these posts to promote or sell his work. He simply thought it was good way to get beginners excited about skating, and a great opportunity for skilled riders to see photos of themselves during events.

Browsing his Instagram feed, he came across one of his pictures from an event in Canada. A well-known, successful brand had downloaded the photo and had posted it to their Instagram account.

In an article he published on his website, Dubler mentions that he never charges individual skaters who use his photographs on social media, since he already makes a decent living from freelance work and steady events.

He is well aware that skaters are "mostly broke teenagers" who will not make profit out of his pictures. However, he does charge established businesses  a fee to use his photos, because they can easily make money off his work.

Not having any previous relationship with that board company, Dubler sent them a message to inform them he charges $25 for use of his photos on social media.

In response, the brand indicated they had already given him proper credit by  tagging him on the post, making an allusion to the "exposure" he was getting by having his picture reposted to their Instagram.

When he explained that he did not need "exposure" and  insisted on getting paid for the use of his work as part of the brand's social media advertising, Dubler received what he describes as "a perfect distillation of all the insulting nonsense" people tell him when he asks them to pay for using his work.

The messages speak for themselves. The company refused to pay the photographer, insulted him, tried to convince him they were doing him a favor by sharing his picture, and ultimately accused him of extortion when he did not back off.

Dubler took screen shots of their conversation and posted them in a Facebook status about how social media is advertising and how "exposure"  is not a form of compensation.

The post went viral, getting more than 500 likes and hundreds of comments, including some from other people that brand had treated unfairly.

The reaction from the downhill skateboarding community was quick : " People posted videos throwing that company's products in the trash and pledged to support their competitor."  

Within two days, six companies contacted Dubler and offered him to pay for skateboarding photos he did not even know they had used.  

Many other artists  reached out to him to share similar stories of businesses stealing  their work on social media. The outpouring of support towards the photographer inevitably took a toll on the brand's reputation.

The offending company still has not paid Max Dubler, but they certainly learned the importance of mastering social media etiquette the hard way.


Knowing how to properly share other users' content on Instagram is fundamental in building and maintaining good relationships with customers and developing your brand. The following tips will help you avoid the kind of situation that skateboarding company experienced, and ensure your presence on Instagram is successful.

Respecting Copyright

The main issue with sharing other users' pictures is the copyright ownership. The person who initially created the image owns the copyright and therefore has the right to all benefits generated by that content. As a business, if you share the copyright owner's content without their authorization, it could be used against you legally.

It is your responsibility to always make sure the creator of an image gets proper credit for their work.

Giving Proper Credit

The most commonly-employed method on Instagram is for brands to share users’ photos while providing credit to the user. "Providing credit" means you have to tag everyone involved in the picture within the comments. In an article published on, author Jen Carreiro provides examples of properly-credited wedding pictures.


In the comments, the user mentioned all of the people involved in the photo, and specified how they had contributed to that picture (photographer, dress designer, floral designer, etc.) According to Carreiro, it is always safer to follow that simple rule. "If you can see it, credit it", she writes.

As a business owner, tagging all professionals involved in a picture can be a huge networking benefit for you. Networking is a good way to exchange ideas with like-minded people to improve the way you do business, and to get in touch with people who might help you develop your brand.

Asking for Permission

Even though many users may be flattered to have their content reposted by an established brand and to receive credit for their work, simple attribution may not be enough for everyone.  Many professionals, especially artists like Max Dubler, expect to be compensated for the use of their work.

To avoid any misunderstanding, it is certainly better to always ask for permission before reposting another user's content.  


How to Ask for Permission?

There are different ways of asking for permission before reposting someone else's content.

1. Ask With a Comment on the Original Post

An easy way to get permission from someone is to write a comment asking for permission directly on their post. In an article he published on, Jenn Hermann provides an example of a request for permission, followed by the user's response.                    

Ask permission to regram using a comment on the original post.

2. Ask With Direct Message

You can also send a direct message to the creator asking for permission. Doing so will keep your request more private. Make sure to send the photo you are asking to share, so there is no confusion. To do this, go to the post on their account an select the direct message icon.

Here is an example from

If Nest wanted to contact this Instagram user for permission to use their content, they could initiate communication by tapping the direct message icon.

3. Use Services Designed for Brands to Ask Users' Permission

In an article published on, Debbie Miller explains that there are now " a variety of platforms and services designed for brands to ask users if they can use their content. " One such example is Content Rights Solution, created by TINT.

This application allows you to find content that relates to your brand, request permissions from creators on social media, and track the images to which you have rights as a brand. You can customize the request permission by entering your own legal language.

Here is an example of a permission request form

instagram etiquette regramming

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Embracing User-Generated Content

What Is User-Generated Content?

User-generated content (UGC) is a source of content created by a third-party user that lives under your brand's property. It includes any piece of content created by a person about a brand that they share with their networks.

The business then uses this content on their website or social media to promote their brand. This type of content usually comes at no cost, and is therefore considered as a free source of advertising.

Why Is UGC Important for Your Company?

Using UGC should be part of a great marketing strategy.

Your customers are your brand's most powerful advocates. By sharing photos of the your products, making positive reviews, and promoting the brand's hashtags, they give you immense exposure for free.

People have no problem with providing that free content, because they like being noticed by brands they enjoy. Using UGC can easily attract new customers.

In fact, people trust other customers' experiences more than official marketing from companies.


Being Authentic

Building good relationships with customers is also about being authentic. In an article published on, communications consultant Rachel Friedman indicates that  "people who have a relationship with a brand cite their shared values as the primary reason for it."

She recommends brand owners take some time to understand their Instagram audience.

By following trending conversations and hashtags, you will be able to identify the values that are the most important to your customers, and highlight how those values relate to your business.

Staying true to your values and to your followers' values will show that you are consistent with the authenticity of your brand's mission, and will significantly increase customers' loyalty.

Presence on a Instagram can have significant benefits for your brand.

Becoming familiar with the platform's etiquette is quite easy if you remember to respect copyright, give creators proper credit, always ask for permission before sharing other users' content, embrace user-generated content as part of your marketing strategy , and show your brand's authenticity.