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I founded and co-founded a couple of companies: Redington and mallowstreet; I write about issues of the day that touch me and make me think. Mostly about how to make things better.

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The Lesson of Instagram and Type II Relationships

There are two types of relationships; those that take years of time and effort to build and those that do not.

Type I Relationshipsrequire you to invest focused effort and dedicated quality time, and they include your best friend, your family, your best clients and your close work colleagues. In these relationships, you compromise, make sacrifices and invest emotional capital. That’s why it hurts when a great work colleague leaves the firm or your son moves out of the house and goes off to college. Or, that’s why, when you make a mistake, you can call up your client and say “I’m sorry – it won’t happen again.” And because they trust you, they give you a second chance.

Type II Relationshipstake virtually no effort at all and include the guy who sells you your train ticket every morning, the security guard downstairs, or the barista who serves you your mid-morning coffee at Starbucks. Even though she writes your name on the cup, it’s still a Type II Relationship. Sure, you exchange brief pleasantries and a smile of recognition, but that’s about it. If a different person serves you coffee tomorrow, you probably won’t even notice. Same for the train ticket guy. That’s how a Type II Relationship works.


Type II Relationships also include your relationship with any of the myriad online social networking platforms you care to think of – TwitterFacebookLinkedIn or Instagram. At one level, these Type II Relationships are different to the one with the guy at Starbucks. For a start, you would certainly notice if Twitter or Facebook vanished overnight. But that’s not the comparison I am making. The Type II similarity relates to the ease with which you can break the relationship you have with the social media platform.


If it makes an error of judgement, you’re gone. Bye Bye, Farewell. Adios.

Take Instagram – the online photograph-sharing social media platform of global choice. Having enjoyed insane success (insofar as being bought for a billion dollars when there are only 13 employees in a 20 month old firm constitutes success); yesterday, they amended their Terms and Conditions to allow themselves to sell their users’ pictures without their permission:


Turns out that wasn’t such a great idea:



Now it gets interesting. Here is the Founder and CEO, Kevin Systrom, on Dec 5 2012, explaining how Instagram had 25,000 users on its first day and soared to a 100 million users when FB bought the firm.

I honestly do feel that it’s going very, very well…” (Minute 11).

Park that chat. Just two weeks later(!) here are all Instagram’s Type II users reacting in fury to Instagram’s “we’re gonna sell your pictures without your permission”change of Terms.


We’re talking the kind of serious, live and uncut, instant, global backlash that only social media can cook up:


Here’s Joshua:

Here’s Gaurav:

And here’s Dexter:

Here’s the thing. The guys who dreamt up that “smart idea” forgot that Type II Relationships are very easy to make, but (this is the important bit) they are just as easy to break. If you can grow to 25,000 users overnight, you can lose them all again in a day. Same goes for a 100 million Type II relationships.

After the firestorm, and maybe too late in the game, Messrs Systrom and Zuckerberg finally figured out how Type II Relationships work:



But. Once you trash a Type II Relationship, it’s usually hard to win it back again: 

It looks like Kevin Systrom is in for a long week…

One comment on “The Lesson of Instagram and Type II Relationships

  • Anonymous
    February 5, 2015 | 6:49 am

    Even though she writes your name on the cup, it’s still a Type II Relationship. Sure, you exchange brief pleasantries and a smile of recognition, but that’s about it.

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