Insta360 Under Fire: What the Company Did to Lose Trust and How It Hopes to Win it Back

A smartphone displaying a photo of a smiling couple is engulfed in dramatic flames, illustrating a concept of data loss or damage.

Insta360 has been having a tough go of it lately on the public relations front. While the company undoubtedly hoped it would be basking in the afterglow of a successful X4 release, it has instead been mired in controversy concerning its interactions with content creators.

Allegations of Improper Conduct Concerning Sponsored Content

Thanks in large part to YouTube creator Faruk Korkmaz, who goes by iPhonedo, Insta360 has been under a microscope for the past couple of weeks, and it hasn’t been pretty. iPhonedo was a longtime Insta360 partner, and based on information shared by other creators and his personal experiences, he has recently scrutinized Insta360’s recent interactions with content creators.

Allegations include increased toxicity, unfair demands, and perhaps worst of all, claims that Insta360 has asked some creators not to disclose sponsored content — a severe violation of trust and, no less, a crime.

Insta360’s Response One of Regret

For its part, Insta360 has been relatively quiet, even as other creators make videos of their own. This is due at least in part to the company’s Chinese headquarters being on holiday last week. Nonetheless, the company chatted exclusively with PetaPixel over the phone to explain a bit more about allegations being made against the company on social media, where the company has failed to live up to expectations, and what it intends to do differently moving forward.

“Exclusively” is used here because, according to Insta360, nobody else contacted the company with questions about the claims made against it.

It is worth discussing the most significant claim first: that Insta360 asked some creators not to disclose when content was sponsored. This is a substantial violation of trust, and it asks creators, at least those in the United States, to commit a crime.

“The issue about asking creators to mention or not mention sponsored posts, we investigated this internally,” Insta360 tells PetaPixel. “It was an isolated incident that affected a handful of creators, probably less than 15 or so out of 1,500 creators.”

Pushing a bit further, Insta360 admits that the issue was primarily with new hires who were necessary for Insta360 to maintain personal communications with all its creator partners. The company insists on handling these relationships internally and says that with a growing creator network, it needs more employees.

PetaPixel can attest that Insta360 performs all communications internally, which, while not entirely unique, is not necessarily common.

Insta360 X4
Insta360’s new X4 is a genuinely good camera, so the company no doubt hates how the post-launch buzz has been less about the camera and more about the company’s reported missteps.

Insta360 Says Incomplete Documentation and Insufficient Training Caused Problems

Insta360 says the sponsorship issue resulted from incomplete training processes and poor internal documentation, which the company is currently addressing.

“We are taking this extremely seriously and we’re going to make sure that all of our new employees have proper training,” the company says. The revised documentation and training process should take a few weeks to complete.

“This is not a practice the company supports at any level,” Insta360 says of the requests not to disclose sponsored content.

As for how all the bad press is being propagated, Insta360 says it is taking “this incident with these two influencers who are out there spreading information about us very seriously.”

Insta360 explains, “We’re going to implement some new policies” to avoid these sorts of issues.

The company says the ongoing controversy will “help us scale our marketing team and understand how we navigate the world as a bigger company and not just a startup.”

“It’s been really helpful the last week to hear how people are feeling about these things because it is going to give us some learning and it is going to enable us to grow more in the future based on the changes we implement,” the company explains to PetaPixel.

An insta360 ace pro action camera with a leica lens, displayed against a gradient orange and red background. the camera features prominent recording indicators and design elements in red.
Insta360 Ace Pro action camera | Credit: Insta360

Amid Growing Controversies, Insta360 Hopes Its Products Speak for Themselves

“We’re going to continue innovating, we’re going to continue putting out rock solid products that people love, and this cloud of judgment that people are putting in over whether an influencer’s video is fake or if it’s not fake at the end of the day it’s going to take a backseat because we’re not faking anything. The products speak for themselves.”

On the one hand, Insta360 is correct — its products are impressive, although the company is now facing some pressure from GoPro and the United States government concerning patents; add that to the growing list of troubles the company is facing.

“We’re confident that this matter will be resolved in our favor. There will be no impact on current business operations. We remain committed to creating innovative products for the world and helping people capture and share their lives,” the company told PetaPixel in separate communications regarding the patent situation.

As for improving its communication with partners and media, Insta360 says the team has been “all hands” on deck, and the steps it must take to ensure nothing like that happens again will take “a couple of weeks to a month.”

Insta360 may feel like it is drowning right now.

Integrity is of Utmost Importance

Given that PetaPixel has worked with Insta360 before, both in terms of organizing review units for cameras and through sponsored content, it is essential to note that PetaPixel will always follow not only the law concerning labeling sponsored content but go above and beyond to ensure that readers and viewers always know when something is sponsored content.

If a company ever requests otherwise, it will be rejected in no uncertain terms because it is entirely unacceptable for a company to request that sponsored content not be identified as such.

Bringing this back to Insta360, the company made numerous errors in judgment and professional conduct and violated the trust of its partners and customers. The company appears to take responsibility for these missteps and is taking corrective action to prevent similar mistakes.

Ultimately, it will always be down to the consumer to determine what content they trust. It is important to know that some of what is being said about Insta360 is true, albeit in a limited scope.

While the company didn’t directly address iPhonedo’s other accusations of increasing toxicity, it reiterated that it has experienced growing pains and has room to improve its internal guidelines concerning communication with content creator partners in the Insta360 network.

It doesn’t necessarily matter much, but part of what makes Insta360’s mistakes incredibly frustrating to creators is that the company’s products are good — more than good enough to stand on their own merits without any deception.

Due to mistakes on multiple sides, inadvertent and intentional, the line between authentic, honest content and paid advertising has become increasingly blurry on social media platforms. No company, no matter how big or small, gets a pass.

On the other hand, a company is ultimately a collection of people, and all people make mistakes. Time will tell if Insta360 has successfully learned from its errors to come out the other side a better company, but the first step is acceptance, and it seems to have managed to do that.