Instagram has a Kardashian problem

On Monday, Bruening shared a post on the platform calling for “Make Instagram Instagram again.” She told CNN Business that she was rolling the app and felt frustrated by the lack of content she was seeing from accounts she followed after recent updates prioritizing recommended posts and videos from her Reels product.

“I was seeing a post from my friend under three rolls and a recommended post at six days old,” she said. As she put it in her post: “Stop trying to be TikTok, I just want to see cute pictures of my friends.”

Her post exploded. As of Tuesday morning, it had more than 1.7 million likes, thanks in part to shares from two of the platform’s most influential figures: Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner. The famous stepsisters are among the most followed accounts on Instagram, with 360 million and 326 million followers respectively, and their opinions carry great weight in the social media world. A February 2018 tweet by Jenner criticizing a Snapchat redesign was credited with wiping out $1.3 billion from the company’s value in one week.
The attention to Bruening’s post reflects the growing backlash against recent updates to the Instagram platform, which has more than 1 billion users. To combat the competitive threat of TikTok – whose discovery algorithm is seen as its big competitive advantage – Instagram has started showing users a much higher proportion of recommended content from accounts they don’t follow compared to posts from their friends. It has also prioritized video content over the photos it is known for. The platform is testing displaying posts in full screen, as well as TikTok.
The question has undoubtedly been brewing for years. Since 2020, the company has been experimenting with showing users more “suggested posts” in their feeds. Recommended content and ads now make up a significant part of the Instagram feed, which often sorts users into certain categories of content (like recipes or relationship advice) in a way that sometimes seems to disregard whether they actually follow these accounts.
The latest confusion surrounding Instagram comes at a fragile time for parent company Meta. The company is dealing with an aging and stagnant user base on its main Facebook platform, and Instagram is widely seen as its family of apps’ best bet for retaining and growing its younger audience. But Meta, like many older players in the social media world, is facing stiff competition from TikTok and is struggling to gain traction in its attempts to copy it. While Instagram users are slightly more likely to open the app on a daily basis, TikTok users on average spend about 45 more minutes a day on the app than people on Instagram, according to a report by research firm Sensor. Tower for Q2 2022. In a February call with Wall Street analysts, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Instagram Reels “faces a competitor on TikTok that is much bigger, so it’s going to take a while to. ..
At the same time, Meta is counting on profits from Instagram and its other apps to help fund its investment in building a future version of the internet it calls the “metaverse.” And the company, which is due to release second-quarter results on Wednesday, could see a slowdown in ad spending, its core business, amid rising inflation and recession fears.

Meta shares tumbled nearly 3% on Tuesday after mounting backlash from the Kardashians and others.

“The problem for Meta is that nothing is good right now,” said DA Davidson analyst Tom Forte. “Instagram should be the Meta asset to explore, to address the younger market, so it’s only natural to me that they are using Instagram as a way to respond to the competitive threat of TikTok.”

Meta has run this manual before. In 2016, months before Snapchat’s parent company made its Wall Street debut, Instagram copied one of the messaging app’s signature features, Stories. Instagram soon reached more users with its version of the feature than Snapchat. But his efforts to copy TikTok with Reels proved more difficult.

Instagram brings back option for reverse chronological feed
Many have pointed out that the videos on Reels are often just old TikTok videos — sometimes shared weeks after they went viral on TikTok, and occasionally with the TikTok logo still attached. In some cases, users will share a still photo with music as a Reel in an effort to rank higher on the platform. Instagram, meanwhile, has been trying to encourage users to make original Reels, with fundraising programs for creators and featuring them prominently in the feed. The company is now also testing sharing all videos under 15 minutes as reels.
For sure, Instagram is not the only platform that prioritizes videos and recommended content, as it seeks to keep up with TikTok, which last year surpassed 1 billion monthly active users. Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms have also taken steps in this direction.

“The point of view is that this is like the cell phone, which means it’s an evolutionary shift in internet consumption,” Forte said. “What choice does Facebook have? It would be nearly impossible to buy TikTok, which was the old playbook, so now they have to try to innovate.”

For creators like Breuning, who have built their livelihoods on Instagram, the changes seem especially painful given its origins as a photo app that catered to artists and photographers.

“It feels wrong to change the algorithm for creators who have made a living and contributed to the community, forcing them to change their entire content and lifestyle direction to serve a new algorithm,” Bruening wrote in a change.org petition asking to Instagram for “Stop trying to be TikTok!” It received over 150,000 signatures in four days.

Instagram did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. However, Instagram boss Adam Mosseri addressed the criticism in a video post on the platform on Tuesday.

“We’re experiencing a lot of different changes to the app and so we’re hearing a lot of concerns from all of you,” he said, acknowledging the complaints about the move to video and the increase in recommended content. “We will continue to support photos, they are part of our heritage… That said, I have to be honest: I believe that more and more Instagram will become video over time.”

Mosseri continued, “If you look at what people share on Instagram, that’s changing more and more for videos over time. If you look at what people like, consume and see on Instagram, that’s also changing more and more. for videos over time, even if we don’t change anything. So we’ll have to lean on that change as we continue to support photos.”

Mosseri also warned that the full-screen video feature test is “still not good” and has only been rolled out to a small percentage of users. And he pointed to the option Instagram launched earlier this year for users to switch the platform to a chronological feed of posts from just the accounts they follow.

But this explanation was not enough to silence the critics. Some users sounded in the comments about feeling they had no choice but to start making more videos if they wanted the platform’s algorithm to show their content. Others suggested that if the platform became too much like TikTok, they would be inclined to simply choose one of the apps to use rather than both.

“People make VIDEOS because we don’t have reach in our photos!!” Fashion creator Alina Tanasa (@fabmusealina) said in a comment on Mosseri’s video. “As a content creator I need and want every single one and with photos you cut all reach and only promote videos. So it’s not us, it’s you who are changing everything and you’re afraid of TikTok.”

Makeup influencer James Charles, who has nearly 23 million Instagram followers, added in a comment: “I understand that every business needs to evolve, compete and please investors, but Instagram is losing the competition and has lost its identity over the years. way. . ..We are upset that we CARE about this app and the communities we were able to create/join here, but I am genuinely concerned that if something doesn’t change, there will be no more community.”

If there’s a silver lining to Instagram, however, it’s that there are few other photo apps out there, making it easier to criticize Instagram than to leave it, especially for those who have built a life and livelihood on it.

“Me personally,” said Breuning, “I love Instagram and don’t plan on leaving Instagram anytime soon.”

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