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Is Instagram Really “Dying”?
With the addition of multiple new features and its plan to move away from being a simple photo sharing app, many users believe that Instagram is losing sight of its identity, and why users liked the app in the first place.
Image courtesy of Getty Images.
By Bessie Liu
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4 minute read

Instagram has been pivotal in shaping the creator economy.

When the app was first launched in October 2010, it was a space for users to share daily photos of their lives but after its acquisition by Meta (then Facebook) in 2012, the platform shifted into a space for individuals to post heavily filtered images of landscapes and people.

The popularity of Instagram inspired many users to achieve certain aesthetics and looks, later coined “the instagram face.” During this time, the app also introduced instant messaging and included features such as Stories, Instagram Shop, IGTV and now Reels.

With the addition of multiple new features and its plan to move away from being a simple photo sharing app, many users believe that Instagram is losing sight of its identity, and why users liked the app in the first place.

Plans to become the biggest entertainment platform

Over the past several years, Instagram has been focused on moving away from simply being a photo-sharing app. In June 2021, Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, posted on his Instagram and Twitter accounts about how the company was planning to move into becoming an entertainment and video platform. Since then, the app has actively prioritized its video-sharing features including stories, IGTV and Reels.

This decision was most likely driven by the success of the app’s biggest competitors, TikTok and YouTube. Piper Sandler’s Spring 2022 survey that interviewed more than 7,000 teenagers in the United States shows that TikTok is the most popular social media platform, above both Snapchat and Instagram, which rank second and third respectively, and daily video consumption is dominated by Netflix and YouTube.

In an attempt to drive existing content creators from Instagram to create more video-focused content, Meta (Instagram’s parent company) has promised that by the end of 2022, it will invest over $1 billion in programs to support content creators who post on IGTV, Instagram Live and Reels.

But this incentive doesn’t seem to be enough to keep Instagram top of mind for content creators. Instagram is also falling behind TikTok in terms of favorite apps used by content creators. A 2021 creator economy report shows that most influencers prefer to use TikTok to create content, with Instagram and YouTube coming in second and third, respectively.

Instagram shops in a time focused on “authenticity”

Instagram wants its users to use its app for shopping and it is actively providing monetary incentives for influencers to sell products on the app. It recently launched a native affiliate tool that shares a 5 to 25% commission with influencers who manage to convince users to buy products through their accounts on Instagram.

But many users have voiced their concerns about Instagram’s push to become a shopping destination, moving away from being a photo sharing platform and becoming just another app that exists for the money.

This also comes at a time when “photo dumps” are becoming more common. Gone are the days of perfectly curated, filtered images, as the pandemic shifted perceptions of online media presence to favor more “authentic” content. For many users, Instagram was previously a space where people would showcase the best version of themselves but the new trend has allowed them to share isolated moments of beauty. Photo dumping has been widely adopted by celebrities as well, including the likes of Bella Hadid and Rihanna.

The push for authenticity may also be a reason why TikTok is gaining popularity. Users often find themselves part of a wider community beyond brand advertisements. One company that has gained popularity through the platform is Duolingo – which currently has 3.9M followers on TikTok. The social media manager of Duolingo is known for posting “unhinged” content on the app, humanizing the brand and entertaining its audience.

In a time where being relatable is a big priority, Instagram’s push toward being the number one shopping and entertainment platform may leave a sour taste with its users, especially when compared to its competitors.

Despite all this, Instagram is still attracting an estimated 2 billion monthly active users and the number of Instagram users is still on the rise. Therefore, it is undeniable that Instagram still has an incredible influence on the day to day lives of many people, and for now, it does not seem to be going anywhere.

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