Instagram Is Making Big Changes, Should Startups Stick Around?
Isadora Teich wrote this article
In our posts, we often explore big changes in the world of tech, apps, and social media. Social media is a big way that start-ups can market themselves. However, for many entrepreneurs, this can feel more like a minefield than a golden opportunity.
One big reason is that these platforms are changing all the time. Social media companies, like all large corporate businesses, are pressured to grow their revenue forever.
They have to do this regardless of how that affects users or customers. This has led Facebook-owned Instagram to consider some controversial moves. This includes things like creating an entire Instagram platform for kids and the current decision to no longer be a photo-based app.
Let’s take a look at why this is happening and what it means for startups looking to strategically leverage the power of social media.
This summer Instagram head, Adam Mosseri, took to social media to announce that Instagram will no longer be a photo-focused app. He said that after seeing the success of YouTube and TikTok, Instagram wants to get in on it by focusing on video.
This really plays into something we have explored a few times in these posts, the incredibly scientific “social media mush theory.” Essentially, it seems that, over time, all social media platforms copy each other to try and replicate their success. Eventually, they may be somewhat indistinguishable.
Instagram will be doing a range of experiments, including offering full-screen options for video and finding new ways to use algorithms to suggest content to users. While it is largely unclear how exactly Instagram will do this, one thing is clear.
They want to be considered an algorithm-based entertainment app, and not just a place to post and share photos.
Why These Changes?
According to Moseri: “Let’s be honest, there’s some really serious competition right now. TikTok is huge, YouTube is even bigger and there are a lot of other upstarts as well.” According to him, in order to stay relevant and compete, big changes are necessary.
Instagram reiterates this message every time they make big changes.
However, historically, almost every change Instagram makes is almost universally hated. They claim they need to make changes to stay competitive, but numbers show they may have actually hampered their growth over time.
For example, they switched from a reverse-chronological feed to an algorithm-based feed years ago. While they claim that this benefits users, no one seems to agree. You can find popular articles dating back years telling people how to work around it.
Last year, influencer Jackie Aina even released a tutorial on how to fix your social media algorithm. Whether you agree or not, the general consensus is that most social media companies have churned out toxic and unenjoyable products that hamper businesses.
Many feel that they have to fight against their algorithms to enjoy them or market with them.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
Common complaints against Instagram are that it breeds toxicity and the algorithm feeds people constant advertisements. I just looked at the last 10 posts on my feed, and 3 of them are sponsored posts from people I don’t follow.
Also, Instagram keeps piling on extra functions to try and make it “competitive.” Many users say that all of their shopping and video features just make the app feel bloated and confusing.
We have already entered an era where sites regularly churn out articles wondering if Instagram is dying. Despite being one of the most popular apps of the last 10 years and the app responsible for the rise of influencers and influencer marketing, it has been in decline since 2019.
Organic reach seems to drop by the month, causing even people who have used the app for years for their business to want to move to other platforms.
No one wants to pay Facebook high fees in order to have their own followers see their posts. Instagram is also simply not cool to younger kids. While Instagram does have a vast global audience, it is largely comprised of millennials.
Experts speculate that by 2025 it will be losing users every year.
Essentially, Instagram knows that is it in a rough spot. It is not growing like it used to. So, if it wants to keep making a profit, it has to extract as much money as possible from its current users. As this becomes more and more obvious, people enjoy using it less and less.
Is Instagram A Worthwhile Investment For Startups Today?
This depends a lot more on your product or business than Instagram itself.
The wild west days of massive growth are likely over for the app.
However, it is still an app with a powerful presence in the social media world. If, as a business, you want to reach a global millennial audience, it is more than worthwhile to be on Instagram. Currently, there are only 6 social networks that have over a billion users and Instagram is one of them.
In fact, it is expected that over 50 million new users will take up Instagram by the end of 2021. While this is not the massive and impressive growth of years past, 50 million new users in only 6 months is far from something to sneeze at.
All of the people insisting that Instagram is casket-ready today are being a little bit extreme.
Coolness Isn’t Everything
It is also important to note that things go in and out of coolness and gain and lose buzz all the time.
However, just because something isn’t super trendy doesn’t mean that it’s a poor investment.
For example, despite Snapchat’s steady global growth over the last few years, people still talk about it like it’s a social media ghost town. Coolness or lack-there-of doesn’t always translate directly into data points.
Very often, public opinion is not based on facts.
Is TikTok the cool new thing right now? Yes. Will it always be? No. Remember when Facebook and Instagram used to be cool? Lots of even the coolest or most popular platforms don’t stand the test of time. In the last 15 years or so we have seen the rise and fall of sites like MySpace, Tumblr, and Vine.
In most cases, the platforms that do survive don’t maintain their initial coolness. It is almost guaranteed that the generation after Gen-Z will think that TikTok is lame and some other platform is cool. Unless your target market is Gen-Z alone, their tastes should not dictate your entire marketing strategy.
So, if your business already has an Instagram, should you keep it? And if you don’t have one yet, should you start one?
These changes should not surprise users. Initially, when Instagram released Reels to “compete with TikTok,” they were massively unpopular.
In fact, Instagram had to do certain things to basically force users to get into them. This included changing the entire layout of the app and seemingly prioritizing pushing out Reels content over photos.
If your business already has an active community on Instagram, do not abandon it. So what if Instagram makes unpopular decisions, its heyday has passed, and kids don’t like it? If it’s already working for you, don’t worry about it. However, if you notice it stops working for you in the future, be open to change.
However, if you want to grow your audience, go viral, or court a younger demographic, it would be very difficult to do that on Instagram. Instagram simply does not offer the massive growth and engagement opportunities that it used to. However, that doesn’t mean it offers absolutely nothing.
If you are brand new, don’t panic. Remember this: algorithm shifts aside, a solid social media marketing strategy is critical to getting your name out there and making connections.
Think about the kind of content you want to make, who you want to reach, and how much time or money you want to invest. Especially if you are doing everything yourself, you will have very limited resources to invest in social media marketing.
Check out our blog post on social media marketing tips for startups before you dive in!
About ChopDawg.com: Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.
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