If you’ve noticed a change in the way your favorite social media platform works lately, you’re not alone.
Even Kylie Jenner, arguably the world’s most online person, seemed fed up this week when she complained about recent changes to Instagram’s algorithm that prioritizes more short videos from brands and strangers over content from people and businesses that users choose. . continue.
“Make Instagram Instagram again,” Jenner complained to her 360 million followers. “Stop trying to be TikTok. I just want to see cute pictures of my friends. Honestly everyone,” she said in the story, which her sister Kim Kardashian later shared with her own 330 million followers.
For the family that essentially invented the concept of social media influencers to push back against attempts by social media companies to influence what we see, it speaks to how meteoric TikTok’s rise has been.
Founded in 2016, TikTok experienced explosive growth during the pandemic to become the world’s most downloaded app by 2022, amassing billions of users.
It only allows users to share videos and works with brands and influencers to promote products in those videos. This business model is beginning to eat into the profits of more established social media companies.
Financial results point to a changing landscape
Meta Inc., which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, revealed financial results this week that indicate how quickly the social media landscape is changing.
For the first time in its history as a public company, Facebook saw revenue decline in the three months to the end of June. And he expects that trend to continue this quarter.
There is a certain irony in the evolution of these platforms in that Instagram started out as a service that only shared still photos and its huge success resulted in Facebook buying the app. Video then became the latest trend after the introduction of the video messaging app Snapchat, leading to Facebook and Instagram introducing features that allowed users to share short videos.
Instagram’s latest push for more video is just the latest step in that evolution, according to Richard Lachman, director of The Creative School at Metropolitan University of Toronto.
“Facebook and Instagram were seeing reductions in their audience size, so they’re trying to chase where the buzz seems to be,” he said in an interview.
So far, the main weapon in Facebook and Instagram’s arsenals seems to be trying to mimic what TikTok does.
Instagram boss Adam Mosseri explained what the company was doing in a video this week; revealingly, that video was released on TikTok, confirming suspicions that he was “experimenting with a number of different changes to the app.”
👋🏼 There’s a lot going on on Instagram right now.
I wanted to address a few things we’re working on to make Instagram a better experience.
Let me know what you think 👇🏼 pic.twitter.com/x1If5qrCyS
“I need to be honest. I think more and more Instagram will convert to video over time,” he said, acknowledging that many users are upset with the changes. “Still not good,” she admitted bluntly.
The rejection of superusers like Jenner has apparently prompted a rethink, as the company told CBC News in a statement this week that it would “pause” the full-screen test and “temporarily decrease” the number of recommendations users will get from outside of your network.
For its rivals, the lesson from TikTok’s runaway success is that people want more video content. And to the chagrin of some of their users, these rivals are adjusting their business models accordingly to offer more video whether users want it or not.
“The problem with these platforms is that they are based on endless [engagement] growth,” Lachman said. “But ultimately, they’re competing for a limited number of hours [so they] they end up duplicating each other’s characteristics, not always successfully.”
He says trying to be all things to all users sometimes “doesn’t sit so well with users who already know and love the platform.”
Different platforms have different uses.
Marlie Cohen, a Toronto-based fitness and parenting influencer who posts on both platforms under the name Kale & Krunches, says she’s acutely aware of the change, both as a content producer and as a user.
“As a creator, I understand that eyeballs are really on TikTok right now, and that’s because the algorithm is giving us the kind of content that we want to see,” she said in an interview with CBC News.
“I understand that the other apps want to keep up with that and keep our attention on them as well, but as a consumer, I find it extremely frustrating because I go to different platforms for different things.”
Cohen joined Instagram in 2015 and says it quickly became his medium of choice because of the sense of community it could create. By 2017, she had enough of a following that she was able to quit her corporate job and become a full-time content producer.
While her Instagram following has grown to 60,000 followers today, she says she managed to double that number on TikTok in much less time.
Users going back
Because TikTok’s algorithm prioritizes content people respond to regardless of the creator’s following, Cohen says it allows talented creators to find an audience quickly.
But for many Instagram users, the platform’s attempt to mimic TikTok’s success just means they’re being offered content they don’t necessarily want.
On the streets of Toronto this week, many users expressed their disappointment with Instagram’s experimentation.
“It moves away from the original version,” Rachel Wong told CBC News. “I personally like the photos better.”
Taking photos for his Instagram feed in downtown Toronto, Oleh Dehtiarov said he prefers Instagram to TikTok for the same reason.
“I like the visuals better. I don’t mind some video shots, but I feel like if it’s just video, it can get pretty annoying.”
Instagram’s sudden push of videos over photos also increases the demands on content creators, who have to produce higher-quality content to rise above the fray.
That’s where people like Drake Andrews and Kyle Pretzlaff come in.
They are the founders of Kozen Creative, a digital-focused marketing studio that helps people and brands tailor their online presence for a social media audience and create content that stands out on TikTok.
Unlike text or photo-based platforms, they say video has great marketing potential if done right.
“You can show your personality. You can be a little more authentic and connect with the viewer,” Andrews told CBC News in an interview while shooting a video for one of his clients, a barbershop.
“At the end of the day, it will be much more important and impactful.”
The Struggle to Stay Relevant
Andrews says that Instagram’s strategy is necessary for it to remain relevant.
“In any business you are going to have to adapt to what is happening in the market,” he said. “You don’t want to be the Zellers. You don’t want to be MySpace.”
While Andrews acknowledges that the negative user reaction is very real, he doesn’t see the video as a flash and says those who don’t adapt will be left behind.
“It will get old-fashioned and people will treat it more like Facebook, where it’s left to the older generation,” he said of Instagram.
“The younger generation is not going to participate because they already have TikTok and have adopted the platform.”