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“Make Instagram Instagram Again”: What does that mean for brands and influencers?

A wave of complaints is sweeping through the online world and against Instagram. Hence, content creators are outraged by the app's latest updates and are signing the petition "Make Instagram Instagram Again.” But what do the video-first and ads strategies as well as the full-screen feed and the new dark mode mean for influencers and especially for influencer marketing?

Instagram login homepage on a phone screen
Instagram login homepage on a phone screen

A few days ago, Kolsquare already wrote a post about Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri’s reaction to user dissatisfaction on Instagram. In order to keep up with the competition from TikTok in particular, Instagram recently released some updates. However, users and creators are not happy. In his weekly “Ask me anything,” Mosseri justified himself and stressed that the company has a lot of work to do. Continue reading here on our blog “Instagram’s Mosseri: “we’ve got a lot of work to do” on Feed.”

Without question, there are a lot of changes on the erstwhile picture app. In addition to the unpopular Dark Mood and the full-screen mode for the Instagram feed, the video-first and “recommendations” initiatives have been criticized. The latter are posts recommended by Instagram, which are now mixed with content curated by users themselves. According to Mosseri, this should help users discover what they would not have encountered otherwise and, above all, help support small creators.

Mosseri also justified the shifts with the fact that the world is changing and Instagram has to keep up with it in order to remain relevant. The full-screen layout, reminiscent of TikTok, was already sent into the test phase in May 2022 in order to strengthen immersion through short-form videos and to keep users on the platform.

Instagram Reels vs. TikTok

The reason for all the angry and disappointed voices of Instagram users is Instagram’s vehement and thus hardly subtle attempts to compete with TikTok, the Chinese video sharing app. Already with the launch of Instagram Reels in 2020, the Meta-owned platform tried to stay relevant in the trend towards video formats.

As TechCrunch reported, Instagram Reels now account for over 20% of the time users spend on the app. But Genz Z agrees to 87%: Instagram Reels are basically the same as TikTok videos. Even though German influencer Caro Daur was smart enough to remove the TikTok watermark for her Instagram Reels, as the Instagram algorithm does not like it when creators recycle TikTok content on the app, and generally shows different videos, the posts still overlap:

As recently as 2020, Instagram’s director of product Robby Stein told the website The Verge that TikTok deserved credit for popularizing short video formats, but Instagram Reels differed from Tiktok because “at the end of the day, no two products would be exactly alike.” But Instagram is not stopping with adapting its various futures to those of its Chinese counterpart, whether it is the full-format home feed, the use of templates, or randomized recommendations.

If Instagram actually succeeds in outdoing TikTok, it won’t be the first time that one app has managed to take on another. In fact, Instagram has already managed to take advantage of the core features of another social network: The introduction of Instagram Stories and filters sealed Snapchat’s fate.

"Make Instagram Instagram Again"

Following Trump’s election slogan (Make America Great Again), social media influencer and photographer Tati Bruening, aka @illuminati, called to make Instagram what it was once again. The 20-year-old American motivated her followers to sign her petition to “Make Instagram Instagram Again” via her Instagram account on July 23, 2022.

Within days, the petition on counted nearly 300,000 signatures, with Bruening hoping for a total of 500,000. The petition focuses on four key demands: Instagram users want chronological timelines back. By demanding that Instagram stops trying to be like TikTok, they are also asking that the app’s algorithm once again favors photos over videos. Finally, the users hope to be heard: “Listen to the community. Take our thoughts and wishes into account!”

To this end, Mosseri argues in his post that videos have become increasingly popular even without preferential treatment by the app’s algorithm. However, comments on his post contradict him. Creators explain that they are slowly switching to video formats because they are indirectly forced to do so by Instagram due to the loss of reach of their photos.

What Is the Consequence of the Instagram Algorithm Changes for Influencers?

On the last weekend of July this year, however, Mosseri announced that Instagram would withdraw some updates and tests or had already done so. So from now on, there should be no more fullscreen video layout. In addition, the app reduces the recommendation, as Mosseri has interpreted the displeasure to the extent that not enough relevant or inspiring – in short this means just not the right – content was displayed. Until, consequently, the AI has evolved so that Instagram “can be sure that users see only what they really love” the share of “Recommendations” will not increase again.

Mosseri’s response to calls for less video and more images is reserved, as the petition “Make Instagram Instagram Again” says: “There’s no need to overcomplicate things, we just want to see when our friends post, the beauty of Instagram was that it was INSTAntaneous. Back in the dawn of the app we were all living in the moment, seeing our best moments in real time.” Statistics would show that friends already interact and communicate more via Stories than feed posts and at the same time most via DMs, which is why the feed will be optimized for influencers* and their content. Nano- and micro-influencers in particular can hope to improve their reach with the help of the Instagram algorithm.

Mosseri, on the other hand, emphasizes that video is evolving, whether users like it or not. That’s why he wants to improve the video experience while keeping the photo experience intact. Part of the app’s business strategy, after all, would be to continue pushing profiles, favoring smaller ones over the big ones.

Although Instagram has now really responded to its community’s feedback and has furthermore emphasized that reviews and opinions are important to them, it remains clear that Instagram Reels will remain a priority and business will not be neglected. As brands, this means you can now seize the opportunity to collaborate with nano- and micro-influencers and benefit from their push. However, think of your influencer marketing campaigns in terms of video as well!

About Kolsquare

Kolsquare is Europe’s leading Influencer Marketing platform, a data-driven solution that allows brands to scale their KOL Marketing strategies and implement authentic partnerships with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). Kolsquare’s technology enables marketing professionals to easily identify the best Content Creators profiles by filtering their content and audience, and to build and manage their campaigns from A to Z, including measuring results and benchmarking performance against competitors. Kolsquare has built the largest community of influencer marketing experts in the world, and offers hundreds of customers (Coca-Cola, Netflix, Sony Music, Publicis, Sézane, Sephora, El Corte Inglés, Lacoste, …) the latest Big Data, AI and Machine Learning technologies to drive inspiring partnerships, tapping into an exhaustive network covering 100% of  KOLs with more than 5,000 followers in 180 countries on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. As a Benefit Company, Kolsquare has been pioneering Responsible Influence by championing transparency, ethical practices, and meaningful collaborations to inspire change.

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