Is Instagram still in the throes of an identity crisis?

When Instagram was first founded back in 2010, its focus was almost entirely on allowing users to share, tag, and comment on images.

And when it started getting more popular post-2012, users were taken in with the relatively easy breezy nature of the platform. They loved being able to endlessly scroll through photographs and graphics without having to read big, chunky captions.

In fact, Instagram delivered a welcome departure from the text-based, politically charged forums on Facebook, and the super-speed feeds of Twitter. Here, you were much more likely to see photos of post-night-out fry-ups and lavish Ferraris than get bombarded with everyone’s opinions 24/7.   

So, what changed?

Since Instagram was purchased by Facebook, many have noticed a distinct shift away from photos and towards video and shopping features. Professional creators are finding that their image-based content is failing to get the views that they’re used to, especially now that Instagram’s algorithm seems to favour Reels (those Tik-Tok style short videos I became a little obsessed with not so long ago…!)

Mark Zuckerberg has been well-known over the years to either purchase or rip off his rivals. He’s the kind of creating features that drive away the competition and bring people back to his platforms. This was proven when the Stories feature was added to Instagram as a way to steer people away from using Snapchat by giving them the benefit of being able to create content that is only visible for 24 hours. This function was hugely popular with Instagram users, with many using this far more frequently than posting on their grid as a way to connect with their audience in a less curated and more authentic way.

How has this affected the way people engage with Instagram?

While some of the new features have been popular with users, the move away from image-only posts has driven many away from the platform - especially those who use it for business. Video works – but as I know better than anyone, creating video content can take up a huge amount of time!

For content creators who already had hundreds of thousands of followers, the change in algorithm has had a huge impact on their ability to actually make money from Instagram as a business platform. It’s steered them in a different direction. After all, why would they stick with an app that’s just not getting them the return on investment they need (and deserve)?

Is Instagram the only site that’s losing its identity?

Instagram isn’t the only site that’s kind of losing sight of what made it stand out from the rest in the first place. Nowadays, it’s pretty obvious that almost all platforms are copying each other in some way, only slightly altering their USP to try and gain a bigger share of the social media market. 

For example, the concept of creating content that is automatically deleted after a certain amount of time was coined by Snapchat. But this is a feature that is now available across a whole range of platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

You could argue that providing users with new features helps to keep a platform fresh and interesting for their users – but do we really want a world where these sites become jacks of all features, and masters of none?

Surely the whole point is that these networks are different enough from each other to provide unique experiences? And that we, as users, can choose to use the platforms that we align with the most, without being bombarded with ‘extras’ that we didn’t ask for in the first place?

What do you reckon? Are you happy that Instagram has become packed full of cool new tools, or do you think it’s diluted its offering by trying to be everything to everyone? I’d love to hear your thoughts, as this is always such a hot topic among my clients!


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