A humble photo sharing app called “Instagram” (you may have heard of it) was launched in early October 2010 and went on to rack up an unprecedented 25,000 users in a single day. In its first week the app was downloaded 100,000 times and by the middle of December the number had reached an astounding one million.
After the fast rise of the user base, investors became increasingly interested in the company and in February 2011 Benchmark Capital, an Instagram investor, valued the company at $25 million. It was in April 2012 that Social Media giant, Facebook, made an offer to purchase the app for close to $1 billion in cash and stock, and Instagram moved forward with this deal.
The story of Instagram is astounding, and its evolution has been just as astounding. From a simple photo sharing app, to a live streaming platform, to influencer marketing and sponsored ads - Instagram continues to grow. However, the app has certainly made some errors along the way and recently, it may have made its biggest one yet. I mean, when mega-influencer James Charles uses your very own app to call you out publicly, you may have made a mistake...
Reels Leave Influencers Reeling with Anger
Instagram has just rolled out a brand new update that has dramatically altered the layout of the app - and people are not happy.
The new layout has radically changed the apps home page, timeline, and notifications tab, while the posting button has been shifted to the top, right hand side of the navigation bar. Now, in place of where the “new post” button once was, sits a shortcut to Instagram Shopping and Instagram Reels. You are probably asking, what are Instagram Reels? And since when did Instagram focus on e-commerce? Well, you are not alone, just about all Instagram users are wondering the same things.
This new layout completely changes the functionality of the app, and makes it difficult for users to find their notifications and create content for their accounts. Now, users have to return to their home screens in order to access notifications, go live or create posts. What has made everyone angry is the fact that you are able to switch over to Instagram's e-commerce platform as seamlessly as possible, which has drawn attention to the money-making side of the business. Yes, we all knew the app was out to get money, but it’s different when it is in your face all the time. And then comes Instagram Reels - the real failure in all of this.
You see, TikTok has become a social media phenomena and Instagram is doing what it can to compete with the platform - and apparently Reels was its competitive idea. However, this feature has been slammed by journalists, users, influencers - and even the The New York Times. The problem is that Reels does not offer the same amount (or caliber) of editing features that TikTok provides and it mostly consists of videos that were created via TikTok anyway... The TikTok logo is right there in the Reels videos, guys!
When the new layout was launched a loud influencer outcry echoed throughout social media land - with beauty guru and makeup influencer, James Charles, leading the charge. Charles (ironically) took to his Instagram stories to share his frustration with the app - and did not hold back.
Charles angrily stated, “They moved everything around and it makes it very, very clear where their priorities lie, and that is making money and only making money.” He continued, "People are saying that their posts are not being seen, that their 'Explore' page is broken, that their notifications are not going out, that they're not growing, and most importantly that people are not seeing posts on their own timeline from their best friends and family that they press the follow button on," Charles went on to say, "And instead of making those changes and fixing the app Instagram keeps making changes that literally nobody is asking for."
Is this the beginning of the end for Instagram?
The problem is that Instagram is not growing with its users, while at the same time, preventing its users from growing on the platform. Even before the new layout was rolled-out - influencers began to notice a shift in their reach, engagement and impressions. (James Charles had something to say about this too.) The thing is, the app seems to be pushing creators to invest in sponsored ads, whereas before, the algorithm gave creators a chance to trend organically.
Because of the original algorithm, influencers were created overnight, and regular people became Instagram stars in the blink of an eye. Instagram seems to have forgotten that this is why people became so hooked on the app - and now TikTok seems to be the place to turn if you want to become famous, successful or well known in your specific industry. Basically, Instagram wanted to compete with TikTok but seems to have dropped the ball entirely.
However, what is genuinely upsetting about these changes is that so many small businesses solely use the app to reach their audience and the new layout makes it almost impossible for these businesses to gain organic reach.
Angry, rich, privileged YouTuber's and influencer's aside, this change significantly affects small creators and small businesses. And in the time of COVID-19 and financial unbalance, this is an issue that people are not going to take lightly.
Do you think Instagram should be gambling with these changes when new and more advanced social media platforms are being created daily?
Do you think Instagram can come back from this?
Hopefully Instagram can keep up. Or in the words of James Charles' haters it's, "Bye Sister."