We’ve been following this soap opera for some time.
Instagram was keenly focused on combating the growth of TikTok and turned to videos, which irked some of its old-school users.
They even said that Instagram would “no longer be a square photo-sharing app” and tested a hideous feed very similar to the Chinese competitor.
And now… it simply backtracked.
Instagram’s CEO, Adam Mosseri, acknowledged that the app overfocused on video in 2022 and will shift its focus back to photos in 2023.
Honestly, I don’t know if I’m glad to hear this, or if I’m just pissed. As a user, I’m actually happy, because it pleases me to use Instagram as a photo-sharing app — a place where I can share glimpses of my daily life through photos and stay updated with my friends, favorite celebrities, creators, and brands.
As a marketer, however, I have to say it’s a little exhausting to keep up with the changing algorithms of a social channel that seems unsure of itself.
But also, it got me curious. Why did Instagram go back on its decision? After all, what can we expect from the app in 2023?
Here are my thoughts.
Photos, videos… and photos again. What happened to Instagram?
If you are an Instagram user, you are aware that the app has been trying to curb the growth of TikTok and keep its users on the platform for a while.
To achieve this, they introduced several features such as Reel templates, 60-second stories, cash bonuses for top creators, and even a TikTok-style app redesign, along with a new algorithm that prioritized videos over other content.
The problem is: these changes not only did not stop TikTok’s growth at all, but also displeased a good amount of users. It was just not working for anyone.
And Adam Mosseri realized that. In a recent Q&A session with users, he acknowledged: “I think we were overfocused on video in 2022 and pushed ranking too far and basically showed too many videos and not enough photos.”
Mosseri stated that Instagram has since worked to restore a more balanced approach and internal metrics indicate that this is working.
“Things like how often someone likes photos versus videos and how often someone comments on photos versus videos are roughly equal, which is a good sign that things are balanced. To the degree that there is more video on Instagram over time, it’s going to be because that’s what’s driving overall engagement more. But photos are always going to be an important part of what we do.”
So… what now? What to expect from Instagram in 2023?
Looking on the bright side, the Instagram CEO’s recognition that the app’s uniqueness lies in its variety of content types in one place is positive news. It will be interesting to see how Instagram content evolves this year, with a greater emphasis on content that is relevant to your brand and audience, rather than relying on trending music for Reels.
However, I have to say that it still feels like Instagram has lost its direction. It remains to be seen whether this change is a step towards more authentic experiences.
Instagram has been too focused on trends and competing with other apps, rather than finding its own niche. It’s actually quite amusing that Instagram is returning to focus on photos after BeReal gained popularity in 2022, while its competitor, Candid Stories, failed to make a significant impact.
If I may give you a piece of advice, and if you haven’t done so already: don’t rely too heavily on Instagram for your marketing strategy. It’s a very risky game to do that with an app that still hasn’t decided what it wants to be.
Then, for now, just dance to the music. We never know when Mosseri might shift the algorithm focus again. Reels? Photos? Carousels? Lives? Who knows?
Keep experimenting with the different formats offered by the app. If your audience is aligned with your content, you will likely see results. Just be aware that the focus of the algorithm could change at any moment, so it’s best to keep an open mind about what direction Instagram might take in the future.
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