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Why did Instagram give up on platform changes?

Amanda Schneider
July 29, 2022 – 11:33 am

After numerous complaints, Instagram announced this Thursday, the 28th, that it will revert to some upgrades that have made users unhappy in recent weeks. A test version that has been running with some users since May, which left the app’s feed full-screen, like on TikTok, will be disabled in the coming weeks. The social network will also temporarily reduce the number of recommended posts in the main feed, that is, those from profiles that users do not follow.

The announcement of the abandonment of platform changes was made by Adam Mosseri, CEO of Instagram, in an interview for the Platformer newsletter. To Medium and messageA spokesperson for Meta, which owns Instagram, said: “We understand that changes to the app require adaptation, and while we believe Instagram must evolve as the world changes, we want to take the time to make sure this is done in the best possible way.” “

The withdrawal comes amid growing user frustration over the platform’s changes to become more and more similar to its current main competitor, the growing TikTok. According to the Business of Apps report, in 2021, TikTok’s revenue grew 142% year-over-year, reaching $4.6 billion.

However, it is not only casual users who are dissatisfied with the platform. Content creators who work with social networks also publicly expressed their dissatisfaction.

In addition to changes to the feed format and recommendations, Instagram’s algorithm recently prioritized the reach of Reels, another format inspired by TikTok’s short videos. The platform has ceased to be a photo social network, which was its essence, and is increasingly becoming a video social network.

This change from photos to videos also caused dissatisfaction among creators not only in Brazil, but also worldwide. Last Monday, the 25th, influencer sisters Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian shared a post that had a link to a petition to get the social network back to the way it was. “Make Instagram Instagram again. Stop trying to be TikTok, I just want to see cute pictures of my friends. Sincerely, everyone,” the post reads. As a reminder, Kim has 326 million followers on the platform, and Kylie has 361 million.

In response to the complaints, the CEO of Instagram Adam Mosseri himself went public and commented on the changes. Emphasizing that the social network will continue to support photos, he said he believes “more and more content on Instagram will eventually become video.” According to Mosseri, this happens because people generally share, like and consume more videos on the platform.

In the same post, on Tuesday the 26th, the CEO said that the full-screen feed is being tested with a small percentage of users, but that the new interface is still not good enough. “I also want to be clear, we’re not quite there yet and we’re going to have to score well if we want to bring this experience to the rest of the Instagram community,” he said.

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Finally, Mosseri commented on the recommendations in the Feed in the post. According to him, the idea of ​​recommendations is to help users discover new and interesting things on Instagram. “Now, if you see recommendations in your Feed that you’re not interested in, that means we’re doing a bad job at ranking and we need to improve.”

In the first months of this year, the platform created two more feed options, in addition to the one with recommendations: the Favorites feed, which allows you to select up to 50 profiles as favorites that are displayed in chronological order, and the Following feed, which continues the scheme of the early years of Instagram, whose posts appear chronologically. respectively and only from people the user follows.

It is worth recalling that a few days later, this Thursday, the 28th, the platform canceled the implementation of these changes. “I’m glad we took the risk – if we don’t make mistakes from time to time, we’re not thinking big enough or bold enough,” the CEO said about testing the full-screen feed in an interview with the Platformer newsletter. “But we definitely have to take a big step back and regroup,” he said.

As for video, Mosseri said this shift in focus has been visible for some time, even before the rise of TikTok, its current competitor. Despite this, the CEO admitted that Instagram’s tests in this direction have yet to succeed. To Medium and message, a spokesperson for Meta confirmed that Reels is the fastest growing format on Instagram, accounting for 20% of the time people spend on the platform today. “This does not mean that other formats, such as photos, are no longer relevant or will no longer be integrated into the app, but it shows that Instagram is a different platform today than when it launched and that it has evolved over time. with the most diverse possibilities and formats”, he added.

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Impact on creators

All these changes on the platform, which happen almost daily, end up directly affecting the work of content creators. Ana Paula Passarelli, founder and COO of Brunch, explains that this is because the business model of content creators has changed, from a blog, a place controlled by the “blogger” himself, to a social platform, a place controlled by a publishing company, technology.

“The content is no longer yours. Therefore, you also give up the management model, because this management is given by the algorithm”, he points out. Also, according to her, there is no commercial arrangement that can be effective for both parties: the creators and the platform, which is why this dissatisfaction of the creators occurs.

Nathan Araújo, founder of Nana Rude, a fun Instagram profile, who believes that these changes in the algorithm are quite widespread, agrees with Ana Paulo. “As we’re using a platform that’s not ours, we’re always subject to these tests that they do. It is such a great search for improvement that at one point it becomes very bad”, he adds.

Both Ana Paula and Flávio Santos, CEO of MField, understand that Instagram’s move to a more video-heavy social network is in line with what’s being consumed most today. “Instagram may have realized in this moment of social isolation that people demand the platform to be a platform for entertainment, much more than a photo album. And to be an entertainment platform, you have to retain those people, and there’s nothing better to retain than video.”

“We are increasingly affected by fragmented content, for example, podcast clips,” points out Bruncha’s COO. But Ana Paula warns that you have to be careful, both as a creator and as a brand, not to communicate only through fragments, because that way your audience ends up not understanding your brand building.

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For Thiago Cavalcante, influencer marketing expert, founder and CSO of Inflr, this change, which began showing more recommendations in the feed earlier this year, limited an already crowded space, ultimately reducing engagement and reach creator. On the other hand, he emphasizes that social networks need to be updated and that creators must reinvent themselves in order to remain relevant. “A person needs to start deciphering within that universe what works and what doesn’t,” he adds. – That’s normal, you have to adapt.

Brunch’s COO agrees that the updates are needed, but stresses that the main cause of this dissatisfaction with the changes is not the changes themselves, but the lack of information about them. “The lack of that information on platforms with creators is what ultimately generates dissatisfaction,” he emphasizes. “You are holding the creator as a hostage within the negotiations”.

This whole adjustment situation has worsened the mental health of influencers, who are increasingly facing crises of anxiety and stress. Last year, Brunch, in partnership with YouPix, did research that showed that Brazilian influencers are “algorithmically dependent”, that is, they do not have their own house, but depend on the algorithms of social platforms. “That lack of control is exactly what creates these levels of anxiety in the creator,” says Ana Paula.

The founder of the site, Nana Rude, who understands this reality, gives advice on how not to suffer so much because of the numbers on the platform. “Specialize in something and believe in your content, and within your content try to look for solutions to bypass this algorithm,” he emphasizes. “You have to believe in your content and know that numbers don’t define you”. Santos, CEO of MField, confirms this thought. “I always say that we cannot be held hostage by the algorithm. The platform will understand the volume and format of your content and deliver the right quality. It is very important to understand that everyone has their own moment, format and conversation with their community”, he adds.

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It’s not the end

Despite all the criticism of the platform, according to experts this is definitely not the end of Instagram, not least because According to Comscore research, the social network is still the leader in engagement on digital platforms. “It is very difficult for people to let go. Everyone complains, they understand that it’s an addiction, but I understand that platforms are in cycles, they adapt,” Santos points out.

Cavalcante, expert in influencer marketing, founder and CSO of Inflr, believes that Instagram will be the leader in cross-platform engagement for a long time, mostly thanks to the innovative thinking of Mark Zuckerberg. Even this week, when Meta released its quarterly results, which indicated a slight decline in total and advertising revenue compared to the second quarter of 2021. Zuckerberg has defended Meta’s big changes in recent years, such as a pivot toward the metaverse and a reorganization of its social networking apps to compete with TikTok.. “We are confident that Reels will increase overall engagement and eventually monetize like Feed,” Zuckerberg explained in a call with analysts.

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