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Kylie Jenner’s Instagram criticism sparks scramble to fix platform

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By Chris Sutcliffe | Senior reporter

July 26, 2022 | 6 min read

Instagram is pledging to make changes to its algorithms in response to high-profile criticism.

The original post that sparked the controversy about changes to Instagram's feed

The original post that sparked conversation about the changes to Instagram’s feed

Kylie Jenner – the most followed woman on the social media platform – sparked a debate among its users by reposting a statement that asked the platform to “stop trying to be TikTok.”

It followed growing calls from users for the Meta-owned platform to stop prioritizing other types of photos and videos over friends and family content – including the call from Jenner’s sister Kim Kardashian.

Instagram’s parent company Meta is also reprioritizing different content types across Facebook in order to put greater emphasis on higher-value ad formats. It split its newfeed in two, with the newly-named Home tab displaying content that the user might not have been introduced to before. It will also allow users to share Reels and Stories, which it sees as delivering better ad returns.

In response to the criticism Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, posted a message across multiple social platforms explaining some of the changes. Of the changes and trials for future changes, he acknowledged: “It’s not yet good. And we’re going to have to get it to a good place if we’re going to ship it to the rest of Instagram.”

Instagram will want to halt any criticism quickly. When Jenner criticized Snap in 2018 the company’s shares fell by around 6%, costing the company roughly $1.3bn.

Paul Greenwood is head of research and insight at We Are Social. He explains: "Instagram’s push into video content is nothing new. Reels were introduced in August 2020, and the feature’s expansion has been gradually occurring on the app ever since. And you can see why. Video content is thriving. As part of its Q1 2022 earnings, Meta revealed that Reels now make up more than 20% of the time that people spend on Instagram. And despite the significant growth of TikTok, Instagram still boasts the highest frequency of app use - with 39% of the audience opening it daily (11pp higher than TikTok - Global Digital Report Q2 Snapshot Update). These results indicate that the platform’s push toward video is working.

But people are creatures of habit. From updated interfaces to new fonts, when it comes to tech, people often like to stick with what they know. And with Kylie Jenner reposting a Trumpian inspired infographic that read ‘make Instagram Instagram again’, it isn’t surprising that some of the app’s users are calling for a focus on Instagram’s original selling point; photos.

Platform evolution is inevitably essential to keep up with consumer demands and maintain relevance. So the move to video just makes sense. If Instagram were to have rejected video as a key content form, they’d have been missing a trick, losing key content creators, brands and users to TikTok. And remember only 52% of Instagram users are on TikTok (Global Digital Report Q2 Snapshot Update) so half of Instagram users will be surfacing video content on the app and nowhere else."

So what does this mean for marketers? Prepare for change. From the basics - all video content produced for the feed must be 4:5 (which was prev. 1:1) to more strategic thinking. Mosseri has made it clear that Instagram’s move to video content will continue, and the app is no longer just home just to still imagery. If you’ve not got to grips with Reels, now’s the time. Instagram can no longer be thought about as purely a photo-sharing app. Instead, marketers need to adapt their strategy to include both still and video content.

It is a rough time for social media companies in terms of advertising, with Mark Zuckerberg telling investors to brace for a significant slowdown as a result of cooling market activity. Twitter and Snap both delivered Q2 results that fell far short of analyst expectations. As a result, and in the face of increasing competition from TikTok for users’ time, Meta is pivoting its newsfeeds to something it believes will deliver better advertising returns.

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