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NewsFlashAugust 3, 2022

Instagram Walks Back Product Overhaul Amid Celebrity & Influencer Backlash

August 3, 2022
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Cory Schröder
Senior Content Marketing Manager

For weeks, Instagram has been testing out new changes and features — such as a full-screen version of the app — which have left many users upset. In an effort to compete with rival TikTok, Meta-owned Instagram began releasing updates they thought would keep the platform relevant and cutting-edge.

Instead, it led to backlash from celebrities, high-profile influencers, and regular users, alike.

On Monday, July 25th, two of Instagram’s most powerful users — Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian — called upon the app to “make Instagram Instagram again”. Jenner posted the plea to her Story alongside a linked petition, with text that read:

“Stop trying to be tiktok i just want to see cute photos of my friends.) SINCERELY, EVERYONE ”.

This sentiment resonated with millions of users who are tired of the fact that a majority of the content they see on their feed is coming from accounts they don’t follow — which was further underscored by the fact that the petition currently has 232,803 signatures.

For weeks, Instagram was trialing the concept of increasing the number of “recommended posts” in users’ main feed — aka Reels from accounts a user doesn’t follow. This rubbed users the wrong way, with many pointing out that the “Search” section already fulfills this purpose — recommending posts, videos, and Reels from accounts not followed using the app’s algorithm.

Clearly, having this random content infiltrate their main feed wasn’t appreciated by a majority of users. But for a while, this didn’t seem to sway Instagram in the least. In a video statement, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, responded to criticism by saying:

“I’m hearing a lot of concerns about right now about photos and how we’re shifting to video. Now, I want to be clear, we’re gonna continue to support photos. It’s part of our heritage.”

“That said, I need to be honest: I do believe that more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time. We see this even if we do nothing… So we’re gonna have to lean into that shift.”

However, the pressure didn’t let up — and, to the relief of millions of Instagram users worldwide, it didn’t take too long for the platform to walk back some of its more dramatic changes. This was in large part thanks to the immediate backlash it experienced from big-name celebrities like Jenner and Kardashian.

On Tuesday, July 26th, Mosseri, announced that the app will “eliminate full-screen photos and videos and reduce the number of recommended posts in users’ feeds.” While this may feel like a victory for the 200,000+ signees of the petition and regular users everywhere, in actuality, it’s just proof of the power of influence.

Having everyday users complain about the proposed updates was never going to change Instagram’s mind. As long as it’s making money and not seeing a huge drop in users, it will do as it pleases. But, social media platforms like Instagram are very much beholden to their biggest stars — and the app couldn’t afford to lose the likes of Kylie Jenner or Kim Kardashian.

Just look at the impact Jenner had on Snapchat back in 2018 when she tweeted:

Almost immediately, Snapchat saw its stock drop in value — by 6%, to be exact. This created “an estimated loss of between $1.3 billion and $1.6 billion in market value”. It’s the perfect example of the power of celebrity influencers like Jenner. They’re trendsetters who wield an enormous amount of power — where they go, others follow.

In the case of the latest drama with Instagram, it’s very likely due to the pushback from the app’s top account holders that they took a step back and reassessed. Like many regular users, Jenner and Kardashian want Instagram to retain many of the features that differentiate it from apps like TikTok.

To us, the message is clear: if Instagram thinks it can overtake TikTok by transforming its own platform and keep users happy, they’re sorely mistaken.

At the end of the day, this is a story about the power of influence… or, more specifically, influencers. In 2022, influencers hold tremendous power, and brands would be smart to find ways to effectively tap into that power.

So, if you want to learn more about how to best leverage the power of influencer marketing, then check out our guide.

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Cory Schröder

Senior Content Marketing Manager

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