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Commentary: Instagram has too many influencers and people are getting bored

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SAN FRANCISCO: When did Instagram get so boring? The photo sharing app, once the apple of Facebook’s eye, has spent years rebuffing accusations of toxicity.

But tedium is a painful new problem. The shift poses a threat to Instagram’s money-making abilities just as its owner’s market valuation approaches a trillion dollars. 

It is difficult to know whether Instagram has changed or its users have simply grown up. The millennials who made Instagram into a phenomenon are creeping towards middle age, after all.

Uploading selfies requires time and effort they no longer have to spare. It might even feel embarrassing.

My own feed is rapidly thinning out. Posts from friends are disappearing, replaced by brand campaigns. Influencers, a breed of online celebrity created to flog things to followers, have taken over the app.

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READ: Commentary: Imagine a world with more than one Facebook. Here’s why you can’t

READ: Commentary: The awkwardness of using Instagram as a 50-something

The pandemic seems to have hastened an existing trend. Bragging, the motivation for most Instagram posts, did not sit well with cancelled holidays and shuttered restaurants.

Max Read, the former editor in chief of Gawker, wrote last year that he left Instagram in early 2020 after the app became “unsettlingly boring” in lockdown.

Actress Gal Gadot’s cringeworthy attempt to cheer up the masses by uploading an Instagram video of her famous friends singing did manage to unite the public, but only against everybody involved in the video.

The existential question of what performative social media is for became difficult to answer.

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INSTAGRAM’S DWINDLING APPEAL

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Instagram’s dwindling appeal is reflected in the time that people spend there.

In the UK, 18- to 24-year-olds spent 10 and a half minutes looking at it each day last September. This was down from over 15 minutes the previous year, according to an Ofcom report.

Instagram user phone

(Photo: Unsplash)

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The same group spent over half an hour watching TikToks and over an hour on YouTube.

Every social media platform cedes power to rivals over time. But for years, Instagram has defined the sector.

Launched in 2010 by Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom, its main selling point was its photo filters. All of a sudden, flawless images were available to anyone with a smartphone.

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The app gained a reputation for positivity too: It provided a refuge from the sniping and arguments on Facebook and Twitter.

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READ: Commentary: Trump is coming back on social media – with a platform of his own

By summer 2018, it had over 1 billion monthly active users, making Facebook’s US$1 billion purchase six years earlier look like a bargain. Its success was so all encompassing that it bred internal resentment at Facebook, according to Wired magazine. 

Over time, however, Instagram’s manufactured perfection warped into something that could be more harmful. It became notorious for encouraging feelings of inadequacy in its users.

Mark Zuckerberg likes to say that connection is at the heart of all Facebook products, but the real drive is attention. Instagram users turned their cameras on themselves, uploading an unprecedented number of self-portraits.

The ubiquity of filtered selfies led to a rise in plastic surgery procedures in pursuit of the so-called Instagram face. 

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In retrospect, 2018 may have been the app’s high point. That same year, Instagram’s founders left Facebook, unable to agree about its future. Facebook took the opportunity to clutter the app up with more video and shopping links, all with an eye to monetisation.

Facebook Instagram logo

(Photo: AFP/Kirill Kudryavtsev)

Instagram’s minimalist design has been replaced by a grab-bag that looks more like Facebook’s own app. It has not provided an update on user numbers in three years, suggesting growth has been slowing. 

READ: Commentary: Instagram is now 10 years old. It has changed us profoundly

BREWING BACKLASH AGAINST INSTAGRAM

Meanwhile, a backlash to the perfection that the app peddles has been brewing. There is a trend on short video app TikTok to show a seemingly artless photo uploaded to Instagram and then reveal the real story behind it.

The apparently casual image took 20 attempts. The water in the lake was polluted. The private jet never left the airport. It turns out that the rest of the world is not, in fact, having a better, more special, more colour-saturated time than you. 

Perhaps the cracks began to show in January 2019, when a photo of an egg overtook Kylie Jenner as the most-liked Instagram post. The campaign was a deliberate bit of mischief-making from users.

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READ: Commentary: What you get if you drink the Kool-Aid of social media marketing

That same year, TikTok took off in the US, full of irreverent jokes and a younger cohort of creators. Instagram’s Reels equivalent has so far failed to dent TikTok’s success.

Instagram must hope that its user base is big enough to avoid MySpace-style irrelevance.

Facebook has shown that it is skilled in extracting more revenue from the same pool of users even as its cultural impact dwindles. User growth in the US and Canada has stalled, but Facebook’s average revenue per user jumped nearly a fifth last year.

It is going to need to perform the same trick again with Instagram. If not, user boredom will start to hit the company’s bottom line. 

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LinkedIn Makes its 20 Most Popular LinkedIn Learning Courses Freely Available Throughout August

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Looking to up your skills for a job change or career advancement in the second half of the year?

This will help – today, LinkedIn has published its listing of the 20 most popular LinkedIn Learning courses over the first half of 2022. In addition to this, LinkedIn’s also making each of these courses free to access till the end of the month – so now may well be the best time to jump in and brush up on the latest, rising skills in your industry.

As per LinkedIn:

As the Great Reshuffle slows and the job market cools, professionals are getting more serious about skill building. The pandemic accelerated change across industries, and as a result, skills to do a job today have changed even compared to a few years ago. Professionals are responding by learning new skills to future-proof their careers and meet the moment.” 

LinkedIn says that over seven million people have undertaken these 20 courses this year, covering everything from improved communication, project management, coding, strategic thinking and more.

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Here are the top 20 LinkedIn Learning courses right now, which you can access via the relevant links:

  1. Goal Setting: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) with Jessie Withers
  2. Excel Essential Training (Office 365/Microsoft 365) with Dennis Taylor
  3. Interpersonal Communication with Dorie Clark
  4. Cultivating a Growth Mindset with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  5. Project Management Foundations with Bonnie Biafore
  6. Using Questions to Foster Critical Thinking and Curiosity with Joshua Miller
  7. Essentials of Team Collaboration with Dana Brownlee
  8. Unconscious Bias with Stacey Gordon
  9. Learning Python with Joe Marini
  10. Communicating with Confidence with Jeff Ansell
  11.  Speaking Confidently and Effectively with Pete Mockaitis
  12. Learning the OWASP Top 10 with Caroline Wong
  13. Power BI Essential Training with Gini von Courter
  14. Strategic Thinking with Dorie Clark
  15. SQL Essential Training with Bill Weinman
  16. Developing Your Emotional Intelligence with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  17. Communication Foundations with Brenda Bailey-Hughes and Tatiana Kolovou
  18. Agile Foundations with Doug Rose
  19. Digital Marketing Foundations with Brad Batesole
  20. Critical Thinking with Mike Figliuolo
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If you’ve been thinking about upskilling, now may be the time – or maybe it’s just worth taking some of the programming courses, for example, so that you have a better understanding of how to communicate between departments on projects.

Or you could take an Agile course. If, you know, you don’t trust your own management ability.

The courses are available for free till August 31st via the above links.

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Instagram Is Rolling Out Reels Replies, And Will Be Testing A New Feature Which Informs …

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Instagram has added a few more social features to the platform, with Reels Replies being rolled out. Along with the Replies, anew feature is being tested that shows when two users are active together in the same chat.

Reels has been performing much better than perhaps even Instagram ever anticipated. The TikTok-inspired new video format (which officially claims to have absolutely no relation to the former) had some trouble really finding its footing initially. However, Reels has grown massively and while it may not be a source of the most direct competition to TikTok, it is indeed a worthy alternative.

Reels has grown to the point that it has a massive creator program attached to it, and the video format has even been migrated to Facebook with the goal of generating further user interest there. Naturally, with such a successful virtual goldmine on its hands, Instagram has been hard at work developing new features and interface updates for Reels, integrating it more and more seamlessly into the rest of the social media platform. Features such as Reels Replies are a major part of such attempts at integration.

Reels Visual Replies are essentially just what they sound like: A Reel that is being used to reply to someone. It’s a feature that’s been seen frequently across TikTok as well. Reel Replies essentially take a user’s comments, and reply to them in video format. The comment will then show up within the Reel itself as a text-box, taking up some amount of space, and showing both the user who issued said comment along with the text. The text-box is apparently adjustable, with users having the ability to move it around and change its size depending on where it obstructs one’s Reel the least.

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Overall, it’s a fun addition to the Reels format, even if the credit should be going to TikTok first. At any rate, it’s an example of Instagram really utilizing Reels’ social media capabilities, outside of just serving it up as a form of entertainment.

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Speaking of social media capabilities, a new feature might help alleviate one of the most common frustrations encountered across all such platforms. Isn’t it annoying when you see that a friend’s online, but isn’t replying to your chat? Sure, they’ve probably just put their phone down to run a quick errand, but there’s no way for you to know, right? Well, there sort of is now! Instagram is beta testing a new feature via which if both users are active within a chat, the platform will display that accordingly. It’s a work-around, sure, and one that’s currently being tested for usefulness, but it’s still a very nice, and even fresh, addition to the social media game.

Now, the active status will only appear when you are both active at the same time.#Instagram #instgramnewfeature@MattNavarra @instagram @alex193a pic.twitter.com/2chGZP9hr4

— Yash Joshi  (@MeYashjoshi) December 10, 2021

Read next: Instagram Plans On Allowing Users To Return To Its Old Chronologically Sorted News Feed

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5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android

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Alright, we get it. You’re an Instagram Nostradamus.

You know exactly what you want to post and when you’re gonna want to post it. Maybe there’s a meme or comment you want to make that you know will be totally relevant for a future moment or event. Or it could be that you’re an influencer and you want to make sure you keep a steady stream of content coming, so you want to schedule posts for times when you know you won’t be active (or won’t have internet access).

You’ll be happy to know there are apps that are specialized for just such situations. So listen up, InstaNostradamuses…Instagrostra…Instadam…Insta…uh…you guys (we’ll workshop it. No we won’t. We’ll probably just abandon that effort completely. You’re welcome) — these are the Instagram-post-scheduling apps for you.

While all of the iPhone apps below are free to download, they all have some in-app purchases.

1. Planoly

PLANOLY

We’ll start with “official partner” of Instagram, itself, Planoly — an Instaplanner that uses a grid to let you plan, schedule, and publish posts (as well as Reels) on Instagram. The app also lets you see post metrics and analytics so you can make sure your post didn’t flop.

Planoly is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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2. Buffer

BufferCredit: buffer / app store

Buffer is another Instagram post scheduler that helps you plan your posts and analyze feedback once they’re published. Use a calendar view to drag and drop posts into days/time slots for easy scheduling.

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Buffer is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

3. Preview

PreviewCredit: preview / app store

Preview offers typical post-scheduling tools and analytics along with a few helpful extras. Get caption ideas, recommendations for hashtags, and more.

Preview is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

4. Content Office

Content OfficeCredit: content office / app store

An Instagram post scheduler with a visual boost, Content Office allows users to plan and schedule Instagram posts while learning “marketing and visual guides to grow your brand on Instagram.” Like aesthetics and using visuals to create cohesive themes? Maybe this is the Instaplanner for you.

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Content Office is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.

5. Plann

PlannCredit: plann / apple store

You’ll never guess what “Plann” lets you do…

Aside from scheduling posts, get content ideas and recommendations, as well as strategy tips to ensure you’re maximizing your Instagram engagement. Ever wonder when the best time to post something is? Plann can offer you some help with that.

Plann is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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