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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.

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

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.

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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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. 

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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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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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.

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.

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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Social networking websites launch features to encourage users to get boosters

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Facebook Instagram and TikTok are launching new features to encourage people to get their coronavirus booster jabs.

From Friday, users will be able to update their profiles with frames or stickers to show that they have had their top-up jab or aim to when they become eligible.

It follows on from people previously being able to show they have had their first and second jabs on certain social networking websites and apps.

TikTok also held a “grab a jab” event in London earlier this year.

I urge everyone who is eligible – don’t delay, get your vaccine or top up jab today to protect yourself and your loved ones

More than 16 million booster vaccines have now been given across the UK.

People who are aged 40 and above and received their second dose of their vaccine at least six months ago are currently eligible to have their booster.

A new campaign advert is also being launched on Friday, which shows how Covid-19 can build up in enclosed spaces and how to prevent that from happening.

Vaccines minister Maggie Throup said:  “Getting your booster is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your family this winter.

“It is fantastic to see some of the biggest household names further back the phenomenal vaccine rollout, allowing their users to proudly display that they have played their part in helping us build a wall of defence across the country.

“I urge everyone who is eligible – don’t delay, get your vaccine or top-up jab today to protect yourself and your loved ones.”

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How many hashtags should you use to get the most ‘Likes’ on Instagram?

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Hashtags are a key feature of Instagram posts. In fact, they have become an essential means of ensuring more ‘Likes’ on social media – so long as you choose them wisely.

But how many hashtags should you use to maximise your popularity on the social network? The answer might surprise you.

It’s a question that many Instagram users ask themselves: what’s the right number of hashtags to add to a post? To find out, the Later platform analysed 18 million Instagram posts, excluding videos, Reels and Stories.

Interestingly, Later’s results differ from Instagram’s own recommendations. According to Later’s analysis, using more hashtags helps get better results in terms of “reach”, or the percentage of users exposed to the post. By using 20 hashtags, Later observed an optimal average reach rate of just under 36%. Using 30 hashtags gets the next-best reach rate. With five hashtags, reach hits just under 24%.

And while a post’s reach is important, engagement is even more so. From “Likes” and comments to shares and follows – on average, 30 hashtags appears to result in better engagement rates: “When it comes to average engagement rate, using 30 Instagram hashtags per feed post results in the most likes and comments,” says Later’s research.

Yet, at the end of September 2021, Instagram advised its creators to use between three and five hashtags for their posts, while warning them against using too many. The social network advised that using 10 to 20 hashtags per post “will not help you get additional distribution”.

For Later, there could be other reasons behind Instagram’s recommendations: “As Instagram continues to expand their discoverability and SEO tools, it makes sense that they want users to experiment with fewer, more relevant hashtags – this could help them accurately categorise and recommend your posts in suggested content streams, like the Instagram Reels feed or the updated hashtag search tabs,” the website explains. – AFP Relaxnews

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