A new year, another tech article labeling Instagram a dying platform. Except this time, I’m finding it harder to disagree.
First things first: No, businesses do not need to desert Instagram. Just as they may find it fruitful to continue their efforts on Facebook, even though most young people (and perhaps those not so young) wouldn’t be caught dead on it.
But this latest piece from Mashable, “Instagram Is Currently In Its Flop Era,” may drive you to consider what your youngest potential customers are doing with their time on social media, and how they’re feeling about their platform options.
The article begins by comparing recent Instagram trend, the “photo dump,” to Facebook photo albums, and, boy, did that hit home. I remember painstakingly curating albums on Facebook, be they of college shenanigans or family vacations, and engaging with followers who liked or commented on the pics. (Yes, people actually used to look through these 100-plus picture albums, if you can believe it!) Reminiscing on this is where I really start to feel my age. Despite my years working in social media, it’s time to relinquish the notion that I’m a young, hip user—it’s a Gen Z world, and we’re all just re-sharing memes in it (I have since opened an account on TikTok).
The bulk of the piece discusses the way young users share on Instagram, a departure from the highly polished, carefully curated grids from 2017. Instead, the idea of a “casual post” shows life as it is lived—no more agonizing over looking perfect, living life too fully to nail down the perfect shot. The idea is to promote more realness on the app, but, as the article argues, “posting casually on Instagram is more curated than people think.” (See also: the no-makeup makeup look, which, in reality, is way more makeup than people would ever think.)
The point: Instagram is maybe losing sight of what it is, or, perhaps its users are losing sight of what they’re still doing there.
As if proof that Instagram really is slowly dying, the author cites two surveys: one, in 2021, in which 22% of teenagers named Instagram their favorite social media platform; the other, in 2015, when Instagram was the favorite of 33%. Those numbers are not insignificant.
And so I think it’s finally time to admit that Instagram really is dying, at least in some sense. It’s evident in the way it’s so desperate to evolve, so eager to claim those audiences doing their thing on platforms such as TikTok or even YouTube. Unless Instagram can reverse course and be what it needs to be (a place for photos, who would have thought?), to provide an alternate experience for people, it’s going to lose steam.
“Instagram wants to do everything—become a destination where users create and watch short-form video content; shop for things they don’t really need but definitely want; and share snippets of their lives in Stories—but it’s losing sight of why young users liked it in the first place: It’s a destination to curate your own aesthetic and, therefore, your identity,” the article reads, aptly. “The influx of photo dumps and the desperate attempts by Instagram to stay cool are the writing on the wall that the platform is on its way out as a social media platform for young people.”
So—abandon Instagram? Well, certainly not. Because here’s the thing: With all of the money going into making the platform a shoppable experience, it’s still the best place an independent business can be right now, and the audience with the current highest spending power is there with you. But—and this is a big but—that will change. Maybe millennials like myself won’t leave it (honestly, in the same vein that our parents can’t seem to get off Facebook: We know it, we like it, and we haven’t invested the time on new apps yet—so why would we leave?). And that’s a big win if you can get your product in front of us, to be purchased at the click of a button.
But my generation isn’t the only one looking to buy jewelry, and, with time, Gen Z and younger will grow to acquire more spending power—it’s your job to meet them where they are.
It just so happens that TikTok is working hard to push product on its platform, too, so sellers aren’t at a loss for customers there. The hurdle is for jewelers that have either spent years building an audience on Instagram, or those that have just recently opened an Instagram, to divert efforts somewhere new—it feels insanely daunting. But it was always going to go that way, wasn’t it? There will always be a new next thing; the challenge is waiting around long enough to see which of those things sticks.
So if you haven’t put your brand on TikTok yet, what are you waiting for? Get in there and poke around. I’m certainly not suggesting abandoning your Instagram efforts—I think, as of right now, it’s still the most important place you can be to reach potential shoppers. But you do need to consider the future and what that might look like for your brand, and as of right now, it looks like TikTok is that future. How does the social app work for you? Should you hire someone in-the-know to help with your content plan or go it your own way (note that despite its reputation, there are people of all ages doing things on TikTok, and doing it damn well, too).
Remember, as you try to work out what this relatively new kind of content looks like for your brand: Shoppers want you to be real. They want to connect with the small businesses they’re buying from, so save them the lip service. If you’re trying to emulate other successful jewelers on the app and it doesn’t feel right, nix it.
It’s easier said than done, surely. I’m currently in the midst of trying to figure out what an app like TikTok might look like for a publication like JCK. And the truth is, I don’t know yet. But let’s all dive in together, shall we? While keeping one foot firmly planted in Instagram, of course. Let’s face it: The ship may be sailing away without some generations on board, but others will stay loyal until it sinks (I’ll see you there).
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