(Disclaimer: Yep. This isn’t a Thoughts & Process post for my blog describing my work or influences. This is a new segment reserved for providing commentary on art related news, developments, or other elements that don’t directly influence my personal work and experiences. Please keep in mind these segments are for commentary, sharing opinions, and discussion, and should not be taken as certified fact. I will always include sources into these articles, but I would like to always encourage my readers to do any additional research themselves if they are interested in knowing more about these topics I cover. For all intents and purposes, consider this write-up an editorial.)
Whelp here we are. It’s only been a few months since I wrote my write-up on why the current big social media websites aren’t good for inanimate artists, but in that article, I had considered Instagram to be one of the better social media websites for them. Looks like that’s all about to change, as the director of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, announced on June 30th via Twitter “Changes are coming to video on Instagram.” Mosseri cited that people come onto Instagram to be entertained, and as competition is getting more stiff, he wanted Instagram to follow TikTok and experiment with video display and users following certain topics, and generally be much more video focused. These plans are apparently to be implemented in phases and trials over the next couple of months. Mosseri finished his announcement by saying that “We are no longer a photo-sharing application or an application to share square photos.”(1)
After some push back from users, Mosseri clarified in a Twitter reply that his former sentence was structured poorly. What he apparently MEANT to say was “We are no longer just a photo-sharing application…” and cited his “one-take approach” as the reason for this miscommunication.(2) However, obviously the prior slip of the tongue concerned inanimate content creators (inanimate content creators will be what I say to refer to users and/or artists who don’t post videos or animated content). One Twitter user replied to Mosseri “Thank you for saying it loud that Instagram for photographers is very much dead. It’s now some version of TikTok trying to become Youtube.”(3) Now that we know the trend Instagram wants to follow, this begs the question: is there going to be a place for inanimate content creators on Instagram in 2022? Or are all of their accounts now officially on a timer?
Back before Instagram was a glimmer in anyone’s eye, it started as a beta test. Even more specifically, it started as an app to talk about love for bourbon and fine whiskeys, called Burbn. The beginning of the app was always centered around photo-sharing, and the developers were good at cutting off what they felt was excess fat, such as the “check-in” feature being implemented and then removed when they stripped the beta down to the core of social media features. It was originally released only on the IOS store in 2010, meaning only Apple products could actually use the program. It opened to 25,000 users on day one. The Android version didn’t release until a year and a half later, and managed to get 1 million downloads the day the Android version went live.(4)
Instagram has been changing strangely for a while now, but nothing had really been a deal-breaker for the platform and its users quite yet… until this. Some individual users would cite Instagram’s buy out by Facebook in 2012 as the point Instagram would go on the decline.(5) It doesn’t help that Facebook’s vision for Instagram has been seemingly all over the place. Towards the end of 2012, Instagram had tried to update its Terms of Service conditions so it could sell user’s photos to third parties without user input or compensation. This was walked back when enough users made an outcry and started deleting their accounts.(4) Last year, Instagram had implemented a new feature that allowed you to shop on the platform.(6) That same year, Facebook implemented cross-platform messaging, meaning Instagram users could message people on Facebook and vice versa.(7) We also got the Reels feature on the website last year, which allowed users to upload short video clips onto the website.(8)
Now we have a direct quote from the director himself saying he wants Instagram to be like TikTok, meaning there is seemingly no original vision left for the platform than for it to chameleon other platforms. Despite all this, Instagram has been growing fairly well over the last few years, with at least 73.5 million more users than in the start of 2020, and officially crossing the 1 billion user threshold.(9) All the updates and changes aren’t necessarily bad either, Instagram is finally testing desktop uploads after how many years of users begging for the option.(10) Granted it’s highly likely this is being tested because videos naturally have larger file sizes and desktop uploads would be easier in this instance, but oh well. With these types of shifts happening in Instagram in less than a 2 year span, it’s no wonder why artists, photographers, and other inanimate content creators using the site to promote their businesses, feel as though their well-being on the platform is on the line. It’s sad to see an online service like this cast aside their roots.
So now knowing everything I do about the situation, I have to ask: what about these changes would make a TikTok user use Instagram over it, especially since Instagram’s new direction seems to just want to copy TikTok. It’s clear Facebook is trying to chase after the younger generations that avoid their original platform, as 71% of Instagram’s users are under the age of 35,(9) and this is my primary theory as to why Facebook is forcing these changes upon the website. But if there are no new features or audiences in this platform, why would people choose Instagram over TikTok? Who knows, maybe Mosseri and his crew have something more up their sleeves, but considering it was him in the first place who made the announcement about copying TikTok, I can’t say I have much faith in him and his team.
How Inanimate Content Creators Reeled in Money on Instagram
While influencers make money on Instagram through sponsored posts, affiliate marketing, and brand partnerships, other content creators would use Instagram as a way to promote their work, and advertise other platforms for directly making money, such as Patreon and Ko-Fi. Keep in mind this didn’t necessarily exclude money making through sponsors and affiliates for these creators. The recent addition of the shopping tab did mean that creators could sell their own work such as prints and crafts, however as stated before this was pretty new feature and was most likely not being relied upon.(11) Artists and photographers would use Instagram as a portfolio site, as the website’s layout meant that images lined up nicely and were a treat for the eyes.
This is another reason why the push to video formats is concerning for these creators. Videos aren’t always the best format when you’re trying to advertise a product, such as an article of clothing or jewelry. It’s flat out ineffective if you’re trying to sell prints or photography skills. Inanimate creators are already feeling the burn with Instagram’s newest direction, despite the fact these creators made Instagram get as popular as it did. It also doesn’t help that Instagram’s algorithm of constant and consistent uploads would shaft creators who didn’t bend to these rules,(12) and the ones who did follow this unsustainable pattern of growth would burn out quickly. Even then, already established creators could have these new changes upend a lot of their smaller and independent businesses.
The Part Where I Share Photo-Sharing Social Media Alternatives:
The bad news is that there really aren’t any big photo-sharing social media websites right now in place of Instagram. So please forgive me granting some leniency into these suggestions:
- Gala: Currently a smaller application that’s only available on IOS. It has a layout that’s a straight reference, if not copy, of Instagram, with similar and familiar photo editing software.
- Behance: Behance is Adobe’s website and a socially creative platform, made specifically for creatives. It’s used by many, like Instagram, as a portfolio website, and Behance even has a page for jobs to apply to if you’re interested.
- Twitter: Yeah Twitter is…Twitter. But it’s clear the staff behind them care about photo-sharing posts, as they have recently implemented the “no-crop” preview on their mobile application, where you can see photos on your timeline in their full beauty (although mobile browsers and desktop browsers still have cropped photo previews). Beyond that, Twitter allows almost all types of content uploads, photos, videos, gifs, small text, just sadly no audio.
- Tumblr: Tumblr still has its problems with growing an audience after its great 2018 exodus, but its exodus has also turned it into a cozy corner of the internet. As a blogging platform, Tumblr allows long text posts, photos, gifs, videos, and even audio posts. It’s very common for the big featured posts on Tumblr to be photos and still images as well, so they have a clear love of the medium.
Here’s the final question about Instagram and their big shift: are we going to see a large exodus of users of the platform in lieu of the great Tumblr 2018 exodus? Honestly I would lean towards no, even if photo-sharing as a whole is removed. Yeah at that point I can see a lot of inanimate content creators getting frustrated and abandoning the website altogether, but with video media still being as popular as ever, I can’t see it devaluing the platform as greatly as what happened to Tumblr. I’m hoping photo-sharing will be allowed still in the future, but if not, I am certain I will close my account there, and go where the wind takes me. Thanks for reading to the end. I wish you all the best, until we meet again.
(1) Adam Mosseri’s Twitter Post
(2) Adam Mosseri’s Twitter Reply
(3) Twitter Reply to Adam Mosseri
(4) Investopedia: The Story of Instagram
(5) CNBC: Facebook Buying Instagram for $1 Billion
(6) Instagram Business: Introducing Shops on Instagram
(7) The Verge: Facebook launches cross-platform messaging on Instagram
(8) About Instagram: Introducing Instagram Reels
(9) Oberlo: 10 Instagram Stats Every Marketer Should Know in 2021
(10) The Verge: Instagram is testing a desktop posting feature
(11) Oberlo: How to Make Money on Instagram in 2021
(12) Rainylune: Why Your Instagram Engagement Kinda Sucks Right Now