On the 12th November, Instagram unveiled their newest update – the creation of the now infamous Shop and Reels tabs on its home page. Although this has been Instagram’s first major stylistic change in years, these changes could also be pointing towards the decline of Instagram as the app starts to lose its identity.
Founded in in 2010, Instagram was originally a photo sharing app. However, after Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram for $1 billion USD in 2012, making Facebook the owner of the four most downloaded apps of this decade, new features started rolling out.
Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, has attributed the addition of these two new tabs to “young people and creators because they’re trendsetters.” Undoubtedly, that is true: 36.7% of Instagram users are under the age of 24 and the recent addition of the Reels tab, featuring 15-second videos similar to those found on the short-video app Tiktok, displays the influence of younger cohorts.
With millions of apps at our fingertips, competition is inevitable, and with Instagram’s growth expected to decline from 4-5% this year to 1% in 2023, the importance of innovation for Instagram cannot be overlooked.
Instagram’s strategy in this competitive market has been the addition of new features to its platform that young users are already familiar with. The debut of Instagram Direct in 2013, Stories in 2016 and Reels in 2020 mirrored the features of Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and TikTok – popular apps at the time of the respective launches by Instagram.
Platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and WhatsApp have followed a similar pathway – all establishing their own versions of Snapchat Stories with Twitter’s version, Fleets, experiencing a technically difficult debut on Tuesday. However, none have managed to be as successful as Instagram’s Stories.
The introduction of the Shop Tab and its replacement of the Activity tab in the navigation bar signified a major stylistic and strategic change for Instagram. It signaled Instagram’s altering primary objective: away from a photo-sharing entertainment platform to an e-commerce platform.
The increased amounts of advertisements users see between posts and stories can be attributed to Instagram’s algorithm and its redefined focus on advertisements, many times using the aid of social media influencers. The newly added Shop tab emphasizes further this shift in objective by now allowing users to browse and purchase products through the platform itself.
Instagram’s potential advertising reach of 849.3 million users is a strong motivator among businesses for developing their marketing strategies and operations, providing a great opportunity for small local businesses who have struggled during the pandemic and turned to social media platforms to advertise their products.
Needless to say, users have taken to Twitter to show their disapproval of the new update.
By compacting features of other single-purpose apps into Instagram, users are no longer able to truly experience Instagram’s original purpose of photo-sharing of which it was founded upon. As Instagram updates to accommodate new features mirroring those of existing popular apps and begins to further embrace the revenue-making side of e-commerce on its platform, the app has started to lose the magic and its unique identity that originally made it so popular among users in its earlier years.