Is Instagram Dying?
In the years that I’ve been helping companies professionally with their social media, I’ve always noted that companies think of Instagram when they think of social media management.
Perhaps for longer, your Instagram presence was practically synonymous with your social presence. Facebook is still the most significant platform, but individuals and professionals alike learned to curate perfectly posed moments in the name of their IG follower count.
But since 2019, the platform’s popularity plateaued. Is the effort still worth it, or is Instagram dying?
Is Instagram Still Popular?
Instagram averages 300 million new users each year; it’s hard to deny that Instagram remains popular. However, this growth seems to have hit a plateau, as the number remained consistent over the past few years. Compare this to the wild growth of TikTok, which had over 1 billion downloads between 2020 and 2021.
Instagram may be popular, but it’s fighting for its position at the top. Instagram developers responded to the TikTok trend with rapid efforts to offer reels and other new features. Do you remember when Blockbuster started to offer DVD delivery in response to the Netflix boom? We all know how that turned out…
Death By New Features
Just when you figured out the perfect witty caption and exact angle to photograph your açai bowl, Instagram rolled out with stories (strangely close to the peak of Snapchat, I might add). Then after you figured out what goes in your stories vs. your feed, there was IGTV. Then on the heels of the COVID-induced surge of IG Live, Instagram changed its algorithm to encourage you to master reels.
It seems that every few months, Instagram is tinkering with its tools and rolling out even more features. However, as people typically spend only 28 minutes on the platform each day (compared to 68 minutes on TikTok), you’d better hope that your followers find your content. If you made a perfect post, but someone is just scrolling through stories or reels, your chance of exposure is unlikely to reach that user.
Instagram rewards content creators who make use of all of the features with increased reach and exposure. The algorithm changes all the time but using logic, you can see how you’re more likely to get noticed if you’re everywhere on the platform.
To create that amount of content is on par with a part-time (or full-time) job. Creators must be a model, actor, camera person, editor, copywriter, and community manager. The cost of growth is just too high for most.
Why is Engagement Lower on Instagram?
You’ve likely noticed that it’s become increasingly harder to get likes and comments on your posts. In fact, the overall engagement rate has been cut almost in half since 2019. Organic reach is harder to come by to encourage more users to pay for increased reach.
The decreased engagement could contribute to the slowly declining amount of time people spend on the platform each day.
Instagram once provided a pure smack of dopamine when your recent post got 100s of likes. For most people, that kind of response is fading. That means fewer people are on the platform, engaging less with other content. It feels like a cyclical downslide that ultimately makes the platform less fun.
Advertisers Express Concern with Facebook
In late 2020, iOs rolled out a new version where users choose whether apps can track their activity to other platforms. This had enormous implications for Facebook (and therefore Instagram), as it became difficult to track activity, interests, and conversions.
In the past, companies relied heavily on leveraging Lookalike Audiences and tracking conversions. Now many are forced to rely on conversion metrics such as Landing Page Views, which means it’s harder to optimize a campaign for purchases…and it’s harder to get your ad in front of the right people.
While no other social media platform offers advertising scalability on par with Facebook, many are beginning to diversify in response to the changes.
Furthermore, whistleblower Frances Haugen raised eyebrows after reporting that the company was aware of its harmful effects on teenage girls and did little to limit hate speech on its platforms. It won’t be long before other giants like Twitter catch up with their advertising capabilities and offer more advanced targeting.
Is It Worth it to be on Instagram?
Instagram is one of the world’s most popular social media platforms, with millions of downloads worldwide. There are more than 200 business accounts, so the chances are that your competitors are on it. Social media still offers tremendous brand reach and an opportunity for authentic engagement with your customers.
However, organic (aka free) reach is dying, and the amount of time needed to grow on Instagram is a heavy burden. Furthermore, the space is increasingly crowded, making it all the more difficult to get noticed. If it’s within your budget to hire a social media manager and place a small brand awareness bid on your content, you’re likely to increase your exposure to new audiences.
It’s nearly impossible to master all the social media channels, so before investing three hours a day preparing Instagram content, consider the following:
Where does my target demographic hang out?
TikTok tends to be younger, Facebook a bit older, while 25-49-year-olds are most likely on Instagram and Twitter. Other platforms to consider are Discord, YouTube, LinkedIn, Clubhouse, Snapchat, WeeChat, and Telegram.
What type of content best resonates with my brand?
TikTok and Instagram lean heavily into short, entertaining videos and visual content. Longer form content or brands with a less playful tone could be better suited for another platform.
Where is my effort best served?
Instagram may be alive, but organic reach is dying. If you can’t commit to using multiple features on the platform, consider switching to another type of media where you can gain greater exposure with less effort.
So, Is Instagram Dead?
Instagram is still popular, but in my opinion, the writing is on the wall for its eventual decline.
Consider all of its challenges:
- Lower engagement
- Plateaued user growth
- High level of effort
- Decreased ad performance
- The apparent disregard for customer protection
For the time being, you may want to keep a presence. However, early adaptors are wise to start branching into other platforms—better to join early and stay ahead of the trends!