Om Malik. Instagram is dead. This was the conclusion last week of the writer, photographer, and investor Om Malik. Much to his regrets – as he was a big fan of what was initially a mobile social network based on visual storytelling – Instagram has died.
“Instagram’s transformation into QVC is now complete and absolute. Instagram is dead — or at least the Instagram I knew and loved is dead. It is no longer part of my photographic journey. (…) The company just announced a new creator marketplace, which means creators (much like celebrities of yore that hawked wares on QVC and HSN (the Home Shopping Network) can do the same for the brands.”
Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian. Make Instagram Instagram again. But wait, this week, it’s the whole world that’s tumbling over Instagram. Trending through the roof, this message of these two half-sisters, models, and QVC/HSN 2.0-like influencer-businesswomen: “Make Instagram Instagram again (stop trying to be TikTok. I just want to see cute photos of my friends). Sincerely, everyone.”
Do we care what they think? Well, Jenner has 360M followers on Instagram, and Kardashian has 326M.
Adam Mosseri. The response – by video. So Instagram Head Adam Mosseri had to do damage control and released a video (!) to explain their aspirations to move into TikTok territory. Instagram’s TikTok-like full-screen test was actually just a test and a bad one, apparently. But…” we’re going to continue to support photos, it’s part of our heritage… That said, I need to be honest; I do believe that more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time.”
Facebook. Bye-bye, Facebook, the social network. And then there’s Facebook. Compared to Instagram’s moves towards shopping, video, and full screen, Facebook’s changes are a multitude of degrees more paradigm-changing (a cliché term I don’t use lightly).
Facebook is undergoing a radical remake that sidelines its traditional friends and family social networking in favor of putting third-party creator videos and e-commerce front and center. The app’s default Home screen now features a vertical display of algorithmically-suggested public content — mostly short-form third-party videos — and provides easy access to Facebook’s Reels videos and its Stories content. Posts from family and friends are now relegated to a new “Feeds” tab located on the app’s shortcut bar.
This leads to Axios’ conclusion: The leadership of Meta and Facebook now views the entire machine of Facebook’s social network as a legacy operation.
So what does this mean for us in the photo & video industry:
Let’s not forget: Visuals are essential for brands to sell their products. They provide brands with a justifiable ROI, meaning that brands are more than willing to pay Creators (for their visuals) and photo & video solution developers (for licensing their tools), which provides Creators and developers with compelling (additional) monetization opportunities.
But the catch we’re learning from Instagram/Facebook: if you abandon your DNA in lieu of a quick buck, eventually, the users who have put you on the map will declare you dead. Perhaps you’ll attract new users that replace them, and you might not care; perhaps it will kill your business.
Instagram’s and Facebook’s tribulations provide opportunities for long-tail or use case-specific applications. As was also the case when Gen Z-ers initially embraced what are now the mainstream social networks, this generation currently leads a move towards using an array of alternative smaller apps, each of which serves a distinct function: Twitch for live-streaming and gaming, Discord for private chat groups, BeReal for spontaneous visual updates, and Poparazzi for candid photos of friends.
[The sprawling e-commerce opportunities for many of us in the photo and video ecosystem, as well as the lingering dangers of going too far in chasing the big bucks in the world of eCommerce, will be the subject of our “Empowering shopping: Seizing emerging opportunities where visual content is king” panel at Visual 1st]
Author: Hans Hartman
Hans Hartman is president of Suite 48 Analytics, the leading research and analysis firm for the mobile photography market and organizer of Mobile Visual 1st, a yearly industry conference about mobile photography.