Since its inception and transition from Muiscal.ly to the short-form tycoon, TikTok has been a real eye opener for the social media space. Short-form video has become a force to be reckoned with, and perhaps the favored content type available on the internet today.
It’s difficult to pick out a brand that has not taken inspiration from TikTok by developing new platform functions similar to TikTok’s. For example, YouTube developed YouTube Shorts, and Instagram has its Reels format, both of which are carbon copies of what made TikTok successful.
Meta, more specifically Instagram, has gone on to generate significant backlash from creators and celebrities on the platform.
Like a lot of social media trends, this all started with a meme.
Make Instagram Instagram Again
21-year-old influencer and photographer, Tati Bruening, grew distasteful towards Instagram’s rollout of suggested content, vertical feed and non-stop Reels content. Realizing any content from friends and family had perished at the hands of the new algorithmic changes, she decided to take a stand by creating a meme. She posted it to the platform, along with a petition of the same name on Change.org.
The meme half-jokingly requested the powers that be to stop trying to become TikTok. Although Bruening had no predetermined expectations of virality, within days of posting she had received support from Kylie Jenner, Kourtney and Kim Kardashian. The resounding support from the Kardashian family undoubtedly resulted in the formation of an echo chamber, helping the petition amass over 287,000 signatures.
Instagram’s incessant competition with TikTok is the root cause of this new initiative, in order to avoid becoming yesterday’s news. Instagram users have grown increasingly more tired with the constant changes to their feeds. The events that have transpired are the exact opposite of what Instagram had hoped for. Users now think that the platform lacks originality, and is simply regurgitating functions first used by TikTok.
In an interview with Gizmodo, Bruening had this to say about Instagram’s competition with TikTok:
“TikTok has such a different audience and such a different type of content than Instagram does. I completely view them as non-competitors between each other,”
“I think that Instagram serves a purpose of connecting with people in real life, and TikTok serves the purpose more so for entertainment.” she added.
Bruening is an influencer on both platforms with more than 2.5 million fans on TikTok, and 329,000 on Instagram. She insists that there is more than enough room in the social space for both of these platforms to flourish.
Instagram Responds To Backlash
As expected, the support of the Kardashians helped the initiative tap into wider audiences across social media. For Adam Mosseri, the traction became too much to ignore. In his initial response, Mosseri addressed three prominent changes: the full-screen feed, shift to video and recommendations in-stream.
The full-screen feed feature was one of the most noticeable elements of the new Instagram, and it shares a close resemblance with TikTok’s feed. However, Mosseri noted that this had only been released for testing on – emphasising that it is not a final product.
When discussing the heavy focus on video content, Mosseri put this down to inevitability. Whilst Instagram appears to be overrun with Reels posts, Mosseri noted that imagery would still rank highly on the platform’s agenda.
Finally, on the switch to recommended content, which means users are seeing more content they might like from those they do not follow, as opposed to friends and family. The platform puts this down to a commitment towards showing audiences content they enjoy, whilst aiding creators in reaching new audiences.
Mosseri’s final message from his initial update, was that the platform would not be changing course. His emphasis was towards a belief in this future, and that Instagram would maximize its engagement by taking a leaf from TikTok’s book.
Let’s just say Mosseri’s thoughts have aged horribly.
Instagram Makes a U-Turn on TikTok Model
The influencer backed campaign has shown no signs of losing momentum, and after complaints from Kardashian-Jenners, it appears Instagram is now backtracking on previous comments.
Adam Mosseri is now insisting that the platform will take a step back from AI recommended content and a full-screen viewing experience. At this time, a step back means Instagram will need to regroup and assess how it wants to move forward following the heavy criticism. The latest response is different to the one Adam Mosseri released previously, which confirmed Instagram would not pause the changes to the platform.
To add further confusion, Mark Zuckerberg stated that the amount of content served by AI recommendations to users will double over the next year. Meta released the insight after launching its AI model for recommendations, which found a 15% increase in watch time via the Reels video player on Facebook.
It turns out that Reels is something that Meta, and Zuckerberg will continue to develop and maximize the growth of the format. However, in order for Reels to continue growing at an exponential rate, AI recommendation enhancements must follow.
As stated by Zuckerberg:
“One of the main transformations in our business right now is that social feeds are going from being driven primarily by the people and accounts you follow to increasingly also being driven by AI recommending content that you’ll find interesting from across Facebook or Instagram, even if you don’t follow those creators. Social content from people you know is going to remain an important part of the experience and some of our most differentiated content, but increasingly we’ll also be able to supplement that with other interesting content from across our networks.”
In Zuckerberg’s words, the interest in pursuing the TikTok model is very much still alive and kicking. The allure lies in TikTok’s algorithm, which was developed without a social graph in mind – connecting with friends and family for example. Instead, the platform relies on it’s For You Page which delivers content based on the habits and interests of each user. Meta clearly sees this as a core element for the development of its platforms.
So what does this mean for Instagram? At the moment the AI recommendations on Instagram will undergo reassessment, but with Zuckerberg’s comments all but affirming the intentions to double AI recommended content, the next steps become unclear. In spite of this, Instagram users should expect the full-screen feed to be discontinued, but at this moment that may be the only alteration.
Have you herd? The Goat Agency Vlog has returned, catch up on the latest episode below: