Facebook’s Instagram’s midlife crisis
It seems unlikely that we’ve ever lived in an era where when you were born defines you as much as it does today.
Every generation has a name and a signifier. From Generation Z and its snark and weird fashion sense, to the Millennials brunching with avocado toast while complaining that the Boomers are hoarding all the opportunities and killing the planet, it’s a time defined by this clash of generations.
Sorry, I forgot about Gen X because everyone always forgets about them.
This generational gap can particularly be seen on Social Media, where each demographic has a platform that most defines them and attracts them as users.
The Boomers love Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) for all the conspiracy theories and photos of their grandkids. Gen X basks in the cynical glow of Twitter (NYSE: TWTR). The vacant Millennials prefer to be influenced on Instagram and, obviously, the incomprehensible Gen Zers can be found on the frantic and unpredictable TikTok.
Clearly, I’m stereotyping here, but with all stereotypes there’s an element of truth leading to it.
These established platforms – Social Media’s Big Four – all are fighting to ensure that they stay on top for the long run and, in the same way that you can kind of identify them with the generation that is most attracted to them, you can also see their problems through the same prism. – that is to say that the biggest issue facing that generation is often the same problem that the Social Media platform is facing.
Facebook has a reality gap issue – it’s stuck in the past and tends to be resistant to new ideas. It’s an old man on his porch yelling at the clouds.
Twitter is way too cynical for its own good, just like Gen X. It’s all sarcasm, jokes and judging.
TikTok is like all teenagers and early 20-somethings – it’s about the here and now and it hasn’t really fully formed yet. It has the most room to grow into something, just like the Gen Zers that are using it.
As for Instagram, well it’s struggling a bit. It, and the Millennials, have existed in a sort of never-ending adolescence that is defined by both earnestness and vacantness all at one. Both the generation and the platform is remarkably easy to parody and it’s also why both are struggling with a rapidly approaching middle age.
Instagram is trying to address some of its long-term issues this week in a virtual event that it is calling Creator Week.
The results, like a bad selfie in front of a covered bridge at sunset using the Lark Filter, have been underwhelming. After widely advertising that Creator Week would roll out exciting changes to Instagram that would help lead it into the next phase of its life, what they provided was nothing more than a tweak to how their affiliate program works.
Yeah, they are just changing how they try and sell you stuff. Basically influencers will be invited to add affiliate products to their own feed, where they can then sell them to their users for a kick-back. The only difference is that the influencers now have even less work to do. They don’t have to chase the companies anymore . They just have to click an option.
This is hardly revolutionary and it’s not going to help Instagram get out of its current funk, which sees it consistently falling behind the more youthful TikTok in monthly downloads.
Like the generation that loves it most, the ‘Gram is going to have to do a lot more than this if it’s going to continue to be taken seriously moving forward.