Instagram’s Chief Explains the Latest Changes in the App Following User Backlash

As we noted yesterday, when the Kardashians talk, social media apps listen.

After both Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian shared their support for a campaign which calls for Instagram to ‘stop trying to be TikTok’, in response to its latest algorithm and feed changes, today, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri has posted a reply, in which he explains several aspects of concern among the IG community.

Mosseri covers three key elements in his update:

  • The full screen feed – Mosseri reminds users that this is currently only in test mode, and that it’s ‘not yet good’, and certainly not good enough to get a full rollout to all users at this stage (you can read more about the test here)
  • The shift to video – Mosseri says that while video has inevitably become more of a focus for the app, photos remain a key element, and ‘part of our heritage’. Photos are the key focus of the campaign which Jenner and Kardashian have supported in their posts, with users calling for Instagram to revert back to putting more focus on photo posts from friends in the main feed
  • Recommendations in-stream – Mosseri also addresses the increase of recommended posts in your Home feed, which are posts from people and pages that you don’t follow, interspersed between the posts that you’ve directly chosen to see. Mosseri says that Instagram’s committed to showing people more content that they might like as this is ‘one of the most effective and important ways to help creators reach more people’. I don’t know that anyone buys this – the change is clearly a push by Instagram to maximize user engagement by taking on a more TikTok-like content approach, but that’s the one Mosseri is sticking with

It’s interesting to see the Kardashian Effect once again, with Jenner previously prompting Snapchat to reassess its UI update through her public comments about the change.

The Kardashians have huge influence, with Kylie and Kim having a combined 686 million followers on IG alone. Indeed, since endorsing the petition to ‘Make Instagram Instagram Again’, more than 70,000 more people have signed on, which has prompted Mosseri to respond, and explain the changes in more specific detail.

But the bottom line, however, is that Instagram is pushing ahead with its changes, in response to user behavior – whether people say that they like them or not.

In his further comments on the updates, in the replies to his video post, Mosseri notes that most of these shifts are happening anyway, regardless of any algorithmic or UI updates, while also suggesting that the loudest critics on Instagram and Twitter are not reflective of broader community sentiment.

Which is pretty much always the case, and Instagram would have the engagement stats, it knows whether its changes are popular and are driving user activity or not. So while many people may be voicing their angst over these updates, the internal numbers tell the true story, which Mosseri says will logically be the guiding light here.

Mosseri also notes that while some are asking for more content from their friends in their main feed, ‘all the growth in photos and videos from friends has been in stories and in DMs’.

Friends post a lot more to stories and send a lot more DMs than they post to Feed. If you want to make sure you never miss a feed post from a friend, add them to your favorites and they’ll show up at the top.

— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) July 26, 2022

That’s another behavioral shift that Instagram needs to contend with – so again, while people may not seem overly happy with the updated display, the numbers show that it’s likely the most effective approach, even if it is a departure from what they’re used to.

Mosseri also says that they’re working on a new process that will prioritize what content to show users based on what they engage with. So if you engage with photos more, you’ll see more of them, same with Reels, Stories, etc.

In essence, Mosseri’s saying that the changes have been driven by broader usage and behavioral shifts, which have, of course, been influenced by TikTok, at least to some degree. But that’s not the primary driver of IG’s strategy.

So while it may feel like Instagram’s losing its differentiation, and becoming more like TikTok every day, the truth will lie in how that relates to ongoing engagement, and whether people end up spending more time in the app as a result of these shifts.

If people really don’t like these changes, and stop going to Instagram as much as a result, then it may be forced to revert back to something like what your main feed was before.

But if it goes the other way, you can expect Instagram to continue pushing ahead with its gradual reimagining of the app.

Also, a PSA for social media marketers:

PSA for all social/data folks: when Instagram merges all videos into Reels you will lose metrics like Video Impressions and Video Views which are being replaced with Plays and Reach. This means your 2022 reports will have to be readjusted. Be prepared now so you’re not surprised.

— Nick Cicero (@nickcicero) July 26, 2022

Worth noting in your approach.

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