Celebrities rebel against Instagram boss as he tries to match TikTok


It is unsurprising the celebrity backlash prompted a pause on Instagram’s design changes. A single tweet by Kylie Jenner complaining about changes to Snapchat in 2018 wiped 7pc from its valuation.

Still, getting video right remains a high priority for Instagram despite previous failures. In February it canceled Instagram TV which was to compete with long firm rival YouTube, as well as TikTok.

Tapping video ad spend would help revive sales at parent company Meta, which reported its first ever revenue downturn last month. Its shares have roughly halved in value this year. While Meta does not break out Instagram’s revenues, analysts estimate it provides as much as half of its ad income, of which video adverts from Reels are a growing part.

Tom Johnson, chief digital officer at WPP Mindshare, says Instagram’s Reels videos are “already a billion-dollar format for Meta”. Any slowdown or changes would be a “big issue for Mark Zuckerberg if he wants to keep up the momentum”.

Instagram remains competitive when it comes to ad spending on influencers by big brands. In the US, marketers have spent $2.2bn (£1.8bn) in 2022 so far on Instagram influencers, compared to $775m on TikTok.

Its rival is growing faster, however. TikTok raked in $4bn in revenues in 2021, and is due to grow to $12bn this year, according to research from eMarketer.

Boosting the consumption of its Reels could help keep users on the app for longer, making the videos more valuable to advertisers, says Sean Spooner, operations director at marketing agency Patter.

He adds: “I’m willing to bet that Instagram will bring a similar update to the table within the next year.”

That makes the task of transforming Instagram to capture Gen Z users a strategic priority for Mosseri, who for years has been one of Zuckerberg’s closest lieutenants. Earlier this month he was reported to be relocating to London.

Yet endless redesigns have also frustrated some marketers. Jess Bruno, founder of The Content Club, says: “The constant stream of new features overwhelms my clients, who feel like they can’t keep up with all the changes.”

Meanwhile, short form video has proven particularly popular among younger demographics. A quarter of TikTok users are under 25, and half under 30.

WPP’s Johnson says an ongoing “generational shift” at Instagram could be alienating older users: “Instagram focused on photos as the format and was the platform for Millennials and Generation Y. TikTok the format for Generation Z.”

The celebrity rebellion has forced Meta back to the drawing board on its rework of Instagram. But whether A-listers like it or not, it seems set on the shift to video.

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