Is Instagram’s popularity bubble about to burst?

Is Instagram’s popularity bubble about to burst?

In October last year Instagram introduced their @Creators account, a platform that sought to inspire, teach and connect creatives. For a moment it seemed they were finally investing back into talent on their platform, but do the lack of organic growth and sporadic success rates of boosting posts put the social media network at risk of having its popularity crushed by TikTok?…

I noticed something interesting last week – my ‘promote this post’ button had changed. I already have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the post boosting options Instagram offers, but the change I saw intrigued me and suggested that Instagram may *finally* be interested in helping creatives to build their audience on the platform. My button now said ‘Grow audience’.

Excited by the prospect of a new way to rise above the social media noise, I quickly clicked through only to be presented with the same options I usually would when boosting a post. So Instagram weren’t actually offering a new way to grow, but they were trying to entice us creatives into boosting our posts once again. I felt a bit cheated by the audience growth bluff, and I have to admit it did (once again) lessen my love for the platform. Most importantly it got me thinking about the future of Instagram and, with the surging popularity of TikTok, whether their limits on organic growth and patchy performance of boosted posts could be a nail in their coffin.

Organic growth at a snail’s pace

It’s no secret that organic growth on Instagram is either a miracle, the result of intense hours of engaging daily on the platform or a thing of the past for most users. In fact, Instagram themselves stated that the organic reach of posts is limited to give priority to branded ads last June. So, where does that leave small businesses and creators looking to build an engaged audience on the platform?

The frustrations about Instagram’s approach to organic content are definitely felt by those who put hours of work into each of their posts, and when a post you’re really passionate about is tanking the temptation can be to either stop spending as much time on the platform or pay to boost each post. Instagram are always keen to nudge us to pay to promote our posts, but the question is: when we do invest in the platform, what return do we get? And how does it make us feel about the value this service provides?

To boost or not to boost?

After spotting my post boosting button had changed to ‘Grow audience’ I was interested to find out if my audience were just as disengaged with Instagram’s promotional opportunities as I was. So, I did what any good writer would do and ran a poll on my Stories. With nearly 100 responses, it was one of the most engaging polls I’ve run and the results were sadly as I expected. Of the 66% of people who had previously paid to boost a post, 80% did not feel it helped to grow their account and 72% would not boost a post in the future.

As much as Instagram tries to show support for creators, and encourage us to use their promotional tools, there’s a real lack of trust when it comes to these paid options and with TikTok championing organic content (and offering real opportunity for engaged audiences to be built quickly) Instagram may find they have to quickly change their tune to stay popular and relevant when it comes to influencer marketing and providing value to their users.

Is Instagram losing the popularity game?

While it may be too early to say whether Instagram will lose a significant amount of active users to TikTok this year, the lack of opportunity for organic reach and growth could become a real issue for them. That said, it’s unlikely we will see a mass exodus of influencer marketers from Instagram to TikTok anytime soon due to the stats required to measure campaign impact.

As mentioned in one of our Influencer Weekly Updates, the drop in engagement rates on Instagram could actually be a good thing for marketers as it discourages them from relying on vanity metrics to measure impact. Instagram allows those with business accounts to have access to detailed insights for each of their posts, especially if they are boosted, which gives brands a real measure of who is seeing what content (and how they feel about it).

Until TikTok starts to offer similar insights for their users I don’t think Instagram has anything to worry about, no matter how frustrating the platform can be.

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