I am no kid any longer. I have seen internet sites and social platforms come and go since the 1990s. Yahoo was everything for a time. And Squarespace. And Google and Facebook came roaring in. And YouTube. And Twitter. And Pinterest. And Snapchat. And how many others.
And Instagram, of course. Instagram is undergoing a major redirection. The British political magazine New Statesman has an interesting recent article on what that may mean:
Reading her excellent article above led me to remember AOL in particular. Back in the 1990s it was briefly the richest internet company in the world. Its boss Steve Case was considered a business genius.
A scant five or so years later as I also recall, its board, and Case, were wondering what the hell happened.
AOL’s decline from behemoth to dinner party joke is a long and complex story. In simple terms, its end probably began when it decided it was no longer just about floppy disks and the internet; it was going to become a “media company.” In that latter, it failed utterly and so lost its way it was overtaken by newer companies with fresher ideas.
This too feels like a similar corporate turning point. Instagram’s boss has outright stated it is no longer about
boring square old people photography. Instagram has decided it will from now become a video “entertainment” site…
…because apparently still photography is not “entertainment” any longer.
Social media companies are often now HUGE businesses. Inevitably in the 2000s and 2010s bigger sites/apps, like Google and Facebook, started gobbling up successful new and smaller ones. It is all much like what went on in the U.S. in the late 1800s and early 1900s among the “robber barons” trying to own “everything.” So don’t be fooled by Mr. Mosseri’s informal shirt, the “leaning into” gaseousness about “helping creators,” and the “peace” ✌🏻 sign at the end: he is clearly first and foremost a businessperson. (A cynic could well see that “peace” sign as him offering a passive-aggressive “Don’t make trouble over this, just accept it ‘cos it’s happening, dudes,” and/or even giving a symbolic but cloaked “middle finger” to anyone who he thinks disagrees with him.)
Yet as so many others have learned the hard way in the past, you can “lean into” something so far that you fall on your face. One would think that even if this boss does not get that, someone(s) at Instagram’s “all hands” meeting he makes reference to above – and curiously he jumps there from saying it was “we” at that meeting to “I” – realizes that the potential customer pool out there of video-makers is relatively smaller compared to that of “square” photographers. After all, anyone with a mobile phone can snap photos, but NOT everyone wants to, or reasonably can, make cute videos.
I approach this as a customer – and having worked in customer experience. In that shift that is based on chasing and trying to poach ad revenue that is going to TikTok, the problem on this course for Instagram is in the longer-term, which in social media terms is probably, oh, a year or two. The first rule in customer experience is it is a lot easier to keep your existing customers than it is to win new ones. Instagram had a solid customer base built around still photography, but in clearly stating – it is an EXTRAORDINARY statement, really – as Mr. Mosseri oh, so casually does that Instagram is “no longer a photo-sharing app” he is also by default declaring he does not consider most of his existing users/customers all that important now and prefers different users/customers.
That being so he had better hope Instagram attracts LOTS MORE of those different ones out there to make up for the inevitable losses to come of the customers it had long had. A “social media” company is not a cable company or a car rental firm – the sort of business where the company can rely on “bad profits” because customers are basically trapped and it doesn’t matter if you treat them like c-ap because they really have nowhere else to go. It is a far more “fickle” world that changes seemingly hourly and new apps appear regularly. The bottom line is if nobody logged onto Instagram today, it would be a ghost town and worth nothing – much like what happened to Google+ in it had fewer and fewer users to the point Google decided to close it down.
You can probably recall your own similar experiences. I had been an early user of America Online (AOL) when it was dial up and it was all new and exciting, but when broadband appeared I remember I went with another provider (initially for small business purposes) and somehow I managed to get AOL to stop charging my credit card. (Dealing with AOL eventually became as “pleasant” as dealing with a car rental or cable company.) More recently I was on Google+ and gave up (and it was shuttered not long after – so that must have been my fault 😉). I was on Twitter (two different accounts) and gave up there too because personally I found it pointless and potentially career-dangerous. A few years ago I was even on something called About.Me that was a kinda clever idea until whoever ran it decided they wanted it to be something else. (Sound familiar?) I am on Tumblr mostly to “share” my blog over there (for however long Tumblr lasts). I have a personal Facebook I now barely use, as well as my authoring Facebook (which I use much like Tumblr in mostly “sharing” there what is here).
And I am now still on Facebook-owned Instagram and enjoy it, as I like photography and social interaction – which is what I had thought I was signing up for in joining it – until I suppose I will not be there either because I will never be an 18 year old woman who posts dancing videos (or, in Instagram’s – current – boss’s word, “entertainment“) I made in my bedroom. (And I presume neither are most of you, but if you happen to be no offense there is intended, of course.)
Funny, amidst all of that social media elsewhere past and present, the constant is I have been blogging in some form or another since 2003 and I have been on here since 2013. The end of blogs is always predicted to be just around the corner, yet I still have returning visitors and even new visitors – and customers. Blogs will probably always remain in some form because writing as, err, entertainment will remain long after Instagram is by 2040 or so the answer to yet another social media trivia question: “Okay, it was a really successful photo-sharing site, that in 2021 decided it wasn’t? What was the name of the company?”
✌🏻 Peace. (Oh, and I mean that entirely non-ironically.) 😂