How do you modernize an app like Instagram, whose roots are in iconic iPhone photography, to support users’ growing engagement with short-form video? If you’re one of the many increasingly frustrated Instagram users, you simply wish it would not attempt this pivot at all. You’re sick of the app’s constant changes, its clutter, its ads, its force-fed recommendations, and you’re not a fan of its TikTok ambitions. You just want to see your friends’ posts.
This issue finally came to a head this week when celeb sisters and Instagram top creators Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian shared a petition that demanded Instagram to “stop trying to be tiktok.” The day after, Instagram head Adam Mosseri posted a video addressing the concerns and said the app would temporarily roll back some of its recent changes, including the test of a full-screen TikTok-like experience and the increase in “recommended” posts.
The company has brought this user backlash on itself, of course, with its continual “tests” of new UIs and its desperate admissions about how TikTok is eating its lunch, forcing it to adapt or die. Plus, Instagram claims video is what people want even when they’re saying otherwise. It insists its own data supports that video has been growing faster as mobile networks got faster and data became cheaper.
While that may be true, Instagram has been throwing out the baby with the bathwater as it attempts to prioritize elements of TikTok in its own app. People want different experiences from their social platforms — and Instagram is trying to do it all, without acknowledging that the real threat from TikTok is not the video content itself, necessarily, but rather TikTok’s addictive algorithm that increases users’ time spent in the app. TikTok has figured out how to recommend posts that users welcome, while Instagram’s attempt to do the same has fallen flat. Combined with TikTok’s ability to attract a younger demographic in terms of both creators and viewers alike, the app has become a massive force in social media.
Instagram will need to find a way to balance the demands of a user base that wants to still celebrate social connection (including through static media), with creator demands for increased discovery and the rise of video. This is not an easy task, but perhaps step one should be to allow users to engage with Instagram as they like. Just as how users can opt to scroll the main Feed instead of viewing Stories and vice versa, Instagram’s TikTok-ishness should rather be an optional entry point, not the entirety of the Instagram experience.
Snapchat’s recent move into premium subscriptions has gained a bit of traction in its first weeks on the market.
The new Snapchat+ paid subscription launched on June 29, 2022 offering users access to various premium features, while also importantly giving the company a means of diversifying its revenue streams beyond advertising. This is critical for the social app given that the ad market is currently impacted by broader macroeconomic forces that have slowed demand. In addition, Snapchat continues to feel the effects of Apple’s 2021 privacy changes that allowed users to opt-out of tracking and is facing increased competition from rival TikTok.
Since the subscription’s arrival, Snapchat’s mobile app has generated approximately $7.3 million in worldwide consumer spending across iOS and Android according to Sensor Tower. This represents the first 30 days of Snapchat+’s availability, June 29, 2022–July 26, 2022. The figure is also around 116 times higher than the $63,000 the app pulled in via in-app purchases in the 30 days prior from May 30, 2022–June 28, 2022, indicating the bulk of the new revenue was driven by Snapchat+.
Notably, the number is already larger than Twitter’s in-app revenue, which totals nearly $4 million since Twitter Blue’s June 2021 launch — over a year’s time. Snapchat+ could be succeeding because it has more power users than Twitter, Sensor Tower data shows, as 34% of its active installs open the app every single day compared with just 19% for Twitter.