Is the love affair over? Has Instagram peaked? I’m not basing this on any stats, as there aren’t any recent figures, but, like all things, instinctively, it feels like the audience are growing bored, the novelty is over, it all feels like hard work and many people are thinking what’s next or they want a break.
Left - Instagram - Are you feeling bored? Is the love affair over?
Instagram’s had a good run for its money, but I think people have a sense of deja vu looking at the perfect and saccharine images that are repeated daily. The same faces in the same places. I think the British, especially, are suspicious of too much perfection and the filtered view on life feels distant from the reality.
Over the last 3 years, Instagram became an obsession for many with the birth of ‘Influencers’ and brands piling in to be seen in the hands of these people who always look both ways, but never into the camera, when they cross the road. It’s hard to do anything different and people are becoming immune to any great images and simply overwhelmed with the swiping. They even look bored.
Let’s look at Instagram with fresh eyes for a minute. It’s not often you learn anything from it. It’s mostly immature, forgettable stuff - hot people, cute animals, holiday pictures, floors etc - and appeals to your younger, teenage self and that can be fun, for a time. When you think or feel like engaging, it’s only natural to really care about the people you know in really life.
I’ve been put into the ‘Influencer’ bracket, I’ll put my hands up, but my foundation has always been the written word and this blog. The idea is and always was to try to be a trend setter, opinion former and find out the latest and best things within the men’s style area and to be trusted and influential. (I don't think we've fully settled on a label or a term to describe what we do. The word 'Blogger' has also had a rough ride and wasn't embraced by many). I care and am passionate about this business and it isn’t a vehicle for my own vanity despite what my enlarged head might say!
Many men’s influencers were born from their girlfriends’ accounts and as such followed their lead on content and visual identity. Let’s be honest, how many afternoon tea reviews really appeal to anyone, let alone guys? The modern equivalent of a teenage crush or poster on the wall, the good-looking male influencer is not going to be cute for forever and doesn't really appeal beyond the superficial. These things have a shelf life and the Best Before Date has passed. They have to work out their USP or niche of expertise to have any longevity. I think men, especially, respect and are influenced by honest experience.
People are growing bored, posting less images and with engagement falling, this is the perfect storm to deflate this bubble. We are all influenced by many of things and by lots of people and the idea that these people have a magic key or insight is now over. It was all getting a bit 'Emperor's New Clothes' or was it the emperor getting paid to wear the new clothes?!
‘Influencer Marketing’ has a place in the arsenal of marketing, but celebrities lead the movement in this. There’s no reason for brands not to spend a slice of the marketing pie, but it became a central focus and I’m not sure it really warrants that importance and all the eggs going into this basket. Brands need to create good content and they can partner with people to do this: lots of different people. It doesn’t and won’t always result in stats telling you how much ROI - return on investment - you’ve had. It’s marketing afterall, everything is experimental and nothing is guaranteed.
As Instagram make it hard for people to grow their followers, it’s become a game of getting nowhere and a feeling of hopelessness and dropping out. It’s also hard to find anybody on there or break out of your friendship groups. I’m not entering the #Instafraud debate, but I think some people need to take a step back and realise that not everything revolves around Instagram.
Many of these Influencers don’t seem to have an opinion or express it on Instagram and this is why they’ve never really been into Twitter. Nobody is saying anything. Twitter requires a brain and thought process in order to say something and, this, unfortunately, makes it smaller in our figure obsessed world. Twitter is about news, opinion and conversation and doesn't appeal on a huge scale.
Also, what’s the ideal Instagram number of followers? 10,000? 25,000? 100,000? More, more, more!
As the men’s fashion business has been going through contraction - ChicGeek Comment here - the money available has deflated the Influencer bubble too. Brand people forget there is much more to the digital world than Instagram. We’re definitely seeing less sponsored posts and collaborations on there. While Instagram isn’t going anywhere, the days of thinking the sun revolves around it are over. It’ll take its place on the icons along with all the other accounts and move into the background.
I think things are going to go back to written content held on blogs and websites that can be searched for and while social media is important and helps you create great original images, it’s very disposable and becoming more and more noisy as more features are added. I also think personality is going to become much more important in the digital world and this needs to be expressed in what you say, not just how you are seen. Instagram has become stressful keeping up, increasingly serious and as such has lost most of the fun.
It’s time to get clever, again.
To quote the supermarkets, the space race is over. Much like the frenetic expansion we saw in the food sector with supermarkets opening store after store in a saturated market, which didn’t increase sales and just cannibalised those they already had, the same could be said for social media.
We’ve seen a huge appetite for volume since its inception. Followers, subscribers, likes etc., brands and companies have spent lots of time, effort and money on growing their social following to as big as possible and, for many, continues to be the main focus of their attention. This isn’t sustainable.
Twitter has stalled in its growth of users at around the 300 million mark and Instagram, which just passed its 500 million users threshold, will no doubt start to slow or stall. There are only so many people in the world, after all.
This October, Condé Nast International’s chief digital officer, Wolfgang Blau, said, “You can’t win a race for reach,” at the Digiday Publishing Summit in Nice. He said that Vogue does not have to be gigantic to be very influential. For too long, too many were “drunk on reach” and forgot to focus instead on deeply understanding their readers.
This is a change in language and tactic from the one of the world's main digital publishers and a welcome one.
What is an 'acceptable' number of followers? Many people/brands look to others for this competitive and, sometimes not honest, number. It’s never enough.
The new age of social media will be healthy niches influencing people and rippling out into the wider population. Engagement will become key and producing content that is original, clever and contemporary will be the way to stand out. They'll be new ways to monitor engagement which don't require as much effort from the recipient.
What’s that inspirational quote about Jesus only having 12 followers? Okay, one did unfollow him! But, the space race is over and big isn’t always best.