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Where Should Social Media Go?

Earlier today Instagram’s head, Adam Mosseri, said in a video that the social-media platform was planning on moving towards videos while it attempts to stay committed to creators, support photos, and put friends’ content at the top of a user’s feed. This follows backlash from numerous influencers on the app, including the likes of Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, due to the app’s changes marking a shift towards a more TikTok-like user experience.

Instagram has given feed priority to users who post short videos, including Reels, which mimic TikTok’s video interface. The platform has also updated its algorithm to give priority to Reels instead of posts from people whom a user follows, making the feed more of an entertainment-based experience compared to focusing on connections to the users one follows on the app. A study published in October 2021 has found that there are around 1.3 billion active Instagram users, while TikTok has 1 billion users. While TikTok may not lead in users right now, many experts believe that the app will surpass Instagram in due time. The main supporting reason for TikTok’s continued growth is the generation that they appeal to. Nearly 63% of individuals aged 12 to 17 are using TikTok every week, while nearly 57% of this same group use Instagram weekly. With TikTok still growing and becoming as popular as ever, it makes sense why Instagram is shifting its strategy. Today’s generation of social media users is bringing about a whole new consumer base that is looking to be appealed to. How exactly will the market meet this demand?

In my opinion, there are two ways that social media can go from here. First, there is the idea of blue ocean strategies where entrepreneurs can create entirely new means of online interaction. Second, entrepreneurs can reinvent the wheel. The true kicker is that both paths hold a great deal of promise.

An app that has quickly begun to sweep Gen-Z is BeReal, the anti-Instagram app that focuses on capturing the real moments of a user’s life compared to the “Highlight Reel” that Instagram is referred to as among some users. At some point during the day, every user of the app is sent a notification that they have two minutes to capture a selfie and a picture of what is happening in front of them. Users are then able to see what is happening with their friends on the app, but only after they have snapped two photos of their own. The app is quickly gaining popularity and has most recently taken Apple’s #1 spot in their US App store. This new form of social media is highlighting consumers’ need to share their real life with others, and receive the same in return. The app currently has some technical issues, such as delayed posting and network problems, but consumers continue to flock to the app.

The other path for social media entrepreneurs can take is to reinvent the wheel. As Instagram begins to take focus on video content, there is still a user base that is seeking a platform to share screenshots of lives with their friends. At the same time, entrepreneurs can utilize the power of nostalgia and create a retro experience like the early days of social media to allow for true photo sharing and interaction with those that we know and choose to follow.

Regardless of the way that social media goes, one of the most important values to understand is that we all use social media differently. Some of us may create content, while some of us choose to “mindlessly scroll”. It is important that we strive to find ways for users to interact with each other online, and give them the choice of how they want to give their followers a glimpse into their lives.

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