Instagram burnout is becoming Reel

Instagram Reels, short format videos, under 90 seconds were first introduced to the photo-sharing app in 2020.

Users have had mixed opinions with the discussion reaching a head in mid-2022 when Meta (Instagram’s parent company) announced changes that would see Reels become the app’s main feature.

What caused this shift? Instagram was already one of the most popular apps, why change?

featured image showing the Tin Tok app

Short format video sharing app Tik Tok, is rapidly becoming one of the largest social media/ entertainment apps available; boasting an ever-growing audience and huge user retention rates, leaving the more established socials scrambling to keep up.

Many apps have since introduced short format video features to compete.

But none have been more blatant in their desperation than Instagram. Originally known as a photo-sharing app, Instagram, has been going through an identity crisis since it was purchased by Meta in 2012. Copying key features from almost every other major social media app on the scene.

They began by introducing ‘Stories’ in 2016 to compete with Snapchat. Then IGTV in 2018 to try and encourage long format video, à la YouTube.

They had some success with more original ideas such as the introduction of in-app shopping. However, their latest feature, Reels has seen the app take a drastic turn to compete with Tik Tok.

Rewarding users with increased reach and engagement, posting Reels has been the go-to hack for content creators on Instagram in recent years.

screenshot showing a number of videos about growing on instagram with Reels

While this is great news for some, not everyone is loving the change with many users reporting feeling frustrated and burnt out by the constant need to produce. Leaving them longing for the days when Instagram was simply for photos.

Why do apps love short format video?

Short format videos, around 15-90 seconds long, keep users engaged for longer periods of time. They are incredibly easy to consume, the rewards are swift and if you don’t like what you’ve been served in the first few seconds you can scroll to the next video. By removing the perception of a major time commitment it’s easy to trick users into spending more time watching videos than they intended.

Ease of consumption, paired with a scarily accurate content delivery system has been highly successful for Tik Tok. Boasting impressive average user session times of around 10 minutes and an insane average of 95 minutes per day.

According to users the appeal of short format video is the feeling of authenticity. The time limits discourage the use of professional camera set-ups and full-blown video shoots seen on YouTube. Favouring smart phone video captured in the moment, shared quickly with minimal edits. This means anyone with a phone can make and share entertaining content in minutes.

The truth is a little more complex. While the equipment requirements are low, preparing, recording, and posting a video can be surprisingly time consuming. For the teenager simply wanting to take part in current trends, that’s part of the fun. For businesses or content creators trying to improve their reach and engagement it can be quite demanding.

Instagram have been strongly encouraging the use of Reels by rewarding users with much higher rates of engagement and far better reach than standard photo content. For content creators who could adapt their content to suit, this has been highly rewarding.

What are the downsides?

When the speed of consumption is so high, trends and user interest can change in as little as 24 hours. Meaning if you aren’t constantly producing, utilising trends effectively and keeping yourself at the forefront of your followers’ attention. You can very easily slip into the background.

Even popular creators who utilise a paired back, speaking to camera style have reported feeling overwhelmed and burnt out by the amount of content they’re required to produce to maintain an audience.

So when Instagram began trialing an entirely Reel-centric feed in early 2022, users were quick to voice their distaste.

The new feed includes features such as full-screen video (replicating Tik Tok), step-scrolling and truncated comment sections. Along with many more recommendations from accounts users don’t follow and many more ads.

Mockup showing the new instagram feed

The new feed also likely uses deceptive design techniques i.e. manipulative UI that encourages actions or behaviours users may not intend. For example, making it harder for you to leave certain sections of the app, encouraging you to stay longer or to trick you into giving up your personal info. These tactics allow Meta to more easily serve you with content that’s likely to capture your attention and encourage conversion.

Put simply; they want to keep you on the app longer so they can show you more ads and sell you more products.

Feedback online has been strong with many users reporting the app is now ‘unusable’ and lamenting the days when they could log on and see friends’ photos. Content creators and businesses have also voiced their concerns, seeing drastically reduced reach and follower engagement on photo-based posts. Even frequent Reel users have reported inconsistent performance.

Humans are wary of change and there is a strong argument that these vocal opponents are simply late adopters that will come around once Reels are firmly established as the norm. However, even if users are willing to adopt video style content, it doesn’t translate well to all businesses.

Who’s hurting most?

Artists and photographers have been among those struggling most. Although creative steps can be taken to adapt static work to video, this is not how it’s intended to be viewed. With Instagram rapidly reducing their ability to share work, these creatives are feeling lost and searching for options.

Similar issues have previously occurred on TikTok, with users roasting small business owners for lamenting their lack of performance on the app. Younger users were unsympathetic, viewing these complaints as capitalistic and self-centred.

The same could be argued for the backlash on Instagram. However, given the recent changes are almost certainly profit driven, this seems ironic.

What does the average user think?

With businesses struggling, and content creators getting mixed results, how does the casual user feel about the recent changes? It’s hard to say.

Feedback online appears mostly negative, with casual users wanting to see more of their friends content and less from influencers or suggested accounts. Many are still requesting a return to a chronological feed, which has long been a bugbear with Instagram users.

screenshot from twitter showing user backlash to instagram changes

Overall, most simply want the app to honour its photo-sharing roots. Something that doesn’t seem likely based on feedback from Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri and the Meta team at large.

Whether or not the tested changes get rolled out across all users in their entirety remains to be seen. Overall, it appears highly likely the way most people use Instagram will be changing.

Jump ship or roll with the tides?

Given the shift to Reels is likely to stay many businesses will need to adapt to continue reaching their audience. Don’t worry, you won’t have to encourage Mark from accounts to dance on camera – unless he wants to! You probably already have more content generating potential than you think. If you’re not sure where to start, keep an eye out for our upcoming guide on how to make successful Reels. Be the first to read it when it comes out by signing up to our mailing list.

If you’re already using Reels let us know! We’d love to hear how they’ve been working for you and wether or not you’re likely to stick with it.

As always, if you really can’t wrap your head around incorporating Reels into your social media strategy, get in touch. We’re always available to help you out with your creative marketing needs.

Tin Can Admin