The creators claim the reach of their static-image posts has been declined for a few months now and believe it has to do with changes in the Facebook-owned app’s algorithm that favours videos over pictures.
The difference in reach between the two formats is hard to ignore, said creators from communities like the #ArtistsOfInstagram or the #WritersOfInstagram, who have uploaded a cumulative 42 million posts on the platform. Their grouse: unless they tweak their art to express it in a video format, their growth remains stunted.
“But we haven’t reduced the reach of creators who primarily post images,” said Manish Chopra, director and head of partnerships – India, at Instagram’s parent company, Facebook. “Reels is one of our many features, like Live, IGTV, Stories and Feed and we continue to innovate with all of them.”
Creators tell a different story.
“Reels fetch us three times the organic reach of a static image,” said Anuj Gosalia, CEO of content company Terribly Tiny Tales, which tells stories through text-based images. After the launch of Reels, the company, which has over 1.7 million Instagram followers, increased the volume of video content on the platform to 30% of all posts from 10%.
“In six months, we plan to make it 80% videos,” added Gosalia.
Doodling artist Pradeep Das (@thebombay_doodler) resorted to making behind-the-scenes Reels of creating his artwork when he saw the reach of his static posts “going for a toss.”
“If I post an artwork these days, it gets 3,000 to 5,000 views. However, a Reels video of creating the said artwork gets anywhere between 25,000 to 50,000 views,” he said.
Not every creator is willing to adapt to the platform’s changing ways.
Megha Rao, author and performance poet, likes performing on stage for an on-ground audience, but not really for a video.
“There’s definitely been a much slower growth for my poetry posts compared to last year,” said Rao, who has over 52,000 followers on the platform. “Instagram is becoming so many things at once and I’m not conforming to its algorithm just so people can notice me.”
Artist Malathi Jogi, with over 3,000 Instagram followers, finds making videos a cumbersome activity that takes time away from her art and forces her to focus instead on imbibing skills to market it.
“The platform is forcing us into the video genre by throttling our reach. That changes our relationship with our art,” said Jogi.
Balram Vishwakarma, whose Instagram account @AndheriWestShitposting has over 65,000 followers, said, “Instagram encourages creators to go video-centric during creator workshops and seminars.”
Part of pushing video creators, he reasoned, has to do with the fact that Instagram competes with TikTok and YouTube.
“The latter two are video platforms that are really good at making sure that people spend time on their platforms. Instagram is trying to achieve that now,” Vishwakarma said.
Many digital marketing professionals support Instagram evangelising Reels to reach its target audience.
“Video consumption is on the rise and ad spends are increasingly moving to videos,” said Prashant Puri, CEO of digital marketing firm AdLift.
However, about 60%-70% of advertisers still spend on static images as posts or within Stories on Instagram for brand promotion, said Manika Juneja, VP – operations west & south, WATConsult, a digital agency.
Reels hasn’t enabled advertising yet, Juneja added. But even when it does, brands may not be too inclined to advertise on Reels except when working with an influencer. The user habit is to check Stories first, she reasoned, and then check the feed, which is where Reels appears right now.
“That habit will not change overnight,” she said.
Meanwhile, creators like Rao and Jogi are looking at alternative platforms and means to showcase their work online and build a community of followers. These include building a standalone site and starting a newsletter.
Jogi has reduced her Instagram usage significantly, from posting an artwork every day to not posting any for over a month now.
“I came to Instagram to build a small community around my work. If people can’t see it, my control over my community and my voice are gone,” she said. “If Instagram wants me to work in line with its changing algorithm, then it is a platform built for itself and not the creators anymore.”
(Graphics by Rahul Awasthi)