Instagram audience: the battle for the young

Publication date: 28 Oct 2021

In 2018, Instagram’s audience reached one billion users, Mark Zuckerberg called this event “an incredible success”. At that time, the app, which had become a real hit among young people, was seen as the driver of Facebook’s entire business.

The New York Times conducted an investigation based on leaked former Facebook employees and found that since October 2020, the company fears “losing its teenage audience in the US is like cutting off an oil pipeline”. The service document outlined the company’s marketing plan for next year (2021).

Realizing the threat, Instagram went into action. Since 2018, the lion’s share of the marketing budget (which has grown from $67.2 million to $390 million over the years) has been directed towards attracting young users, primarily through digital advertising. In addition to teenagers, Instagram targeted their parents and so-called young adults – adult young consumers.

Initially, Instagram was seen as a supplier of young people to the rest of Facebook, with an increasingly ageing audience. But afterwards, Facebook’s flagship social network reconciled itself to the fact that it wasn’t appealing to young people, while the photo service continued to cling to the idea. The infusion generated results in the form of an increase in Instagram’s young audience, but Zuckerberg’s marketers recognized that other brands (Facebook, WhatsApp) were not interested in that audience.

Former and current employees confirm that Instagram chief Adam Mosseri is growing increasingly anxious about the leaving of a young audience. Last month, the management team was presented with data that showed the pandemic had put an end to the influx of new young users. The time teenagers spend on the app has also declined. For the company, teen time spent is an extremely important metric, and it is usually double the adult figures: 3-4 hours versus 30-45 min a day.

The company expected to boost teen time spent with Instagram Live and the Instagram TV video platform, as well as by positioning Instagram as the main platform for teen self-expression and coverage of high-profile Super Bowl events.

The younger generation chooses what seems new and cool to them, says Cornwall University professor Brooke Duffy, so the “oldies” have to defend their place in the sun. It seems people are just tired of Instagram’s “inspirational and pretentious” atmosphere, says the media, culture and technology expert.

Former and current employees confirm that Instagram chief Adam Mosseri is growing increasingly anxious about the leaving of a young audience. Last month, the management team was presented with data that showed the pandemic had put an end to the influx of new young users. The time teenagers spend on the app has also declined. For the company, teen time spent is an extremely important metric, and it is usually double the adult figures: 3-4 hours versus 30-45 min a day.

The company expected to boost teen time spent with Instagram Live and the Instagram TV video platform, as well as by positioning Instagram as the main platform for teen self-expression and coverage of high-profile Super Bowl. 

The younger generation chooses what seems new and cool to them, says Cornwall University professor Brooke Duffy, so the “oldies” have to defend their place in the sun. It seems people are just tired of Instagram’s “inspirational and pretentious” atmosphere, says the media, culture and technology expert.

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