December 3, 2023

Ella Gunnell

Growing Pains: Navigating Instagram’s Evolving Landscape


I've been in the social media game since 2019, pre-dating the explosion of TikTok and even the inception of Instagram Reels. That practically makes me a seasoned veteran in the social media world. During my tenure, I've watched my beloved Instagram, once primarily a photo-sharing app, transform into the complex and multifaceted platform it is today.

Overall, I'm thrilled with the changes Instagram has made. It has grown into a dynamic space that fosters creative expression. Beyond that, it serves as an integral marketing tool for brands and businesses, making it an invaluable asset in the digital age.

However, with growth have come growing pains. As a social media manager, I can't ignore the challenges and shortcomings of the new-and-improved Instagram. Let's dive into some of the most significant hurdles my clients and I face as we navigate this new Instagram age.

1. Poor SEO Capabilities

Instagram's SEO features fall short compared to other platforms like YouTube and TikTok. The platform heavily relies on hashtags and captions for content visibility, making it less straightforward for users to find specific content through search. Instagram recently added a new feature to help combat the issue, allowing you to categorize your reels with “topics.” Unfortunately, it’s not as powerful for discoverability as I had hoped. Unlike TikTok's algorithm, which thrives on virality and discoverability, Instagram's search functionality is not as robust, limiting organic reach potential. 

2. Content Longevity

Instagram's content landscape poses a significant challenge in terms of longevity. Content posted on TikTok or YouTube can — and often does —fa receive engagement for weeks, months, or even years after it is posted. On Instagram, engagement usually drops off after just a few days. I believe three factors contribute to that decline:

  1. Instagram's algorithm often prioritizes recent and popular content, potentially hindering the discoverability of older posts.
  2. Instagram lacks features that allow users to easily discover older content (such as playlists on TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook).
  3. Instagram's poor SEO capabilities hinder the findability of less recent posts. On YouTube and TikTok, relevant videos from the past will emerge when people search for specific topics. That gives content on those platforms a second life as it becomes rediscovered, sometimes long after it was posted. Sadly, Instagram content does not have this same opportunity.

3. Feature Fatigue

Navigating Instagram's ever-expanding repertoire of features can lead to what I call "feature fatigue." The platform's relentless introduction of new tools often overwhelms users as they don’t know which features to use or the best way to utilize them. And because the Instagram algorithm favors content that uses the latest features, brands feel pressured to incorporate every feature into their content strategies. This creates a vicious cycle in which users feel compelled to adapt quickly or risk falling behind. It can be exhausting!

Final Thoughts

Instagram’s landscape is always evolving, and it seems like change is the only constant. It can feel impossible to keep up with it all. If you are experiencing the same growing pains as my team and I, know you are not alone. Let’s hope the social media platform will begin to address the issues we face as it continues innovating. Until then, we must embrace the ride, learn from the bumps in the road, and look forward to what lies ahead in the exciting evolution of Instagram.

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