Instagram announced multiple initiatives on Tuesday that could help woo back some of its disgruntled influencers who have been complaining for several months about the platform and policies they say are hurting their businesses.
The biggest announcement came from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself, who showed up at Instagram's first-ever "Creator Week" to discuss several new features that the social network is working on to help influencers make money directly through the platform, which Facebook owns.
Zuckerberg told Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, that the platform is starting to test a “native affiliate tool that will allow creators to earn commissions for the purchases they inspire people to make.”
“Our goal is to be the best platform for creators like you to make a living. And if you have an idea that you want to share with the world, you should be able to create it and get it out there easily and simply — across Facebook and Instagram — and then earn money for your work,” Zuckerberg said in a press release.
The company is also working on tools that would allow influencers to sell products directly through their personal profiles and set up new shops via the app. Instagram hopes this will “make it easier for creators who already sell their own merchandise or want to start doing so,” the release states.
But wait, there's more!
“We’re adding more ways for creators to make extra money for hitting certain milestones when using Badges on Instagram Live and Stars on Facebook,” the press release concludes.
The announcements come amid a sort of mini revolt among Instagram influencers, many of whom have expressed frustration with the difficulty of running their businesses on the app and the lack of support from Instagram.
As I wrote earlier this year, hosting your entire business on Instagram has major downsides. When an influencer is primarily living on Instagram, they are at the mercy of the app, its algorithm, and its policy changes. The company has the power to delete any account for any reason, which would be ruinous for an influencer who built their platform solely on the app.
Many influencers have complained that it's become harder and harder to get their content seen by their following; they feel forced to resort to gimmicks like loop giveaways or content they don't want to produce (mostly Reels) in order to grow.
Erin Kern (@cottonstem), an influencer with a big following, even announced last month she would be leaving the platform indefinitely after experiencing burnout. Additionally, many creators have complained about rampant harassment on the platform, which persists despite the company's attempts to address it.
Many influencers have started to diversify by launching newsletters, returning to blogs, or starting subscription services. It seems that Instagram wants their trust back, beginning with addressing their major complaints about how their content performs.
In a blog post also released Tuesday, Mosseri devoted several paragraphs to clear up “a lot of misconceptions out there” about how Instagram works, particularly when it comes to “the algorithm.” He also spoke at a session during the conference about the issue.
Despite the seemingly consistent complaints by influencers and other content creators about the difficulty in being seen due to Instagram's algorithm, Mosseri insists that, in actuality, it doesn't even exist.
“Instagram doesn’t have one algorithm that oversees what people do and don’t see on the app,” he writes. “We use a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with its own purpose. We want to make the most of your time, and we believe that using technology to personalize your experience is the best way to do that.”
Mosseri also discusses how the company chooses which posts and stories appear at the top of users' feeds, how Reels are prioritized, and how posts are chosen for the Explore page. He seems to be pushing back against the notion that Instagram has one big mechanism for highlighting content that all influencers must adhere to or be silenced; instead, he said, the experience is tailored for each individual user.
Also, according to Mosseri, the complaint that influencers are being “shadow-banned” is untrue.
“We can’t promise you that you’ll consistently reach the same amount of people when you post. The truth is most of your followers won’t see what you share, because most look at less than half of their Feed,” he writes.
However, Instagram is working to be more transparent if they do take content down, the post said.
“We recognize that we haven’t always done enough to explain why we take down content when we do, what is recommendable and what isn’t, and how Instagram works more broadly,” Mosseri writes. “As a result, we understand people are inevitably going to come to their own conclusions about why something happened, and that those conclusions may leave people feeling confused or victimized. That’s never our intention, and we’re working hard on improvements here.”
Even the fact that Instagram is hosting a multiday conference for creators is a sign that the company is making changes. While other social platforms, like YouTube, actively cultivated their homegrown talent for many years, Instagram tended to have a more laissez-faire approach to its influencers. Instagram's monetization platforms, like RewardStyle, were started by influencers who noticed a gap in the market, and the entire economy emerged.
But Creator Week is an even bigger push. Instagram seems to be making it clear: Hey, influencers, we are on your side.