Why Instagram Should Stick to Its Purpose

New social media apps are launching all the time. With so many options, brands need to stay on top of trends to choose the best platform for their marketing efforts. The total number of monthly Instagram users worldwide is 1.44 billion, making the platform stand out as a useful marketing channel for businesses.  

Since its launch in 2016, TikTok has taken the world by storm, becoming one of the most popular social media apps among Gen Z. It had 1.2 billion active users at the end of 2021 and this figure is expected to rise to 1.8 billion by the end of 2022, making the platform a serious competitor for Instagram.  

It’s no secret that some Instagram features have been copied from TikTok, and this has been going on for a while now. Ever since TikTok became popular, Instagram has been trying to replicate their success by adding similar features. 

In my opinion, it’s a bad move, and it’s time for them to stop. Instagram should come up with their own ideas so they don’t lose their existing audience and compromise their integrity. By doing this, they could really set themselves apart from the competition once again.   

Each platform serves different purposes for marketers and their audiences. If Instagram strays too far from their original purpose, they may start to lose the strengths that differentiate them.   

Instagram Vs. TikTok

TikTok is a short-form video app that allows users to create and share 15-second videos accompanied by music. It was created by Chinese tech company, ByteDance, the same company behind Musical.ly, which TikTok superseded in October 2018. You can add music, emojis, text and other visuals to your videos before sharing them with your followers.  

TikTok provides an easy way to make short videos, including memes and lip-sync, which makes it a great choice for people who are looking to engage with visual content but don’t have much experience with video production. Many users have found TikTok videos to be a great way to express their creativity and connect with people. TikTok editing options are more advanced than Instagram (at least for video – Instagram wins as far as photo editing is concerned). It’s the go-to platform for publishing entertaining, short-form video content.  

On the other hand, Instagram started out primarily as an image sharing platform and now supports various visual formats including carousels, long form and live videos, and more. Instagram also focuses more on the aesthetics of how its content is presented. All in all, the user experience is completely different on each platform. 

How is Instagram is Copying TikTok?

Instagram has been copying features for some time.  “Stories” was very similar to what Snapchat launched many years ago.  Now, Instagram is focussing heavily on video – a step away from it’s image roots which were great for supporting small businesses and creators.

When TikTok introduced a dedicated sticker shop Instagram followed suit with a dedicated sticker shop of its own. TikTok launched “Rewind” – a feature that allows users to create a short clip that plays in reverse – and Instagram followed suit with a very similar feature that’s part of “Instagram Stories”.  

When TikTok added a feature called “Daily Do,” which allows people to post a positive message every day, Instagram followed suit by introducing a feature that allows users to send “Daily Reminders” to themselves.  

The list goes on. Instagram needs to stop trying to compete by copying and instead, find a genuine competitive edge. There’s a big difference between being inspired and copying.  Of course, not all of these features will detract from Instagram’s purpose, such as the “Daily Do”. However,  some will compromise the user experience that Instagram’s audience are used to and prefer.   

These features may have been successful for TikTok, but they’re not necessarily going to be successful for Instagram. TikTok is a different platform, and people use it for different reasons.

The Consequences of Copying 

There are a few negative effects of Instagram copying TikTok features. The first is that coming across as a copycat is sometimes enough to turn people away from using a product or service. People will start seeing Instagram as a cheap imitation of TikTok – especially the younger generation who are new to social media use and have not grown up with Instagram.  

Instagram’s copying is causing issues with their relationship with the Gen Z community. Gen Z cares about authenticity a lot – and that includes when it comes to social media.  

Another consequence of copying is that it can cause confusion among users. People may not know which app they should be using to do the things they want to do, and this can lead to them not using either app. On the other hand, if all social media platforms were the same with no differentiating features, people may just stick to the app they’re already most familiar with.  

Instead of damaging their reputation by copying, Instagram should innovate in unique ways and maintain their integrity. There’s a reason TikTok is popular among Gen Z, and TikTok features may not appeal to Instagram’s audience. They may even be off-putting. Instead of trying to win over Gen Z at the expense of their wider audience, Instagram should build on their own unique strengths and continue to provide the value their audience wants. 

When to Use Instagram vs. TikTok for Marketing

Like most things, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to choosing between Instagram and TikTok for marketing. Each platform offers unique benefits for brands, and the best choice will depend on your target audience, brand identity, and marketing goals. Let’s look at some of the key differences between the platforms and review where Instagram’s strengths lie.  

1. Audience

Instagram has a larger and more diverse audience than TikTok, which makes it a better choice for brands that are trying to reach a wider audience. TikTok’s audience skews younger, and that youthfulness makes TikTok a better choice for companies who are specifically trying to appeal to Gen Z.  

Instagram also offers more sophisticated targeting options than TikTok because it uses Facebook’s advertising system. This allows businesses to target very specific demographics and interests.  

2. Tone and Type of Content

One of the biggest differences between Instagram and TikTok is the type of visual content each platform encourages. If you’re hoping to showcase your brand’s personality and create a visual-heavy brand identity, Instagram is a better choice; if you want to focus on short, high-energy videos, TikTok is a better bet. 

While TikTok content is more casual, as is the overall environment of the platform, Instagram has a more professional tone that is more conducive to marketing. Overall, Instagram is a better platform than TikTok for businesses looking to market their products or services. Even if the brand is not visual-heavy, Instagram helps businesses to connect with customers in a meaningful way.  

3. Influencer Marketing

Instagram is the most popular platform for influencer marketing. TikTok offers various ways to get in contact with and collaborate with influencers but the nature of their activity is quite different. On TikTok, influencers are more likely to seek out new trends, while on Instagram, it’s easier to find long-term collaboration. Gen Z might find TikTok influencers more engaging due to the platform’s dynamic nature; again, different audience, different preferences, and different reasons for using the platform.  

Instagram influencers are often more professional and well-established, with better photography and videography skills. Instagram also has more social commerce features, such as in-app shopping, which may increase conversion rates.  In fact, a study showed that 60% of Instagram users learn about products through the app and 75% take further action such as visiting sites. Both platforms are good for working with micro-influencers, although TikTok may be more effective here because communities on the platform are very niche.  

4. Algorithms

The TikTok algorithm makes it easy for anyone to go viral, even if they’re a new user and have no followers. If that’s your main goal, TikTok is the best option. If your goal is leads and conversions, Instagram offers more potential.

Another difference between the two platforms is that the Instagram algorithm places more importance on timing – you need to post when your audience is active to gain more visibility. You also need to post consistently. Timing is not such an important factor on TikTok, and neither is consistency. With that said, posting consistently is just good practice, no matter what social media channel you’re using.  

Instagram presents multiple posts at a time based on the user’s interests. On the other hand, TikTok only presents one post at a time. This increases the chance of full views, and therefore generates more impressions.

Harnessing the algorithms of each platform depends on your goals. Know what your goal are, whether that’s impressions, building a loyal audience, and so on – and adapt your strategy accordingly.

To sum up, Instagram is a versatile platform with a diverse audience. Its user experience is completely different to that of TikTok, and it’s important that they maintain it and continue to offer users the features and experience they know and love. If they continue to copy TikTok, they risk not only alienating users, but damaging their reputation and losing their competitive edge.  

Both platforms have a lot to offer marketers and how they use each of them depends on their goals. Need help deciding how to approach your marketing strategy on Instagram, TikTok, and any other social media platform? My team and I are here to help – click here to get in contact.  

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