Make Instagram Instagram Again

Charting Instagram's Pivots to Stay Competitive

Henry Chapman, Research and Insights Analyst




Instagram's iterative history

Meta’s Instagram has grown its popularity over the last decade by copying and iterating on other apps’ core features. Instagram first did this to Snapchat in 2016 by copying its “Story” feature. It did this successfully and captured the short-form, narrative image market for the next three years.

In July 2020, Instagram once again tried to feature-replicate, this time with the hugely successful video-forward TikTok. In this brief, we examine the results of this pivot, and suggest reasons why it failed.

Instagram copies Snapchat stories (2016)

While Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012, Snapchat remained independent and enjoyed steady growth. Around 2016, Facebook engineers saw Snapchat’s growing popularity as an existential threat to their business. As a result, they adopted a core feature - the Snapchat Story. Infegy Atlas data shows that Instagram copied this masterfully, as post-volume dropped for Snapchat, but continued to climb for Instagram.

Image 1 - Instagram Copies Snapchat Stories (2016)

Figure 1: Post volume graph shows that SnapChat almost overtook Instagram in post volume in 2016.

Instagram pivots to short form video (2022)

Instagram faced a similar challenge in 2022 with TikTok, the short-form video app, siphoning off younger users with its addictive algorithm and short-term video content. Instagram tried to copy TikTok by placing full-screen video over Instagram’s traditional image feed.

Image 2 - Instagram Pivots to Short Form Video (2022)

Figure 2: Post volume graph shows that while SnapChat volume consistently declined since 2016, Instagram’s stopped growing. This enabled TikTok to become competitive.

Users complain

Users saw Instagram’s pivot and complained. Instagram user @illumitati started the complaints with a post proclaiming, “Make Instagram Instagram Again.” This post was retweeted by the Kardashian siblings and garnered millions of likes and shares.

Many of these complaints centered around Instagram creators having to revise their creative process and completely change how they generated content for Instagram.

Image 3 - Users complain

Figure 3: Screenshot of @Illuminati's Instagram post.

Spike in post volume showcases user complaints

Image 4 - Spike in post volume showcases user complaints

Figure 4: Post Volume graph showing the various spikes around the #MakeInstagramInstagramAgain movement, starting on July 17, 2022

Infegy Atlas tells the story of the “Make Instagram Instagram Again” movement with post volume. @illumitati shared her post early on. The Kardashians picked it up a few days later near the peak of the post volume. Instagram reversed course quickly after that. The final hump shows post-controversy commentary.

Users tell Instagram: "Stop trying to be TikTok"

Image 5 - Users tell Instagram

Figure 5: Word Cloud of topics relating to #MakeInstagramInstagramAgain. Note the appearance of Kim Kardashian and Adam Mosseri

This Infegy Atlas word cloud showcases the main complaints and complainers driving the conversation around Instagram’s changes. While Tati Bruening (@illumitati) appears in the word cloud, the main voices driving the conversation come from mega-influencers Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner. The complaints center around the remark that Instagram should “stop trying to be TikTok.”

Instagram reverses course

Image 6 - Instagram reverses course

Figure 6: Mainstream News Outlets report on Instagram Reversing Course

Notably, Instagram reversed course just a few days after the backlash. This is significant because Meta has shown great reticence to listen to consumer backlash in the past. It remains to be seen whether Instagram can pivot to meet TikTok’s surging demand without alienating its creators. That question remains unanswered.


Instagram’s attempt to pivot to an immersive, full-screen video experience backfired spectacularly. This means Instagram’s playbook of copying other platform’s cornerstone features won’t work like it did in 2016. This failed business strategy showcases serious concern around Instagram’s ability to remain relevant amongst a more competitive marketplace. In 2022, social media users have more options where they can spend their time. In order to attract the crowds, Instagram will have to innovate, not just copy.

Stay up-to-date with Infegy insights by subscribing to our blog