In a column about art and Instagram, it’s easy to ignore the other apps scrambling for social media dominance. But the fight for attention is relentless, and while Instagram may be the art world’s social platform of choice, such favouritism tends to be generational. In the mid-2010s, reports started to show that fewer young people were using Facebook while the number of over-55s signing up was growing. It was soon coined “Boomerbook”. Meanwhile, Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 initially to neutralise the threat of competition, but soon the app began to mop up the pool of young people abandoning Facebook.
Now we are facing “Millennialgram”. According to a recent survey undertaken by the financial services firm Piper Sandler, 35% of US teenagers say Snapchat is their favourite social media platform and 30% prefer TikTok, while Instagram comes in third at 22%. A report from the New York Times last month revealed internal documents from 2018 in which the company had named the loss of teenage users to other social media platforms as an “existential threat” and a further document from October last year that read: “If we lose the teen foothold in the US we lose the pipeline.”
The latter leaked document laid out Instagram’s marketing plan for this year, and now we are beginning to see it unfold. The platform openly announced what it calls “the next chapter in Instagram’s brand story” on its website in September. Called “Yours to Make” it aims to “showcase how you can explore who you are with Instagram”. The announcement was accompanied by a video that shows young creatives using the various features and products on the Instagram app, including the hip-hop artist Topaz Jones, the Native American make-up artist Madrona Redhawk and the digital creator Justin Yi—“real creators and everyday users who are using our platform to push the boundaries of creativity and experimentation”, Instagram says.
The New York Times says Instagram has allocated a marketing budget of $390m this year, mostly aimed at wooing teens. In the UK, the Yours to Make film is accompanied by a social-first content series created with Channel 4’s 4Studio, a brand partnership with the culture publication Dazed, targeted digital and video adverts, and “experiential activity” such as an installation at London’s Saatchi Gallery (4-9 November).
The work at Saatchi will consist of a free-to-access, interactive “motion art installation” in the galleries—a “digital portrait of British youth culture” with Instagram Reels video content from 50 handpicked Gen Z creatives. It has been assembled by the digital artist and curator Zaiba Jabbar, who says she has been inspired by “the breadth of creativity” in the Reels. The platform is also inviting users to submit Reels about their own journeys of self-discovery—tagged #YoursToMake—for the chance to be included in the work. Time will tell if Instagram can Reel the kids back in.