Brands on Instagram Need to Get a Room
While I follow just a handful of companies and publications on Instagram—to know what’s currently on Netflix and what I should cook for dinner—they’re somehow the accounts that appear most often on my feed. There’s no conspiracy here. Despite being faceless entities, their posts generate a lot of engagement, which gets them priority in the algorithm. Sometimes that engagement is just 100 people in the comments of a Nordstrom post lodging customer service complaints. But recently, it’s been something even more dystopian: brands literally talking to themselves.
I first noticed this with Kylie Jenner. The reality star runs two companies, Kylie Cosmetics and Kylie Skin, and the Instagram accounts for each of them kept appearing in the comments under her photos, gassing her up. Obviously, I knew it was a social media manager, not Kylie herself, shooting off these missives. But it was weird all the same, kind of like when the only “like” on an article of mine I’ve shared is from my mom.
Despite it being generally off-putting for everyday users, brands have taken this technique and run with it. It seems almost mandatory that for every post by one brand, its sibling or offshoot brand must appear in the comments. For instance, on many of Saturday Night Live’s recent posts, the account belonging to PeacockTV had something to say. Both are owned by NBC.
Then there’s this interaction between Food52 and it’s new-ish “living” vertical, Home52.
And don’t even get me started on Netflix. Netflix, NetflixUK, and all of the pages belonging to its original movies, TV shows, and categories seem trapped in a perpetual feedback loop of comments that, like the examples above, get pinned and prioritized by Instagram so my feed is just an uncanny valley of social media managers and employees approximating human interaction.
We’re accustomed to brands being cringey online, especially on Twitter. Just today, Popeyes weighed in on the stock market via a tweet about chicken tenders, for some reason. But the Instagram takeover stings more because it’s a slap in the face to everything the app was built on: humans documenting and sharing the little moments in their lives that make them unique. Even when trends like the Instagram “dump” usurped the curated, aesthetically-pleasing posts of Instagram’s early days, the human element was the same. Not anymore.
Only 26 people liked my Instagram post yesterday, so that maybe that’s partly to blame for my current attitude. But while savvy creators like the ones on our 2021 Micro Going Macro list have found ways to thrive on Instagram, I’m finding the app less and less geared towards the everyday user. So I’m unfollowing all the big brands in hopes of reorienting my feed back towards the kind of social media it was originally intended to be. But that won’t do much to change things if other users don’t make the same sacrifice—unless, of course, Netflix wants to share the love and start commenting on my stuff, too.