Instagram Should Start Paying Creators For Its Own Sake. Here’s How.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

t’s no secret that Instagram has become one of the most popular social media platforms in the world and that has been great for creators. It has roughly over 700 million monthly active users, allowing creators to reach and interact with a huge audience.

Red Flag: It’s An One-Sided Relationship

The problem is that many of these creators while adding a lot of value to the platform, aren’t being compensated for the value they create. Instead, are relying on third-party platforms to generate income.

Instagram, the company, on the other hand, makes good money by selling advertising space to other companies who want to promote their products. I believe absolutely zero of this advertising money is redirected towards creators. That business strategy creates an environment where creators are incentivized to not take the platform seriously and use it to channel viewers to other mediums where they can monetize their content.

Because, you know, in the end “exposure” doesn’t pay the bills.

Comparing it to Youtube

Platforms like YouTube have a very different approach. Yes, they monetize content by displaying Ads to viewers, but differently from Instagram, YouTube shares a portion of that Ad revenue with its creators, creating this cycle where creators are incentivized to make good content and keeping the community of viewers growing.

I mean, I have heard about full-time YouTubers. Have you heard anything about full-time Instagramers?

All the Wrong Moves

Sure, Instagram has been trying to be more like YouTube, unfortunately in the wrong way. The platform has been introducing a lot of features and changes to its algorithms in a way that favors video content over photos in a poor attempt to “be like YouTube”, leaving its original product — a photo-sharing service — sidelined and signaling to photographers, graphic designers, illustrators, and others, that this is no longer a platform for them.

In other words, Instagram is losing its core user base.

Having said that, here’s how I think Instagram could learn from YouTube and implement it in a way that favors their strengths.

Content, Content, Content

Instagram should become a facilitating agency between creators and companies. Think about it like a “repost on steroids”.

The math is simple here:

  1. Instagram has a vast and diverse user base
  2. Companies are interested in reaching that user base
  3. Companies need content to post on their account to reach Instagram’s user base
  4. Companies create content in-house and/or outsources it to agencies and that cost money
  5. Instagram users are constantly expressing their preferences and interests in terms of brands and products through their content. It’s not uncommon for people to tag companies and write things like, “sponsor me <add company name>!”
  6. Instagram should facilitate that user and business relationship, so creators can sell their content and businesses can utilize their marketing budgets in a more effective way
  7. Perception can be mixed, but user-generated content is usually more widely accepted than ads

Quality of Content

I’ll be the first one to say that most of the content created on Instagram is not “top-notch”. It is usually low-quality in terms of aesthetics and copy-writing.

But look at what happened to YouTube. It all began with people making videos with their computer webcams, now people are using cinema-grade cameras to make the same type of content. Whole production crews now put together the videos we all watch on YouTube.

It will be a matter of time, a really short time, to see the quality of content trend upwards once the right incentives are put in place.

The Role of a Platform

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, said during an interview about Windows 11 that, “platforms (…) have to create opportunity for people who build on the platform”.

It’s perhaps time for Instagram to see itself as a platform and start creating opportunities for the people who build on it before it’s too late and they lose relevance in the “creator economy”. A phenomenon that is already happening with the growing popularity of TikTok.

My proposal doesn’t cover the many nuances that will need to be thought out before rolling out such an endeavor — especially in terms of pricing and content pollution. I can cover such details in a separate article.

Do you agree or disagree with my read on this? Let me know!

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