Facebook Has Been Hurting Instagram’s Growth — And It May Be Intentional



News of Instagram’s co-founders’ decision to leave the company has exposed a rift between them and parent company Facebook, which may have been intentionally hurting Instagram’s numbers.

This week, Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger announced their decision to leave the company they sold to Facebook six years ago. Subsequent reports of a fall out between IG’s visionaries and parent company Facebook are exposing a nasty rift.

For months, it has appeared that things between Instagram and Facebook, and between Systrom and Mark Zuckerberg, couldn’t be better. Both social media platforms have benefitted massively from being intertwined with one another—Facebook has boosted IG’s profile and instituted lucrative marketing changes, and IG has become the hip, less-bloated alternative to its scandal-ridden big brother.

Changes to the relationship between the two platforms, however, reportedly incensed Systrom and Krieger and induced them to announce abrupt departures.

When Facebook bought Instagram, there was a public and sustained effort for Facebook to stay out of Instagram’s way. This autonomy allowed Instagram to avoid a lot of the backlash that Facebook has received in recent years.

As of late, that mindset has changed, and not to Instagram’s benefit.

How Facebook kneecapped Instagram

You might think that Facebook would want to continue to promote and champion Instagram, the company’s crowning acquisition, considering it was recently named social media’s most-loved platform and use is skyrocketing.

According to Recode, that’s not the case: Facebook recently dialed back how much it promotes IG within the Facebook app, a decision that came directly from Zuckerberg. This apparently affected weekly referrals—a drop measured in hundreds of thousands of users.

Facebook also began downplaying the role Instagram has played in photo sharing across both platforms. In the old days, photos shared to Facebook via Instagram were actually labeled as such, reminding people that IG is the place to create and share your masterfully edited (or even just your #nofilter) photos. That label is gone now, making it look as though users are posting photos directly to Facebook even when they’re not.

This may not seem like the biggest deal. Facebook owns Instagram, so if you post to Instagram, you are in a sense posting to Facebook. But to Instagram employees, including the founders, it looked as though Facebook was taking credit for engagement that they weren’t driving.

Whether you want to look at this as Facebook simply doing less for IG than before, or Facebook wanting to take more credit, it drove a wedge between the higher-ups that couldn’t be repaired.

What does this mean for Instagram?

Adam Mosseri, head of product at Instagram, a former Facebook exec, and reportedly part of Zuckerberg’s “inner circle,” will take over IG.

Not surprisingly, the loss of the platform’s creators and the installation of an extension of Zuckerberg has some worried that Instagram is “about to suck.”

If Instagram does begin to suck, however, that won’t happen for some time. The platform has too much momentum as a social media powerhouse at the moment, and the kind of institutional changes that Mosseri and Zuck might come up with would take a long time to implement.

But if IG soon begins to resemble its parent company in ways that have turned off many former Facebook users, expect social media historians to point to this moment as the beginning of the end.

Learn the latest trends, insights and best practices from the brightest minds in media and technology. Sign up for SMW Insider to watch full-length sessions from official Social Media Week conferences live and on-demand.

Newsletter Subscription

Get the latest insights, trends and best practices from today's leading industry voices.

Watch keynote speaker Seth Godin

Bestselling Author and Entrepreneur, Seth Godin spoke at #SMWNYC. Watch his talk + hundreds of others on SMW Insider.

View Talk

Watch SMW Live

SMW Insider is a premium video platform that streams more than 300+ hours of talks, presentations, and interviews from leading industry experts.

Subscribe Now

Write for Us

Interested in sharing your ideas and insights with the world? Become a SMW News contributor and reach 300k readers each month.

Apply Here