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What Instagram’s pivot to video means for artists on the platform

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A person's silhouette is seen against a rainbow background that reads "Instagram"

It can be challenging for creators who rely on the app economically to transform how they market their work. Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

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If you’re on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed some changes recently. The feed you used to turn to for pictures of your friends’ dogs and recaps of their vacations is now full of videos posted by influencers or celebrities or random strangers who have gone viral. 

 Adam Mosseri, head of the Meta Platforms unit, has confirmed that Instagram is “no longer a square photo sharing app” and that it’s shifting its focus to entertainment to better compete with apps like TikTok. 

For some artists who’ve come to rely on Instagram to market their work, that poses a problem.

The social media service has served as sort of a gallery space for Denver-based photographer Ben Rasmussen. “It’s like your own little outlet” for building an audience and marketing to potential clients. But promoting his still photography on a platform that privileges video hasn’t been easy. 

“Here’s this book that’s a combination of photographs and text, and we need to figure out how to tell people about this using 15- to 30-second videos,” he said.

Instagram’s pivot has also shaken things up for Joanne Brings Thunder. She’s based in rural Wyoming and uses the app to market her jewelry, textiles and ledger art to customers around the world. But she can’t rely on her Instagram following to drive sales like it used to. 

“Because of the algorithm changes, my outreach just doesn’t seem to be there,” she said.

Social media can be a double-edged sword for artists, said Paco de Leon, an illustrator, financial coach for creative professionals and author of the book “Finance for the People.”

“If like 90% of my revenue comes through Instagram, it’s risky.”

Risky because Instagram’s a business with its own profit incentives that artists have no control over, and 90% indicates a very concentrated revenue source. So, should artists be pandering to the algorithm?

“We all have, like, our lines of what we’re willing to do. I’m still struggling personally to figure out, you know, am I supposed to make my stuff animated?” De Leon said.

Or act more like a content creator, which can be tough for those who like their art to speak for itself. Joanne Brings Thunder is begrudgingly giving Instagram Reels a try with help from her teenage daughter. 

“She’ll video me while I’m working, edit it for me and post it. But it’s just another hindrance, I guess.”

She’s also relying more on an email newsletter to past customers — something that, unlike Instagram, she can control. 

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