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Instagram gives people little meaningless badges to post

Instagram would super-duper like everyone to post more, especially creators. In a landscape where people are posting less and less on social media, it is crucial to make the platform active and dynamic to keep people’s attention. So Instagram does everything it can, or at least some, to encourage users to share, some of which may be more interesting than others.

I recently noticed that the company was offering people with creator and business accounts virtual rewards for certain “achievements” or milestones on the platform. If a user adds to their Stories at least seven days in a row or gets a certain number of plays to their Reels, they receive a badge that amounts to a digital “woo-hoo.” Although this feature has been around since late last year, Instagram promoted it in a blog post earlier this month. It also included some tips for making the most of the feature and succeeding on the platform, including tracking progress on “achievements”, posting regularly, and encouraging followers to interact – which makes the whole machine tick social media.

Many apps are gamified to try to get people to engage and stick around, even if the rewards they get for playing are meaningless. Fitness apps congratulate you for working out X number of days in a row or getting your steps in. Wordle lets you track your sequences, just like the language learning app Duolingo. Gamification can be fun – it’s kind of nice to get a little kudos for making your moves. But it can also be disgusting. This can distort behavior, placing emphasis on achieving some sort of accomplishment instead of accomplishing the task at hand. It can even make people who don’t achieve certain goals seem inferior, especially if their shortcomings are visible to others. (New Instagram badges are private unless creators choose to share them.)

Badges aren’t a stick, but they’re not exactly a carrot either – well, maybe one of those little soggy carrots at the bottom of the bag at the bottom of your fridge.

From a business perspective, Instagram’s decision makes sense. Instagram is a key part of Meta’s overall business and a major revenue generator. Court filings released earlier this year revealed that Instagram generated $32.4 billion in ad revenue in 2021, accounting for 27% of Meta’s total revenue and more ad revenue than YouTube generated. In a business landscape where Meta has invested tons of money into the Metaverse. and artificial intelligence, Instagram’s continued success is vital.

“You could talk to a lot of people and they would suggest that most or all of the company’s recent growth has come from Instagram. And so they’re obviously trying to think of ways to not only keep people engaged, but I think they “We are very aware of the ongoing competitive threats,” said Scott Kessler, global sector head of technology, media and telecommunications at Third Bridge Group. This includes direct competitors such as TikTok and Snapchat. , as well as all the other things on and off the internet that are competing for people’s attention at all times.

In particular, Instagram needs to entice Gen Z and even younger people back to the platform, even if it’s not always good for their mental health and well-being. Doing this requires a constant flow of new content so that the platform doesn’t just become a sea of ​​unnecessary and boring ads and content. Instagram’s parent company, Meta, doesn’t want it to go the way of Facebook, which for many people serves as a tool to remember birthdays and see what their weird aunt is up to, if they ever connect.

Although it is understandable Why Instagram would do this, whether it will work is another question. People already post to get likes, attention, and influence. Adding a small badge to show off one’s personal accomplishments makes the effort more official, but it’s unclear how much of a difference it will make.

I don’t see badges as the solution to increasing the publication rate.

Ali Grant, partner and director of marketing at Digital Dept., an influencer management company, told me she understands the idea of ​​trying the concept of gamification — she sees it all the time in business. However, she has doubts about the effectiveness of this measure.

“What creators want on the platform is reach and engagement,” she told me. “When this is lacking, the motivation to publish diminishes and they look for it elsewhere. I don’t see badges as the solution to increasing the publication rate.”

The number of posts added by content creators, or anyone for that matter, appears to be at an all-time high, Grant said. Creators who post regularly are the ones who experience the most growth and engagement, but regularity still doesn’t guarantee success, and there’s no clear rhyme or reason for what ends up retaining the most attention. ‘attention.

“There’s this pressure to create aesthetically elevated content for Instagram, and that discourages people from posting as much as they could on Stories or on TikTok, which are less curated and more current,” Grant said. “It’s a mix of bandwidth issues and pressure for the type of content required for Instagram posts in the feed.”

Alixandra Barasch, a professor of marketing at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder who studies how new technologies influence consumer behavior, was also dubious about the whole Instagram badge situation. People like to set and achieve goals, including maintaining a streak, which becomes a goal in itself. But a streak of Instagram posts is different than, say, exercising every week for a year or taking a language course daily, both of which have intrinsic value. There is pleasure and satisfaction in the action itself, beyond the extrinsic reward. You feel good trying to get fit or practicing Spanish no matter who sees you; this is not the case for posting on Instagram.

“Language learning is a goal that people have within themselves, and so to have a badge and to be rewarded for doing it, I’m inherently happy about that badge,” Barasch said. “But posting on Instagram, I don’t think, ‘Wow, I’m a great poster.'”

The compromises are that I expose myself. I might not get many likes. People might judge me. There are so many social dynamics

Barasch said people seeing their own little badges may help in the short term, but it’s hard to imagine a long-term impact unless it comes with another benefit or reward.

“The trade-offs are that I expose myself. I might not get a lot of likes. People might judge me. There are so many social dynamics,” Barasch said.

A Meta spokesperson acknowledged that the tools wouldn’t be useful to all creators, but said they had seen them help creators who are just starting out and that, overall, Instagram wanted to do more to give creators advice to achieve their goals. On the gamification front, the spokesperson said the “last thing” the company wanted to do was add more pressure on creators and emphasized that the features were optional, private and relatively low-stakes.

“This is a feature intended to help creators set goals in the app, as we are already seeing creators do this themselves when setting personal challenges,” the spokesperson said . “We want to help creators set the appropriate goals and milestones that we believe will help them succeed on the platform.”

Ultimately, Instagram badges aren’t the end of the world. At best, they’re just hamburgers. At worst, they seem a little lame and add to the vibe that Instagram is becoming a platform for old people. Grant sent me a screenshot of her achievements, none of which she has earned yet, and noted that she had never looked at them before I asked her about them. I texted my most famous friend on Instagram – who has a business account – to ask about her badges, and she sent me a screenshot of something different because she didn’t know what I was talking about.

Instagram badges are not yet widely available to all users, and a Meta spokesperson said they had nothing to share about whether they eventually would be. In the meantime, the question of badges seems rather neutral, even negative. Of all the accomplishments to worry about, publishing a story seven days in a row isn’t a particularly ambitious step, and it’s difficult to gamify a social media landscape that is already, by and large, a game.

Emilie Stewart is a senior correspondent at Business Insider, writing about business and economics.


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