Study: 64% of millennials cite Instagram as most 'narcissistic' social media app

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Dive Brief:

  • A new report from LendEDU polled thousands of college students and found 64% view Instagram as the most “narcissistic” social media platform, beating out Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat combined. Facebook owns Instagram.
  • Accusations of narcissism stem from users’ reportedly shallow behavior: 78% of respondents said they know users who delete Instagram and Facebook posts if they don’t receive enough likes. When asked if they reciprocate likes to users who’ve liked their own posts, 67% of respondents said “yes,” stating the tradeoff is “an unspoken Instagram code.”
  • “The large majority of Instagram users have formed unspoken alliances with each other to ensure they each tally enough ‘likes’ to make their posts stand out,” Mike Brown, research analyst at LendEDU, asserted in a blog post. “It does not matter if Instagram users genuinely enjoy other Instagrammers [sic] posts; the only thing that matters is […] your own Instagram page gaining more status.”

Dive Insight:

Instagram being labeled “narcissistic” might be painting with too broad a brush — it’s certainly an odd label to give an app — but is perhaps unsurprising. Of the platforms mentioned in the survey, Instagram is the most purely image- and aesthetic-driven, with a bent toward content like selfies, along with fashion and lifestyle photography. Stemming from that, Instagram is a huge hub for social influencers, making Brown’s assertions about an insular, self-promoting culture potentially intriguing for marketers.

Properly gauging things like ROI, along with influencer compensation, has been a long-standing question for brands. Since social campaigns’ translation into actual sales can be hard to track, metrics such as likes and shares often become their own form of currency, turning sponsored influencer posts into reach and brand awareness plays more than anything.

The LendEDU research suggests some of those plays are more self-inflated than marketers might hope. While faceless bots plague platforms like Twitter, a like-driven economy, where users essentially “pay” each other for artificial boosts, might devalue posts shared on Instagram.

That’s not to say Instagram shorts brands when it comes to supporting influencer- or user-generated content. If anything, the app is a star player in this space, and has introduced a number of innovative ad products, including tap-and-shop photos, that retailers love for their ability to lessen friction on the consumer path to purchase.

Top image credit:

State Farm