By Akshay Gangwar
Instagram is one of the biggest social media platforms out there. According to a report from July 2022, Instagram has upwards of 1.44 billion users globally, making it one of the most sought-after places for creators to make their mark; and it’s not an easy task — believe us, we know. However, once you’re a creator on the platform and everything seems rosy, things can get so much worse.
Note: The views expressed in this article are solely based on our opinions of social media platforms and personal experience with them. They are not incentivized by any third-party, or social media company.
Gaining Traction on Instagram
For starters, becoming a creator is, in itself, an uphill battle. Not only does Instagram work in unknown ways, when it comes to the reach and engagement your posts and Reels receive, it’s even more difficult to convert viewers into followers.
If you try to figure out how to increase your reach, you will go down a rabbit hole trying to understand Instagram’s algorithmic feed, complete with the number of stories you need to post, the best times for posting photos and Reels, and optimizing your captions with the best hashtags, among a load of other things.
One has to put a lot of work into their Instagram presence in order to make a mark. That’s exactly what we did as well. At the beginning of March 2022, our Instagram page (beebomco) had a little over 385k followers. What’s more, we had been hovering in the 300k range for almost a year at that point.
From there, it took us just four months to reach 1 million followers on our page. A major milestone, and a point where we could call ourselves a legit “Instagram creator”.
However, as glad as we are to have a platform so large to share content on, and an audience so receptive and engaging, there are inherent issues in the way Instagram works for creators.
First is monetization on the Instagram platform. Instagram’s monetization tools and options are nowhere near those offered by YouTube. On Instagram, your monetization options are:
On the other hand, YouTube offers creators income via ads on long-form videos, and the company is even bringing ad-revenue to YouTube Shorts in 2023 (source), which is Google’s direct competitor to Instagram Reels.
The funny part is that there are ads in the Reels tab on Instagram as well, but creators simply aren’t allowed a cut of the revenue. That said, Instagram does have a “Reels Play Bonus programme” (read more) that pays creators based on the views their Reels get, but it’s an invite-only feature, and you have to manually choose the Reels you wish to count for the bonus payout.
These Reels have to abide by certain rules, including copyright rules, and the fact that you get to select which Reels to include in the bonus, almost seems like if you post copied content, it’s okay because you can simply choose to not include it for payouts. Weird, isn’t it?
In fact, it’s not just us, Instagram’s Adam Mosseri reportedly told staff similar things in a memo, which leaked last week.
Another thing that comes with being a creator is inevitably having your content stolen and reposted by other accounts. Though many might consider this purely a “normal” thing, this is, in fact, copyright infringement.
This is also another place where Instagram is simply not as good for creators as a platform like YouTube.
Many of our readers might not know the way YouTube and Instagram treat copyright infringement on their platforms, so allow me to give you a brief explanation of why Instagram is far behind YouTube when it comes to ensuring that a creator’s work is not misused.
YouTube’s Handling of Copyright Issues
YouTube is very proactive when it comes to copyright strikes and infringement. Any person who has uploaded a decent number of videos to the platform would know about the company’s strict stand against using copyrighted content, be it music, clips, or another creator’s videos.
If someone does copy our videos on YouTube, the platform itself notifies us about it automatically, and usually takes action on its own to take down such content. That’s great.
Instagram’s Handling (or lack of) of Copyright Issues
Instagram, however, is a different story.
Over the last few months, we have consistently had our Reels viewed by over 30 million people every month. Clearly, that’s a huge audience. However, that also means that there’s a big incentive for others to copy our content to gain views as well.
We have had countless of our Reels and posts downloaded and reposted by other Instagram accounts, some of them by fairly high-profile accounts as well. In such cases, Instagram leaves the onus of discovering such infringements and reporting them, on the creator.
That means, we first have to spend hours finding content that has been copied from our account. Once we do find such content, we have to head over to a dedicated webpage to report such infringements. Next, we have to copy the links to all of these copied posts and Reels, and provide links to our original content in the report as well, so that Instagram can check and remove content that violates copyright laws.
Naturally, this is a lot more work for us, but this would still be okay, to some extent, if the system worked properly.
As I said, we’ve had countless of our Reels downloaded and reposted by other accounts. As such, we have filed innumerable copyright reports over the years. One thing that stands out, is that when the system works, it works well, but when it doesn’t, there’s simply no way out.
Instagram takes an automated approach to copyright reports, so if they find infringement, the content gets taken down and we receive an automated reply. However, if they find, for whatever reason, that the content doesn’t seem to be copied, we simply get an automated response informing us that Instagram has not removed the content because it couldn’t verify that the posts/Reels were, in fact, copied from us.
Up until a few months ago, when we would receive such an email, we could reply to it, asking for a manual check. In such a case, an Instagram employee would manually look at the copied post/Reel and our original content, and obviously, realize that it’s the same post or video. They would then take the necessary steps, and remove the infringing content from Instagram.
However, this seems to have stopped working in recent times. As recently as last week, we filed copyright reports against an account, and requesting manual verification resulted in the same automated response being sent back to us; every single time we tried.
This is extremely frustrating, and sometimes infuriating. And, it also helps me segue nicely to the next issue.
No Point of Contact
See, in cases where a creator needs help, platforms should have a point of contact for the creator. YouTube does exactly this. Once a creator crosses a particular threshold of subscribers on YouTube, the platform assigns them an account manager who is their point of contact if something goes wrong.
Sure, this privilege comes once you’re a relatively big name on YouTube, but it’s available, at least. I’m not sure exactly what the requirements are, but we have a dedicated manager from YouTube, and our YouTube channel currently has 2.36 million subscribers.
In case we have any problems with anything on YouTube, we can contact our account manager via a phone call, an email, or schedule a video call to talk things out. There are loads of support options available to big creators on YouTube.
Instagram, on the other hand, has no such thing. At least, it hasn’t been available for us, and we have over 1.3 million followers on Instagram, a massive audience that watches our content on the platform, and yes, we’ve been featured at #9 on Forbes list of India’s Top 100 Digital Stars.
So, it’s safe to assume that Instagram really doesn’t have anything similar to YouTube’s dedicated account managers, and that makes it difficult to reach out for help in such cases where automated systems simply aren’t working well enough.
We recently had an issue with Instagram Reels and we tried to reach out to Instagram to enquire about it. However, we simply couldn’t. There’s just no mechanism in place to help creators, let alone regular users of the Instagram app.
It is also a potentially major pitfall in the case of more serious problems. Creator accounts are constantly at risk of being hacked. There is a high incentive for bad-actors to try and gain unauthorized access to an Instagram account that has a reach in the high millions of users.
So, if a creator’s account gets hacked, to whom are they expected to reach out?
YouTube’s dedicated account manager is a great point of contact to approach for help in such a case. However, Instagram doesn’t have anything of the sort, which means in case of a compromised account, or another similar issue, creators have nowhere to go except for the standard Instagram help form.
Which, again, helps me segue into the next problem.
Support Email Issues
Instagram doesn’t even have a support email, at least not one that I could find. There is a Help Center, where you can find FAQs as well as contact forms for issues such as lost phone numbers, hacked accounts, and more, but that’s about it.
Imagine that, from a platform that’s allegedly pushing really hard to compete against the likes of TikTok and YouTube (and now, possibly, even Twitter).
I’m not absolving platforms like YouTube from the faults that exist there. However, as far as creators go, Instagram seems to be lacking in the basics as well.
Instagram Needs to Make Itself Better for Creators
Copyright infringement is a core issue with almost every single platform out there. But, at least competitors like YouTube seem to be trying to cope with the problem. Similarly, a support system for users, and more importantly, one that consistently works, is again missing from Instagram. So is a dedicated support or PoC for creators. Forget monetization, as creators you seem to have to jump through hoops even to get your problems heard and fixed.
TikTok getting banned in India was the biggest opportunity for Instagram to attract all the short-form video content creators to its platform, and Reels has done that extremely well. However, the company needs to fix the many, and frankly, alarming, problems with creator support.
If you’re a creator on Instagram, and you’ve faced similar issues, feel free to share your experience below. Even if you haven’t faced such issues, let us know how Instagram has been working out for you as a creator.