With a number of modifications, Instagram is attempting to provide additional protection for young users, including switching teens to private accounts and limiting ad targeting choices for younger audiences - both of which might have a significant impact on digital marketers.
Instagram explains that they want to prevent young people from hearing from adults they don't know or don't want to hear from in any way they can. They believe that using private accounts is the best method to avoid this. As of this week, anyone under the age of 16 (or 18 in some countries) will be automatically assigned to a private account when they sign up for Instagram.
As you may recall, Instagram put new limits in place in March for adults who wanted to send messages to users under the age of 18 who didn't follow them. This latest upgrade builds on that by requiring new accounts created by young users to be made private by default. People with private accounts can control who sees and replies to their content. People must follow you if they want to read your posts, Stories, or Reels if you have a private account. People won't be able to comment on your material in those locations, and they won't be able to find it in places like Explore or hashtags.
Users will still be able to convert their accounts to 'Public,' so it's not a restriction in that sense, but Instagram claims that in testing, more young users prefer to stay in private mode when they're defaulted to it rather than being given the choice between public and private. It's a crucial factor for Instagram, which is extremely popular among younger viewers and has had a difficult time controlling connections with minors. However, the change may limit content exposure in the app, with private accounts seeing far fewer interactions, and with young users regularly posting to TikTok, which is more focused on showcasing posts to a broader range of users and garnering more engagement, Instagram's traction as the platform of choice for youngsters may be eroded.
Could this limit Instagram's attractiveness and pose a threat to the app's growth? Clearly, Instagram is leaning toward safety, which appears to be the better option, but it may have a larger impact on engagement.
In this light, it's also worth mentioning that TikTok instituted a nearly identical policy in January, with accounts for users under the age of 15 being set to private by default. From the standpoint of content accessibility and engagement, this could neutralize any meaningful effects. Additionally, Instagram is launching a new mechanism that is intended to limit the exposure of content shared by young users to people who have previously engaged in predatory behavior on the platform.
Instagram also announced the development of a new technology that allows them to identify accounts that have engaged in a potentially questionable activity and prevent those accounts from engaging with accounts belonging to children and teenagers. They indicate accounts belonging to adults that have lately been blocked or reported by a young person by "possibly suspicious behavior." As a result, if an older user has been investigated for any such offense, Instagram's systems will limit their exposure to content by no longer showing them posts from young people's accounts in Explore, Reels, or ‘Accounts Suggested For You.' They won't be able to follow young people's accounts or read comments on other people's postings made by young people.
The new system is now live in the United States, Australia, France, the United Kingdom, and Japan, with more countries to follow soon. Finally, Instagram - and, more broadly, Facebook - is imposing new limitations on the ad targeting options available to audiences under the age of 18. They will only allow advertisers to target advertising to those under the age of 18 (or older in select countries) based on their age, gender, and location starting in a few weeks. This implies that advertisers will no longer have access to previously accessible targeting options, such as those based on interests or their activity on other applications and websites. These changes will be global and will affect Instagram, Facebook, and Messenger.
This is a significant change; it implies that if you want to reach younger audiences, you won't be able to use hobbies such as sports or entertainment choices, nor will you be able to use your own in-app activity measures to improve ad performance among these user groups. Instagram claims that youth activists recommended it to limit its options because young people may not be well-equipped to make purchase decisions based on this type of targeting. This will have a significant impact on any brand trying to reach out to young people through Facebook's apps.
Realistically, this implies that advertisers trying to target young customers will instead head to TikTok and Snapchat - although Facebook is likely to have noticed that such businesses are already turning their focus in this direction, making this less of a business worry in this regard. As a result, it appears to be a positive step, one that may help Facebook gain a better reputation for prioritizing the safety of its younger users over its own business margins. But it's difficult to say how big of a meaningful sacrifice or danger this is for the corporation without knowing the economics at play.
For some firms, this might result in a big shift in ad spend, as media buyers will need to adapt their approach, something they've already been working on in light of Apple's ATT upgrade. However, it's possible that younger audiences are opting out of in-app monitoring anyhow, and Facebook is merely following suit - and, once again, re-framing this as a PR triumph, despite the fact that it was already fully in effect. Regardless of how you look at it, it's a huge development that will push many businesses to update their digital outreach strategies.