You may not be familiar with the term “Instagram aesthetics,” but if you’ve spent any time on the social media platform, you’ve definitely seen the idea applied by various influencers and brands.
Your Instagram aesthetic is how you choose to present yourself on the platform. When used successfully it delivers a sense of who you are, or the look your brand is going for. It should also guide viewers to a particular emotional response as they scroll through your profile. The most successful Instagram influencers and brands use colors, filters, angles, and editing to create a consistent and eye-catching look.
The New Look: Less Polished, More Real
Today, the mainstream Instagram aesthetic appears to be at a turning point. Young influencers are no longer spending hours crafting the perfectly composed photo. Instead, they’re going for a more instantaneous, realistic look that they can post directly from their phones.
The Atlantic recently explored this growing trend, and it all points to a new group of influencers who are no longer concerned with perfection – instead, they are focused purely on authenticity. Gone are the days of staged photos, flattering filters, and aesthetic Instagram feed themes. As one young influencer told The Atlantic, “People are more willing to be who they are and not make up a fake identity. We are trying to show a real person doing cool things [like] a real person, not trying to create a persona that isn’t actually you.”
One thing is clear – there’s an over-saturation of the Instagram aesthetic as we currently know it. The mass adoption of filters designed to directly copy the look of popular influencers, combined with the creation of pop-up Instagram “museums,” has led to an influx of influencer-quality photographs. The more recent 180-degree turn toward photos that capture real life is allowing the next generation of influencers to stand out from the crowd.
The Accessible Aesthetic
Brands and influencers are noticing the shift and working to make themselves appear more accessible. People have grown savvy to branded posts and are now looking for content they can actually relate to instead of overtly commercialized posts that come across as spam.
Influencers are dropping the curtain, so to speak, and making a conscious effort to show the products they actually use daily rather than the ones they’ve been paid to hype up. Others are adopting technology like drone photography or moving more into the Instagram Stories platform, which provides a more immediate, authentic feel.
James Nord, CEO of the influencer management platform Fohr, shared some concrete data to support this understanding in The Atlantic’s piece. In the course of his work, Nord has observed a rise in people choosing to unfollow an influencer who is sticking to the status quo, when just a year or two ago, their posts would have generated thousands of likes. In fact, he said 60 percent of influencers in his network that have a following greater than 100,000 are actually losing followers month after month.
In response, brands are embracing an accessible aesthetic and treating their followers more like friends than customers. Beauty brand Glossier has cultivated a down-to-earth look by using memes, posting photos that use natural light, and sharing cute videos that don’t have anything to do with beauty. Chubbies, a men’s swimwear company, uses real customers – with realistic body types – as models. Letterfolk, a small business that creates felt letter boards, uses its products to showcase funny and relatable messages that resonate with their followers and are ripe for sharing.
Brands and influencers who choose to embrace this shift in the Instagram aesthetic will have a better shot of keeping their current audience engaged and attracting new followers. The key is to create content that feels real and relatable, speaking directly to people and their experiences.