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The Tech Issue

Mark Zuckerberg Is Blowing Up Instagram to Try and Catch TikTok

The CEO of Meta Platforms needs Reels—his short-form video feature—to fund his metaverse, and you can smell his desperation from Beijing.

Last year an Instagram representative contacted Justina Sharp, a 24-year-old with 93,000 followers, and asked for a meeting to discuss ways she could expand her audience. Sharp thought it was strange to hear from an actual human there, but knew better than to say no. The conversation felt, she says, like the “Facebook gods” coming down from on high to Instagramsplain. The employee “talked at me for exactly half an hour, because that’s how corporate and precise they are,” she recalls. “They gave me all these generic tips that anyone who’s been on social media for five seconds would know how to do.” How to use hashtags, what time of day to post, that sort of thing.

Then, at the very end of the conversation, Sharp got the real pitch. The employee said she’d be most successful if everything she posted was original to Instagram. Suddenly the purpose of the outreach became clear. “Oh, you don’t want me to post TikToks,” she realized. They wanted her to post Reels.