Will Instagram’s subtle shift lead to better watch content?

“Tell ’em do it for the culture, do it for the culture.
Got to do it for the culture, do it for the culture.”

– Migos, Culture National Anthem (Outro)

A few days ago, Instagram announced that it is changing how it displays “likes” on the platform. “We want your friends to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.” There is a psychological health component to this change, as well as a soft nudge for creators to experiment and judge content on more diversified metrics than likes alone. With this subtle shift, Instagram is addressing an issue that sits at the core of the watch community today. For brands, collectors, and enthusiasts all alike, the highest performing content often has no depth. It’s also a vicious cycle.

The watch landscape on Instagram is awash with #wristselfies, “lifestyle” pics, memes, wristbusters, and macros of shiny finishing. Across all categories of posts, likes are given for reasons close to the blind fetish of luxury. If we adapt the concept of Veblen goods to social media and the watch community today, it appears the higher the secondary market price, the greater the number of likes.

When likes are the only optimized metric, the incentive structure no longer encourages the continuous improvement of content. The validation of likes creates a stasis, one that often denigrates the value of experimenting with other forms of content. Experimenting, even with deeper content, is too easily viewed as a deviation away from the tried-and-true, “high yield” posts. Most interestingly, in the watch community, optimizing for likes conveniently validates lazy content creation.

By laziness, I mean that a wristselfie of a Patek Philippe 5711, snapped by an iPhone 11, and captioned with “another day with the beast 😎😎,” takes a maximum of 5 minutes to produce and can generate 1000’s of likes.

This vicious cycle has produced a glaring absence of educational depth to both images and captions in the watch community. This leaves audiences with nothing to grasp at except whatever they see in the product. Rather than broadening the horizons of the community’s knowledge, most brands, collectors, and enthusiasts are stuck on the surface of what they already know. We see this especially in comments section on these kinds of posts, where most commentary mirrors the depth of the caption: “🔥🔥🔥”, “Gorgeous piece!”, “What a wrist 👏” etc. Emojis beget more emojis— what we put in is what we get out.

For all the criticisms Audemars Piguet has received this year, it is the only major Swiss watchmaking brand with a dedicated Instagram page for savoir faire. The technical and educational depth of the page does not run very deep, but it at least provides its audience with more than run-of-the-mill wristselfies and front-facing dial photos.

Instagram’s change presents an opportunity to think critically about social media’s contribution to watch community culture. We can take this as a moment to probe what’s new and worthy of testing, and where things should head in the future.

Another day with the beast 😎😎,

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