Shashank Mehta, founder and CEO, shares why the D2C startup is taking a break from the social media app.
The Whole Truth Foods, a clean label packaged foods brand, announced on its Instagram page on Thursday that its taking a break from the social media platform. The brand used its page to educate its followers on food and fitness subjects.
Shashank Mehta, founder and CEO of the D2C startup, has two reasons for this break. One, the constant shifts in algorithms meant a lot of the brand’s time was being focussed on keeping up with the algorithms. Second, the trend of short-form content doesn’t serve its purpose on the platform, that of tackling complex subjects.
“These complex topics can’t be explained in short videos; they need well-rounded answers. Two and a half years back we started with photos and long captions. It worked very well as many discovered the brand through these posts. In these two years the algorithms have changed multiple times- from stories, to IGTV, and now reels. The time we spend in keeping up with the algorithms can be better spent on doing research and finding answers to these complex questions.”
“Moreover, the trend has moved from deep content to frivolous short-form content and that no longer serves our purpose. So we decided to take a break. Its tough to find a solution while we are staying in it. So we thought lets remove ourselves from the pressure of delivering content everyday,” he says.
It was the followers’ response to the brand’s posts that made them ponder over it. For example, when in a recent post on running, it didn’t go into the complete details about the maximum heart rate, a follower pointed it out. In his response to the comment Mehta says, “Hate this reel format for this reason - leaves so little scope to go deep. So much nuance gets lost. Sigh.”
The brand’s Instagram page will continue to exist and followers can reach out to them through Direct Messages. It will also be present on other social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. It’s deep and well-researched content will now be put up on YouTube. The break only means that it will not be creating new content for Instagram. “The reach may not be as high, but we will only do what fulfills the purpose with which we came here. If it means in the short-term very few people will see it, thats fine,” Mehta says.
For other brands that struggle with the same dilemma, Mehta suggests them to remain rooted to what they set out to do and the medium will figure itself out.
“We don’t want to say Instagram is bad because we have benefitted a lot from it. If you have a strong enough reason to make content you will find a medium that does justice to that purpose. If there is no strong purpose behind your content you will remain a slave to the medium,” he says.
The post announcing the break garnered a lot of attention on Thursday. By 6 pm in the evening it had a reach of 56,000, an engagement rate of 10.5%. It was shared by 2000 people and had almost 400 comments.
A few brands in the past have also taken such decisions. For example, in 2021 beauty brand Lush and luxury brand Bottega Venetta announced their departure from social media.
We reached out to some experts to understand this move. Here’s what they had to say.
Sahil Shah, managing partner, WATConsult
The Whole Foods strategy of taking a break is very Gen Z or millennial behaviour of wanting to cut off. If they have to get back then they will have to again work hard towards building the organic reach. If the account is dormant for a while people may unfollow it and if they suddenly start putting up things the algorithm will not give it the reach.
It will not affect their sales but it will definitely affect the top of mind recall and their ability to attract more new users. They have a community of like-minded people following them. They will be missing out on being in their feed organically.
The brands may see it as ‘frivolous content’, but consumers are consuming it. There are brands that are leveraging it very well, like Zomato and Swiggy. Giving up on it may not be the solution.
My question to them is are they also going to stop their influencer posts. Can they afford to go out of sight?
Rajni Daswani, director - digital marketing, SoCheers
It is a costly affair to maintain a quality Instagram account today. In order to stand out from the competition, brands need to create quality & relatable content, aesthetic images and maintain a perfect looking feed. All of this 24*7, 365 days a year. With all this investment, returns are not always guaranteed and the changing algorithms and new features most times become more of a burden than a blessing for some brands.
For some it’s the perfect platform to drive awareness, for some it just doesn’t fit well in their profit and loss sheets. I don’t think this move will spark a Instagram ban from other brands, but it will probably seed some disinterest and we may see Instagram see the same descent as Facebook did.
Saurabh Sharma, founder and CEO, Futurewagon (owns brands like Alicia Souza, Scent Tattva, Coastal Habitat and Happy Wagon)
We have also encountered struggles with the algorithms. But one thing that doesn’t change is that consumers are still spending time on Instagram. There is no other new app. Some of our brands are on the right side of the algorithm, while some others are not. So we are able to see both the spectrums. As time shifts brands need to know how to work with these platforms. It has to be more of adaptive play.
Instagram is an effective platform that can be used well by brands. If not for Instagram where else can brands go?
Josna Joseph, Creative Director, Tonic Worldwide
The whole format on Meta is Instagram-first approach. Depending on the target audience the platform may vary, but most of them have an Instagram-first attitude. Instagram is a very content specific platform and if the brand’s content can be of value to the end consumer then it will work. Engagement through linear content may not work, it may have to target or push it.
It is a constant evolution and that is what makes the job of a marketer fun. If millennials is your core target audience then you cannot skip Instagram. You have to constantly figure out innovative ways to create content. You have to keep experimenting to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Kalyan Kumar, co-founder and CEO, Social Catalyzers
The algorithms will always change. The challenge for marketers is to find the best ways to use it. Reels have a huge amount of reach. It can organically travel a lot more than your other posts. But when you consume reels you can’t read the caption, that could be the challenge for The Whole Truth Foods.
They are a high-involvement brand, but that’s just a creative challenge. It was the case with television ads as well. In print, they could write long copies. But when it came to 30-second ads, they had to creatively communicate the whole message. There are ways to innovate around it. Why would you leave anything that has the maximum audience?
Kruthika Ravindran, associate director - new business, TheSmallBigIdea
Well, this could be the start of a trend. Brands are relooking their social media strategies and moving beyond the big four platforms because they are now prioritizing their customer's needs over any social media metrics. While this could benefit some of the big brands, it may not necessarily work for every brand. For brands that are low on awareness and customer loyalty, going off Instagram can also prove to be detrimental.