Instagram is now the third most popular social media site, with over one billion people logging onto the network each month. Because of its incredible reach, the image style that has become synonymous with the platform has seeped out onto other social media sites and into marketing images everywhere.

But the look and feel of these posts we’ve come to rely on is starting to change. Some marketing experts have begun to notice the shift. Have you, too?

Today, let’s walk through the Instagram aesthetic. What it is today, why the change is happening, and what’s coming next.

What Is the Signature Instagram Look Today?

Even if you haven’t thought too deeply about it, it’s likely that you know today’s signature Instagram aesthetic when you see it. The images are perfect ““ too perfect. Everything is over-produced and over-edited.

We see the fitness influencer in her expensive, matching spandex outfit; her shiny, perfectly-coiffed hair catching the morning sun as she returns from her early workout. Or maybe you follow an actor who only shares glamour shots from magazine photoshoots and images from the red carpet, with flawless hair, makeup, and clothing.

In part, this style is a result of the way the platform is designed. It’s an image-based social media site, so of course everyone wants their images to look great! There are filters and editing tools within the platform that can change the whole mood of a photo and make things look stellar before posting.

Instagram recently removed it’s augmented reality filters that allowed people to change the way their face appeared on the platform. Instagram said they’re removing the filters that provide a “plastic surgery-like effect“ in an attempt to promote positive mental health.

Why Are People Rejecting This Style?

While the perfectly edited image has become the norm on Instagram (and indeed, across all social media), people are growing tired of it. A huge part of the reason people turn to social media is for authenticity. They’re looking to connect on a more personal level with brands or their favorite influencers or celebrities.

People want to see what goes on behind the scenes. They want to see the good and the bad ““ to feel that even the most glamorous and gorgeous among us have real, less-than-perfect moments in their lives.

Consider someone like Taylor Swift. With an Instagram following of 119 million, yes, her page does have edited shots from her sold-out concerts and fabulous celebrity life. But she also shares goofy pictures of her cats and selfies taken during a Scrabble game with her mom or girl’s night in with her friends. Her Instagram allows her many fans to feel that, at the end of the day, Taylor is just like us (right!?).

Picture from Taylor Swift's instagram account that is not part of the Instagram aesthetic.

So What’s Next?

With this over-produced Instagram style on the way out, what’s next? And how can you embrace a more authentic aesthetic for your brand?

The key is to keep it simple and keep it real. Instead of throwing a filter on every image, allow some of them to go up looking imperfect. And don’t just think about foregoing the filter ““ think about the kinds of images you’re sharing and stories you’re telling.

Share photos that address the realities of running a business. Maybe you have a pipe burst in your brick and mortar location, and it forces you to close for a few days. Show pictures of the cleanup, and write captions that share some of the real difficulties that go along with bumps in the road. Then, keep it positive by sharing an update about the outpouring of support you get from the community when you reopen.

Live video is another great way to step up the authenticity. You can’t edit the video if it’s happening right before viewers’ eyes!

Plus, those tuning in live can react and ask questions in real time. Starting a dialogue with live video allows you to create a true, immediate, and meaningful bond with your followers.

We’ve all come to expect a certain kind of aesthetic from images shared by brands, but that aesthetic is changing. Social media has become saturated with too-perfect images, and people are beginning to scroll right past this overly-edited content.

Instead, they’re looking for authenticity and a real connection to the people behind the account. If you can create that person-to-person connection, you’ll stay ahead of the shift in aesthetic and outpace your competition.

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