How hyper niche meme accounts are emerging as the winners of Instagram

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How hyper niche meme accounts are emerging as the winners of Instagram

Context collapse is the name given to the phenomenon of multiple social or cultural groups that wouldn’t usually encounter each other ending up in the same space, like the internet. For an IRL example, it’s like when you invite people from 5 different friendship groups to your birthday and realise you’re going to spend the whole time making sure they all get along with each other. In both those scenarios, it’s hard for separate groups to connect with each other particularly well, because they’ve missed out on so much shared context that’s only relevant to each of the groups. This leads to misunderstanding and, as Venkatesh Rao puts in his compelling piece the internet of beefs, online public spaces are now ‘being slowly taken over by beef-only thinkers, as the global culture wars evolve into a stable, endemic, background societal condition of continuous conflict…the public internet is turning into the Internet of Beefs’. 


As we’ve grown more weary of perma-beef and tensions existing on mainstream social, we’ve splintered off into our own smaller, cosier internet factions, seeking out those that we can relate to and understand the most. Here, feeling seen acts as a haven from the rest of the online world. 

Stating that monoculture is dead is not a punchy, interesting or new thing to say. But, in recent months, it feels like we’ve surpassed subcultures into something resembling nano-cultures : hyper niche or micro-local social accounts that hold extreme relevance for a very small number of people. Where social was once praised for its ability to drive reach (which, on paid social is still the case - if made harder by the steady disappearance of third party tracking) - it seems what works for now at least is the exact opposite.


Take @real_housewives_of_clapton, Hackney’s answer to @nolitadirtbag. It sprung up a few months ago and has quickly amassed 55k followers. It’s an invigorating concept to commit heavily to an Instagram account that’s going to reach its ceiling pretty quickly- they’re only ever going to be relevant to the people in the surrounding areas (I type, one hand in the Perello tin). It’s pretty much the antithesis of the traditional mindset most influencers and brands are in.

At a time when big brands seem to want to own every single cultural moment, season, and subculture, smaller niche accounts feel refreshing, authentic and all the more appealing for it. 


We are creatures that love to feel seen, and despite the western world placing such high value on individuality, there’s a certain comfort and in-crowd feel in knowing everyone else is just like us- and with that a compulsion to show that we relate to this, in order to cement our status as a member of the in group. Take @dewydudes - a rarity in that it’s a skincare account run by two men, who post outrageously specific skincare content about the most IYKYK of brands and treatments ( tret-hive rise up). Followers clamber over themselves to comment on thor posts, something many may assume is a behaviour of the past, to show that they understand the context. It’s proof that organic communities can still thrive on traditional social, given the right conditions.


But where social media once supposedly had connection and community at it’s heart, the entirety of the space now feels like a one big closed caption 30 second looping video. It’s notable that the majority of these niche pages operate on a still image, jankily thrown together meme basis - again, a refreshing antithesis to big brand social (and no, you haven’t captured that feeling just because you shot something on your creative’s iphone or used a stock image ironically) . It seems that fatigue with short form video formats is driving a craving for something simpler, less considered and less likely to drain you of your serotonin.


There’s a wider conversation to be had about whether every brand needs an organic social presence that my DMs are open for at any given time. However, smart brands can absolutely tap into these accounts’ success if they view them through the lens of mutual benefaction and co-creation. The Dewy Dudes recently collabed on merch (something loved both ironically and unironically by gen z) with science - focused skincare brand Margin, that their followers went feral for (‘Dermalogica found dead’ was a personal favourite comment). The natural wine subscription company Oranj recently teamed up with Real Housewives on Clapton on a meme dump that contained a discount for the subscription. A certain level of cultural cachet comes with a brand even knowing these pages exist (on a less niche level, think of the hype it drives every time a brand does a partnership post with the Sylvanian Drama TikTok account), so it’s smart to keep track of accounts like this popping up in brand-relevant subcultural spaces. 


Netizens have been moving away from ‘big social’ towards more community, connection and interest- driven platforms for some time (Twitch, Reddit, Geneva), but this outcrop of hyper niche accounts might tell us something about the ways users are finding to make the more ‘traditional’ social platforms work for them and their new desired forms of connection and content consumption. Get ahead of the curve while you can- I’m off to walk my anxious sighthound in my Salomons.