Instagram is scary good at selling us stuff. Can the app keep it up?

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! An animal health CEO says new coronavirus pet owners shop differently, Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford talks to the MPW community, and we wonder how Instagram got so good at selling us stuff. Have a great Wednesday. 

– Doing it for the ‘gram. Have you been spending a lot more time on Instagram since we’ve been stuck in our houses and apartments? I have. It’s been a great way to keep tabs on family and friends, do home workouts with the instructors from my gym, and pick up quarantine cooking tips from my favorite chefs. And it’s also inspired me to do my part to keep the economy going, prompting impulse buys like a windowsill herb garden and a comfy pair of WFH joggers.

In Fortune’s latest issue, I had a chance to write about the way the app has and continues to change the way many of us shop. The reason that’s a Broadsheet story—aside from the ‘women be shopping!’ jokes—relates to both Instagram’s audience (according recent stats from Pew, 43{4bae5313c1ffa697ce99995897f7847f1ebf3bca0fb7c37396bb602eb24323d3} of U.S. women are IG users, compared to 31{4bae5313c1ffa697ce99995897f7847f1ebf3bca0fb7c37396bb602eb24323d3} of men) and the brands that are succeeding in capturing users’ attention (the top categories followed on the app are beauty/cosmetics and women’s apparel, according to Cowen).

What most intrigues me about the platform is how carefully it walks the line between art and commerce—despite being owned by Facebook, which doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to that kind of subtlety. (One of the more surprising stats I ran across in my reporting: in a 2019 Pew poll, just 29{4bae5313c1ffa697ce99995897f7847f1ebf3bca0fb7c37396bb602eb24323d3} of Americans correctly identified Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp as being owned by Facebook.)

The question, as Instagram grows—and as it becomes more and more essential to Facebook’s future—is whether it can keep its feet on that very narrow tight rope.

Fellow Instagram devotee? You can read my full story here.


On a separate note: Fortune gathered the Most Powerful Women community yesterday for a conversation with Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford. It was a lively and wide-ranging discussion, touching on the supply chains that are failing to connect farmers’ wares with U.S. consumers, the ways rural America is facing the pandemic, and the farmer-owned co-operations’s decision to ditch its old “butter maiden” packaging.

For me, the real takeaway came near the end of the call, when Ford focused in on central the leadership challenge of the moment: taking care of the people who work for you.

“If you are not putting the focus on your team right now,” she said, “you’ve lost the narrative if you’re not focusing on that as the primary issue.”

You can read more and watch some of the video from our gathering here.

Kristen Bellstrom
[email protected]

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

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