TikTok is the new kid on the block, just like Instagram was back in 2010. In short, what Instagram is for Millenials, that’s TikTok for Generation Z. However, the social media landscape is rapidly changing, and the Instagram vs. TikTok “battle” for social media dominance is only beginning. Or, at the very least, Instagram is not going down without a fight. And Instagram Reels is the latest tool in the arsenal.
A feature so similar to TikTok that the company itself chimed in with the following response on Twitter: “Well… this looks familiar.”
With more than 2 billion downloads, TikTok became “an overnight” giant and a staple of young, carefree culture. And the pandemic didn’t stifle TikTok success; on the contrary, the app was downloaded 315 million times. Setting a record for the largest amount of downloads for a social media app in a single quarter in history.
There are many reasons for TikTok’s success, from the entertaining content to the accessible video format on the platform. However, President Donald Trump issued an executive order on the 6th of August that would effectively ban the app in the U.S. next month.
According to details of the executive order, TikTok is getting banned because “… data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”
This turn of events makes TikTok’s future in the U.S. uncertain. One would argue that Instagram Reels is here to fill the gap.
Furthermore, copying social media features is nothing new. Back in 2016, Instagram launched its Stories feature, seen as a flagrant copy of Snapchat. Today, Instagram Stories is one of the most popular features of the app, used daily by millions of users.
Time will tell if Instagram Reels is going to have the same success.
What is Instagram Reels?
Instagram Reels, a video-music remix feature, will allow users to create 15-second videos and post them on the app as Stories. Plus, Instagram introduced the Top Reels section that’s supposed to help users go viral.
That’s not all, users can create Reels by using a massive catalog of music. They can borrow audio from another video and create remixes, reproductions, jokes, challenges, etc. Which gives users more freedom to be creative (or derivative) with their content.
The Instagram Vice President of Product Vishal Shah supported the decision with the following statement: “45% of Instagram videos are 15 seconds or less.”
How Similar Are Instagram Reels and TikTok?
Instagram Reels and TikTok are based on the same idea and are packaged in a pretty similar format. The Reel is a combination of video, sound, and music, just like TikTok. As a user on both platforms, you can discover new content and creators by simply browsing the app.
Instagram has the Explore page, and TikTok has the For You Page. The main question remains, who can do it better? The original? Or the copycat? If history is any indicator, Instagram might even win the fight.
How Different Are Instagram Reels and TikTok?
The main difference between TikTok and Instagram Reels is the all-encompassing Instagram ecosystem itself. The Reels come with exclusive Instagram filters and tools, as a part of the Instagram network. Users can create, share, and send Reels to their friends inside the app.
Also, Instagram is not going to pay creators for Reels. However, the app allows influencers and content creators to earn income through brand deals and sponsored posts.
Why is Instagram Launching this New Feature?
Apart from the apparent underlying reasons for a bigger market share of the social media pie, there’s also timing and transformation.
As a product of a Chinese company, TikTok underwent a backlash hurricane in the last couple of months. The two major themes are data privacy and censorship. And both of these are stated as reasons for the ban.
The Department of Defense, Transportation Security Administration, and other federal agencies banned TikTok at the beginning of the year. Soon after that, corporate America followed. The trend culminated with the President’s ban. TikTok was seen as a cybersecurity threat (a security risk), and employees were urged to protect their data and personal information.
Then there was the incident with Feroza Aziz. The American teenager was banned by the platform because she was trying to raise awareness around the treatment of Uighur Muslims in China. Even though Aziz’s case was the most popular one, there are a number of claims about TikTok censorship, ranging from political speech to physical attractiveness.
For Instagram, this seems like the perfect time to launch Instagram Reels. TikTok’s brand is damaged, and the feature of the app in the U.S. is uncertain. Instagram can just jump in and provide the same service as a part of its already established ecosystem.
Instagram is constantly changing and growing. It started as a personal Pinterest board filled with carefully curated pictures, and today it offers:
- Search & Explore
Instagram Reels is just another novel feature that’s meant to take the social network on a new level as a video entertainment platform. It might have been TikTok’s idea, but we’re still waiting to see how Instagram is going to capitalize on it.
According to Instagram’s blog:
“Reels gives people new ways to express themselves, discover more of what they love on Instagram, and help anyone with the ambition of becoming a creator take center stage.”
If the goal is to empower content creators to publish fresh content on the app, Instagram Reels might do the trick.
The Making of Instagram Reels
Creating Instagram Reels is easy and intuitive. However, users might need some time to learn all the tricks. Users can access the Reels by tapping on the Create mode in the Instagram Stories camera menu. It’s located on the bottom menu next to “Story.”
To select a song/audio, users need to tap on the music icon located on the left menu in the Reels screen. Just below audio is the speed icon that allows users to choose the speed of the video.
Below the audio and speed icons is the effects icon, and once users tap on it, they can apply effects or AR filters to their Instagram Reels. Just like in Boomerang mode, users can try out different filters, save the ones they like and browse until they find the perfect one.
The stopwatch icon allows users to determine the length of the video and set a timer with a countdown.
It’s also possible to just upload a video or to start and stop recording multiple times. This flexibility will give creators the freedom to modify, tweak, and improve until they get the desired result—a viral Reel.
Using Instagram Reels - Content Creators, Influencers & Businesses
Depending on the acceptance of Instagram Reels, content creators, influencers, and businesses will get a chance to market their content/product in a new format. Furthermore, Instagram Reels might also be an opportunity to get closer to Generation Z. By providing them with content in a form that’s already familiar and liked, Instagram can see a boost in downloads if the popularity of the new feature increases.
For content creators and influencers that have some sway and clout on the platform, Instagram Reels is a new way towards virality. In hindsight, it makes perfect sense for Instagram to pair up Instagram Reels with a new and improved Explore page.
For businesses, Instagram Reels can be a golden opportunity for brand positioning and product placement. By creating purposeful content, companies can boost sales, create a narrative, and get closer to their customer base. However, for a business that is a novice in the social media world, hiring a digital marketing agency like Iota Infotech can help with social media branding.
As with any new feature, the key is to understand the content people are craving. Is Reels going to be a TikTok knock-off only in format or in content as well?
According to Chris Sgro, Instagram is only responding to the market’s demand – “By responding to a demand, we’re offering more choices – which we believe is better for consumers.” And if we look at Instagram Reels as the next part of the platform’s transformation, that explanation will suffice. However, TikTok’s popularity comes from its video format, the one Instagram is implementing now, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect.
If TikTok is eliminated from the U.S. market, Instagram will be here to fill the gap.
However, Instagram culture and TikTok culture are very different. While Instagram is a curated aesthetic, TikTok thrives on oversharing and intimate, personal stories. And seeing a shift in these preconditions might prove more difficult than anything else.
The only thing left to see is if Instagram Reels are the new Instagram Stories?