Today, Instagram introduced Reels, “a new way to create and discover short, entertaining videos on Instagram”. At first glance, there appear to be many similarities to TikTok, with some important nuances. And while access is limited, the hype building around this new feature has raised some interesting questions for marketers and creators alike.
1. High Engagement Rates on Both Platforms
Reels are arriving on the scene the built-in clout of Instagram, which has largely remained the most popular social media platform for Millennials and Gen Z. Because of Instagram’s existing reach, brands will likely see high engagement rates with Reels. This also isn’t the first time that an Instagram feature has mirrored another platform’s functionality.
Instagram (commonly abbreviated to IG or Insta) is an American photo and video sharing social networking service owned by Facebook, created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and originally launched on iOS in October 2010. The Android version was released in April 2012, followed by a feature-limited desktop interface in November 2012, a Fire OS app in June 2014, and an app for Windows 10 in October 2016. The app allows users to upload media that can be edited with filters and organized by hashtags and geographical tagging. Posts can be shared publicly or with pre-approved followers. Users can browse other users’ content by tags and locations and view trending content. Users can like photos and follow other users to add their content to a feed.
Instagram was originally distinguished by only allowing content to be framed in a square (1:1) aspect ratio with 640 pixels to match the display width of the iPhone at the time. In 2015, these restrictions were eased with an increase to 1080 pixels. The service also added messaging features, the ability to include multiple images or videos in a single post, and a Stories feature—similar to its main opposition Snapchat—which allows users to post photos and videos to a sequential feed, with each post accessible by others for 24 hours each. As of January 2019, the Stories feature is used by 500 million users daily.After its launch in 2010, Instagram rapidly gained popularity, with one million registered users in two months, 10 million in a year, and 1 billion as of May 2019. In April 2012, Facebook acquired the service for approximately US$1 billion in cash and stock. As of October 2015, over 40 billion photos had been uploaded. Although praised for its influence, Instagram has been the subject of criticism, most notably for policy and interface changes, allegations of censorship, and illegal or improper content uploaded by users.
As of July 2020, the most followed person is footballer Cristiano Ronaldo with over 233 million followers. As of January 14, 2019, the most-liked photo on Instagram is a picture of an egg, posted by the account @world_record_egg, created with the sole purpose of surpassing the previous record of 18 million likes on a Kylie Jenner post. The picture currently has over 54 million likes. Instagram became the 4th most downloaded mobile app of the 2010s.
Instagram Reels: 5 Important Takeaways And Trends For Marketers
But TikTok has grown significantly over the past few years, with one of the highest engagement rates of social media platforms. Engagement rates aside, it’s important to note that people use these social apps differently – and for different purposes. Because of this, Reels feels more like an addition of tools to flesh out Instagram stories and video feed posts rather than an actual TikTok competitor.
Jeremy Schumman, former Brand Strategy Lead, TBWA, recalls Instagram’s introduction of stories, which closely resembled Snapchat’s stories.
Instagram Reels: 5 Important Takeaways And Trends For Marketers
“Instagram creating stories made so much sense because users were using Snap stories to update friends, Instagram helped users do exactly that at a larger scale.TikTok is not that. TikTok isn’t based on users’ friends or a social graph, it’s based on users purely wanting to be entertained. It’s a media platform, not a social platform.”
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2. The Creator Community Will Define the Future
Community is at the core of every successful social platform. Features can be recreated and tweaked but recreating a community is challenging and takes time. TikTok’s soaring popularity over the past few years has very little to do with the uniqueness of its feature-set alone, and more to do with the immensely engaged community of creators that have thrived on the platform. In particular, one area where TikTok really excels is the variety and diversity of its creator base because the platform is built for discovery.
TikTok has been a creator-first platform since its inception. So has Instagram, in its own regard. But TikTok has attracted a long-tail of diverse and unique Gen Z creators – many of which are forging their paths as the next generation of creators and consumers. Clearly, there is substantial interest in the format TikTok offers, and it will be interesting to see if Reels can attract similar creator communities.
3) For You Page to Inspire Improvements to Explore
TikTok’s algorithm has changed the way people consume and find content. TikTok’s ‘For You Page’ and ‘Discover’ is noticeably different from Instagram’s Explore feature. As a lot of the trends around short-form video converge and functionality differs less and less, the ability to find new and relevant content will translate to the stickiness of the user-base.
Some of the shortcomings of Explore align with how Instagram is largely used. Instagram has always evoked a brand-building environment as people have used it to showcase their personal brand and connect with friends and family. It’s also a powerful advertising engine that deeply understands it’s user base and gives marketers the tools to engage new prospects.
For Instagram to attract the same diverse and extensive creator community, discoverability needs to be a priority in the platform. Changes to Instagram’s Explore feature could also create new opportunities for brands and creators to be discovered which will drive greater adoption.
4) Content Reach: Repurpose and Re-Share Content
Instagram has always looked to keep users on the platform, and Reels appear to be no different. While this content can be shared with other platforms as an Instagram post, it doesn’t appear that Instagram will allow the same download and export feature that is unique to TikTok, at least right now. This functionality helped with the virality of the platform as consumers shared TikTok videos on other social platforms and communication channels.
Finding ways to repurpose content, regardless of its origin, should be the core takeaway here. While marketers are already repurposing some of their Instagram content on owned channels such as eCommerce, Reels content could be incredibly powerful for things like ads.
5) The Macro Content Trend
Rather than looking at the two platforms at-odds with each other, taking a step back reveals the macro trend: short-form, relatable, and less-produced videos have an exorbitantly valuable place in a brand’s story. While there will always be a time and place for content with high production value, there is also time and place for authentic and relevant content.
Being able to produce and source content quickly has always been a challenge for marketers. What that content looks like continues to change – and is now largely defined by the users, creators, and community that give brands a reason to be on social media. The platforms marketers ebb towards will be defined by the creators and content available to them. There has never been a more pertinent time to invest in short-form video capabilities on the platform side of the equation, and similarly, for marketers to invest in user-created short-form video.
The same way that Instagram initially decreased the barrier to taking and sharing great photos, Reels, TikTok, and others are doing that for video.