Instagram Reels: Will this be the new TikTok?

Aug 7th, 2020 — Terilyn Walker
4 minute read

One thing Facebook is good at is staying on top.

Instagram recently announced an exciting new feature called Reels, which is Facebook’s direct response to the platform popular with Gen Zers, Tiktok. The new Instagram Reels feature, available now in 50 countries, allows users to record and edit 15-second multi-clip videos with audio and new creative tools such as AR effects and speed controls.

How it works

When you open your Instagram app, swipe right to your camera where you can now choose to create a live video, a Story, or a Reel. When you select Reel, you are presented with an assortment of tools that allow you to add popular music, control video speed, add text, align objects, or add a plethora of special effects. 

Similar to Instagram stories, Reels can be recorded as a series of clips, all together, or uploaded from your phone’s photo gallery. From there, you can choose to publish the content on your regular feed or you can decide to hide the content from your IG feed and publish it only on your Reels feed.

Robby Stein, Instagram’s product director stated “We’re going big with entertainment and [making Explore] the permanent place for you to go lean back, relax, and be inspired every day. It’s our hope that with this format we have a new chapter of entertainment on Instagram.”

How Instagram Reels is different from TikTok

We all remember what Instagram Stories did to Snapchat, and we might not remember what it did to Flickr. Could Reels be the feature that takes down TikTok?

While the functionality of IG Reels and TikTok is extremely similar, there are enough differences between the two apps that make it difficult to say one way or the other.

The main thing Reels has going for it is simply that it’s on Instagram. There are currently more than 1 billion monthly Instagram users around the world compared to TikTok’s 800 million users. 

Facebook has played with creating a TikTok competitor on a different app called Lasso which shut down last month after seeing only 600,000 downloads in two years. The fact that Reels is a feature on Instagram, where people already have a following and years of content documented, means that people will adopt the new feature simply because they don’t have to download yet another app to do so. 

However, one thing that makes TikTok incredibly attractive to users is it’s recently announced creator fund. This fund consists of more than $200 million aimed at helping US-based creators make a living by consistently creating original TikTok content. TikTok’s creator fund is causing a ton of buzz in the creator community and has aided at cementing TikTok as the leader in the short-form video space. Currently, Instagram is not monetized, yet many creators are able to make a living off of brand deals which we’ve found still are most commonly found on Instagram. 

This leads us to the next point — which is brands’ presence on Instagram Reels versus TikTok. Instagram has been one of the longest-reigning platforms for sponsored content for a reason. Instagram content is trackable, impressions are predictable, and the ecosystem is stable. All of these things are not easily said about TikTok. Although Tiktok has the highest social media engagement rates per post compared to all other platforms, brands’ adoption of the app has been slow. The AspireIQ State of the Industry survey found that only 5% of brands were using TikTok for influencer marketing, compared to 96.5% on Instagram. 

Breaking down the algorithms

The new Reels feed allows people to scroll through Reels vertically, mimicking the TikTok “For You” page which is a beloved feature of the app that features curated content based on the user’s interests. The TikTok algorithm favors content over follower count, meaning anyone has the ability to get their content featured on the For You page and ultimately in front of millions. The TikTok’s algorithm has played a huge role in its success. Because of the algorithm, TikTok creators do not need huge followings to go viral. Therefore, the entire network is not dependent on the social graph the way Instagrams is.

In response, Instagram has revamped its Explore page to create a new screen specifically for Reels. Although not much is known about the algorithm for this page yet, it features trending Reels, presumably to give people who are creating Reels regularly an opportunity to gain a bigger following. 

Our predictions for Instagram Reels

First things first, who will use Reels? We predict that Reels will be successful for millennials and older crowds active on Instagram. TikTok users have been notoriously young and it’s safe to assume that young folks will not be abandoning their TikTok apps anytime soon.

Secondly, the type of content created on each platform will be a huge differentiating factor. We predict that IG Reels will be more polished and produced compared to Tiktok’s more “human,” raw approach to content. We believe Instagram Reels will fall within the typical aesthetic of IG posts which sometimes make them more brand and advertiser-friendly. However, with societal shifts occurring as frequently as they are, authenticity and relatability seem to be the driving success factors when it comes to virality, engagements, and conversions.

Although there are a lot of unknowns with Instagram Reels, overall we predict like most Instagram features, it will be a huge success. We look forward to seeing all of the unique content created on the new feature!

To start building out your Instagram Reels strategy, contact us today.

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