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Launched on the 5th August, Instagram Reels is a brand new content format that gives users a new dedicated feed within Instagram to create and share short-form videos with their followers and the wider world. Originally, users could share 15 second long videos, however, this has recently been expanded to 30 seconds, with enhanced video editing abilities within the app, too.

Sound familiar?

There’s no doubt about it, Instagram Reels is Facebook and Instagram’s answer to TikTok. Instagram Reels has almost all of the same features as TikTok and an almost identical layout but doesn’t quite have the same feel…yet.

So, over the past 8 weeks, our analysts have been busy analysing (playing) with this new feature and having a good think about what this means to our clients and their customers.

Perfect timing

Over the years, Facebook and Instagram have developed a reputation for copying features from their fast-growing rivals, most notably with Snapchat, where the app’s core features were copied and launched as Instagram Stories, just as Snapchat was building momentum and growing into a force to be reckoned with.

Facebook and Instagram have now stepped into space currently occupied by TikTok in a bid to keep users within their family of apps. As we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, TikTok has burst its way onto smartphones, gaining media attention and users at a staggering rate. According to research from Sensor Tower, TikTok was the most downloaded non-gaming app worldwide in February 2020, beating the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook, and its popularity is continuing to grow. Downloaded 315 million times in Q1 of 2020 alone, TikTok recently passed 2 billion downloads. So it’s understandable that Facebook and Instagram would want a piece of the pie.

The launch of Instagram Reels also coincided with TikTok’s exit from India, presenting a massive opportunity for Facebook and Instagram to gain market share in this key market, as well as the continuing controversy surrounding TikTok and its data practices, and the ongoing saga of the sale of its US operations.

TikTok’s traction may be a problem for Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels has cloned TikTok’s most popular features, but the features alone aren’t what’s made TikTok so popular. TikTok’s success has been down to the ability to go viral no matter how many followers you have, as well as the ‘feel’ within the app and its communities. Cloning this is a much harder task. TikTok creators have become heavily invested in the platform, and moving over to Instagram Reels would mean having to rebuild their audience.

Additionally, Instagram Reels directly link to the creator’s Instagram page, which could mean that the rough, ready and creative nature of short-form videos that we’ve come to know and love could be lost. Content created for Instagram Reels could have a more serious ‘feel’ than TikTok, as Instagram feeds are typically more curated, which again could mean that TikTok creators are reluctant to move over.

Organic reach

Instagram’s organic reach has developed a reputation among creators as being poor, due to the platform becoming heavily monetised, meaning that promoting posts or pages has become a common way to grow audiences and get content seen. Part of TikTok’s allure is that potential for huge organic reach without needing to put money behind it.

TikTok’s organic reach comes from its algorithm. Instagram will have to change its algorithm or develop a new one for Instagram Reels, adopting an approach similar to TikTok if they want creators to flock to the platform. The Instagram Reels algorithm hasn’t been locked down yet, but it does feel similar to the TikTok For You Page and is likely influenced by who you already follow, what content you interact with and where you’re located.

Advertising options

At the moment, Instagram Reels carries no advertising options, which is likely a deliberate strategy by Facebook and Instagram to cultivate new types of content and a community within this part of the app before monetising it.

The fact that there are no advertising or paid options at the moment presents a perfect opportunity for you to develop organic content and build a community, so when it comes to the time when Facebook and Instagram monetise Instagram Reels – this will happen sooner rather than later – you’ll already have an established brand presence.

What this all means for you

There’s no doubt about it, Instagram Reels presents a big opportunity for those reaching 16-24 year-olds without having to have a presence on TikTok. If you already have an Instagram business page, Instagram Reels could be a new placement in front of a hyper-engaged audience – what’s not to like?

In terms of advertising, TikTok’s targeting abilities are developing all the time, however, there’s no doubt that Facebook and Instagram excel in this space. Once the Instagram Reels community is established and the platform becomes montetised and advertising opportunities are developed, you’ll be able to leverage the power of Facebook’s ads platform.

The success of Instagram Reels is very much dependent on TikTok’s ability to operate in the US and how many users make the switch from the TikTok to Instagram. Also pivotal to its success will be Instagram’s ability to copy the uniqueness and feel of TikTok’s audience, community and content. If they get it right, you could have access to this unique world without having to devise a specific TikTok strategy. Watch this space…

If you want to find out more about Instagram Reels or want to discuss any other aspects of your digital marketing, get in touch with one of our experts today, we’d love to help!

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