Introducing Instagram’s New Feature: Reels

Instagram reels

Let’s face it, 2020 has been the year of TikTok. The Chinese-built, social media phenomenon has become one of the most popular social networking platforms for Gen Z and Millennial audiences. With over 800 million active users worldwide, this platform saw even greater growth during periods of lockdown.  Boasting availability in 154 countries, this app has taken the world by storm and become the social media network of choice for many young social media users.

In a game of possible catch up, Instagram has been working on their own short form video sharing feature and on August 5, introduced us to Instagram Reels. You can see a post COO of Facebook/Instagram Sheryl Sandberg made on her personal instagram profile announcing Reels here.

A little side note – back in 2018, Facebook attempted to launch Lasso, a new app in direct competition with TikTok. People simply didn’t use it and Facebook removed the app. However, by watching how Lasso failed, Facebook was given the opportunity to gain a lot of data which has likely fuelled the creation of Instagram’s ‘Reels’.

The new Instagram ‘Reels’ feature is described as the “new way to create and discover short, entertaining videos on Instagram”. It clearly will act in direct competition to TikTok so is a clever move from Instagram to maintain audience and engagement within their existing app. In many ways, this is similar to what they did in 2016 when they introduced Stories in direct competition with Snapchat.

So what are Instagram Reels?

Instagram reels invites users to create 15 second videos to share with friends, family and fans. Similar to TikTok, the feature includes audio, effects and new creative editing tools to help user creativity run wild.

Users can share their creations on their Story, with followers in the News Feed. Or, if they have a public account, they may choose to share them with a wider community in the Explore Page. Instagram claims that this feature offers anyone the chance to become a creator and reach new  global audiences and we’d have to agree. It’s yet another way to get creative on the Instagram platform.

How Do I Create an Instagram Reel?

Want to keep up with trends and show everyone you’re in the know? How about just using the new feature of Reels to create some new fun content for your business channel. You can find the Reels feature by clicking on the Stories Camera in the top left of your screen and sliding across the bottom to the Reel function. Reels can be created by combining a series of clips, either recorded in real time or uploaded from the photo gallery. A number of editing tools can be found on the left side of the screen.

These include:
  • Audio: This tool allows users to search in the Instagram music library or use their own audio. When public users share a reel with original audio, it is attributed to the user and can then be used by other creators by clicking ‘Use Audio’. This function echoes the work of TikTok that allows users to create, share and borrow sounds within the app.
  • AR Effects: Similar to TikTok, an extensive effects gallery has been curated by Instagram and creators all over the world. This allows users to select effects from the menu in order to stand out from the crowd. We’re seeing an increasing number of businesses using AR effects – something we may write about in future blog posts.
  • Timer and Countdown: Both a timer and countdown can be used on Instagram Reels, mirroring more TikTok features. Users can set the timer to record hands-free clips with a countdown playing before the recording begins.
  • Alignment: The alignment tool is a clever addition from Instagram. They have seen the success of videos containing ‘transitions’ on TikTok and copied it. This will assist users in producing seamless transitions by lining up objects from previous clips before recording.
  • Speed: Instagram has clearly watched the success of TikTok very closely, producing an almost identical speed feature that allows users to change the speed of selected video or audio. This helps users stay on beat during lip syncing videos or to make slow motion videos.
  • Instagram Features: Instagram has not forgotten to include all of their most popular Instagram Story features for Reels. This includes the drawing tool, text tool and Instagram stickers. These features allow extra customisation when a video is created. This also produces video content that looks and feels like an Instagram product.

Where Can Reels be Used and seen? 

Instagram has made the clever decision to allow Instagram Reels on either Stories, the Explore Page, or both. This allows all users, not just influencers/creators, to participate in the new feature in a way that suits their personal style, preferred placement and comfort zone. TikTok quite simply does not have these levels of options.

We’ve been observing with interest that many TikTok videos are infiltrating the newsfeeds and stories of Facebook and Instagram (clearly watermarked with the TikTok logo bottom right) so perhaps it will only be a matter of time before we see Reels infiltrate Instagram & Facebook also.

Clever Timing on Facebook/Instagram’s part don’t you think?

The introduction of Instagram Reels is an extremely timely announcement given recent international backlash against TikTok. With many claims that China is using TikTok to collect user data, privacy has become a fear for many users. At the time of writing, it is unclear whether President Donald Trump will ban the app in the US as an act of protection from Chinese influence. However, if this ban were to be put in place, American TikTok users will likely move straight to Instagram Reels.

So which App is Better – TikTok or Instagram?

It is difficult to determine whether TikTok or Instagram’s new Reels feature will take the top spot for short form video content production. Both apps have their own distinct advantages.

TikTok already holds the market share and a captive and potentially loyal audience. It’s also worth noting that many TikTok users also have Instagram. It is their decision where they choose to spend what percentage of time and what they use each network for.

TikTok already hosts a number of key influencers for Gen Z and Millennials. We believe Instagram would definitely have to consider persuading young influencers such as Charli D’Amelio (80.2 million followers), Addison Rae (56 million followers) and Loren Grey (46.4 million followers) to jump ship in order to get Instagram Reels off the ground. These individuals are unlikely to migrate away from TikTok as they each have considerably less following on Instagram. However Instagram of course has their own merry band of influencers (young and old!) who they prefer to call ‘Creators’.

Instagram has effectively ‘one upped’ TikTok with Reels given you can now do on Instagram what you can do on TikTok AND a bunch of other stuff.  This is an advantage by essentially providing two apps in one. Some users may no longer need to switch between apps to keep up to date with friends, family and fans. The more you can do on one social media platform often results in the more time spent on that platform. This is important as all social platforms are undoubtedly competing for engagement in order to deliver for advertisers. (Yes, you can advertise on TikTok too! We will also have to write a blog post about this in the near future – stay tuned!)

Final Thoughts?

Overall, there are distinct advantages to each platform in producing short form video content. However, it is too early to tell whether Instagram Reels will steal the crown from TikTok.

Regardless of the eventual success or decline of Instagram Reels, this feature can help businesses connect to younger audiences. To gain an edge over competitors, businesses should keep an eye on the latest video trends appearing on this feature and try to put their own spin on them in fresh, creative ways.

To  learn more about using TikTok for business, check out our blog post.

Or if you are looking to boost your business presence on Instagram, visit our Instagram Marketing Packages.

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