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Just Launched: Instagram Reels

If Social Media is your jam, you cannot possibly have missed all of the talk about TikTok recently. Over the past two years, the popular App has been gaining much momentum. So what’s that got to do with Instagram and Facebook? Before we have that conversation, let’s go back a step and learn a little more about TikTok.

TikTok was first launched as “Douyin” in China in September 2016 by multinational internet technology company; ByteDance. In 2017, the now rebranded “TikTok” was launched in other markets outside of China. While there was a reasonable amount of early success, the platform really found its legs when ByteDance acquired the popular short-form video App; in August of 2018 and merged it with TikTok.

So what is TokTok?

  • Firstly unlike competing social media platforms, TikTok is entirely video with audio, instantly accessible upon opening the App.
  • Useable audio includes both snippets of a music track, which can also include voiceovers, as well as other sounds, including piggy-backing from sounds created or shared by other members (TikTokers).
  • Initially content had to be 15 seconds, but with consumer demand increasing ByteDance quadrupled the short clips to a whopping 60 seconds to provide TikTokers with more creative time, which is ten times longer than ill-fated competitor “Vine” which disappeared from the market at the end of 2016.
  • Users browse through TikTok by going through the “For You Page” feed (or #FYP) which is one of the best “designed for you” algorithmically-driven feeds you will find. Organically (and metaphorically) catering on a silver platter the ability for users to find a MASSIVE amount of new content creators with similar or complementary content to those they already follow.
  • Unlike any other platform, TikTokers can share their creations or favoured videos to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, directly from TikTok.
  • Users can also follow the feeds for their favourite creators and have a separate news feed of just accounts that they follow.
  • Security-wise, TikTok also makes it impossible for anyone to message any member unless they too add you as a friend.

TikTok primarily emerged like a phoenix out of the ashes of Vine. Popular Viners typically moved onto Youtube or TikTok, as it was very similar in that it provided short-form videos of around 6 seconds. Users were able to browse Vine as they do on Instagram; which makes the “#ForYouPage” somewhat revolutionary, and a step in the right direction for TikTok.

What TikTok really gained from was the ability to sync tracks to music, providing content creators with a way to stay relevant in a changing ‘pop’ culture.

Are there many more differences between the content available on TikTok compared to Vine? Well… bigger is better, isn’t it? That and the For You Page seem to be enough.

Despite its popularity and revolutionary ways, TikTok (as many things) is not without controversy. The fact that TikTok is owned and operated by a Chinese company has maligned the platform with longstanding political tensions, leading to a national ban of the platform in India. Furthermore, with growing international concerns surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic, bans have been called for in countries across the globe, and even our own political leaders are taking notice. As I write this, it has been reported that ByteDance feels the only pathway to saving TikTok is to sell to a US company.

Microsoft looks like the one who will win that purchase. Potentially.

So where do Instagram and Facebook come in?

If you haven’t realised it yet, social media is all about trends, and when new platforms create something that gets attention and gains momentum, Facebook is not going to be far behind the curve (if they’re behind at all). A great example of this is Facebook Stories. Initially, the feature started on Snapchat with Instagram quickly taking up the trend. Facebook was a mere seven months behind, and as recently as last month; you can even find stories on LinkedIn.

But of course… LinkedIn was only three years behind Facebook, but who’s counting?

Facebook launches its new TikTok clone; Instagram Reels.

Facebook needed an answer to TikTok, and that answer is Reels. Launched in Brazil as a test and try in 2019, it is now called Instagram Reels and was fully integrated into Instagram, in Australia in August 2020. Here’s the video they used to launch it into most countries;

As with TikTok, Instagram Reels has launched with a 15second limit to its content and is likewise designed around sharing videos to synced audio tracks.

Users can explore Reels through a custom version of the “explore page” and Instagram has introduced a seemingly similar to TikTok styled algorithm combining accounts that you follow as well as trending which they call featured videos curated by Instagram staff. As with TikTok; this allows you to scroll infinitely (middle image below).

Also similarly, you can see all of the reels made by a user on their profile page. There is a new tab section next to IGTV which you can see in the image on the right below.

So Side By Side

  • Ads – Unlike TikTok, there are (at the time of writing this) no ads on Instagram Reels. No doubt that will change as Facebook build popularity on the platform.

  • Length of Vids – Instagram limits Reels to 5 seconds while TikTok will let users string together four videos, essentially allowing up to 60 seconds

Is This A New Social War And Who Will Win?

Well, Facebook and Instagram have the badges of going to war against another platform and coming out on top. They certainly have the battle scars and victory badges to prove it. So going off history, TikTok could be in some trouble.

If Trump proceeds with his recently announced ‘future ban’ of TikTok, then yes, Reels will easily win. Also, Microsoft isn’t exactly known for “being cool” anyone remembers Yammer or let’s have a YamJam….yeah ok…

So, if sold, how will this play out on an international scene? Well, Microsoft has done a lot with LinkedIn, and we are starting to see some success with younger users in that platform. Purchasing TikTok may give them that extra leg up.

It will all come down to culture. Facebook and Instagram create a great culture, then this is a no brainer slam dunk, but can they do it? At the moment, Instagram is as I read somewhere “structured fun” where taking on a TikTok style is changing that style and shaking it up a little.

The other thing to consider is how many Influencers will make the move. Even for those outside the US who will still be able to access TikTok, will they need to work on one or both platforms to stay relevant? If they see Reels as the better products, then no doubt their followers will follow.

From a Brand Perspective?

Don’t just jump on it cause it’s THE NEXT BIG THING.

You need to look at your business and if it’s the right fit and can you

  • Create video content to the right length and style

  • Understand the culture of the channel and does that match your business

  • To be able to pivot or jump on emerging trends without meeting after meeting for production and approval cycles

Platforms like Reels and TikTok need a real consideration; the last thing you need is content going up that would be more appropriate on LinkedIn or Facebook, or you post one piece of content to many. Not only will it damage your brand in not understanding the culture but by doing do you would have sabotaged any credibility with its uses to speak to them in space were they like the content delivered in a certain way.

Anyway, whatever the future holds, it will be interesting to watch this play out. We will be keeping a close eye on both platforms as they battle this out.

If you need some advice or help to decide what is the right platform culture fit for you and your business, please call us we are here and are always happy to talk social 🙂

Blog by Jason Armstrong