Is Instagram Reels Here to Stay?

Following its launch on 5th August, Instagram Reels looks to emulate the success of IG Stories. But what is this new content format, and does it have the potential to be more than a passing trend?

What is Instagram Reels?

Instagram Reels is a new way to create 15-second multi-clip videos with audio, effects and other creative tools. 

Unlike stories, which are only viewable by your followers, reels can be shared with the wider Instagram community via the Explore feed. In their own words, reels “offer anyone the chance to become a creator on Instagram and reach new audiences on the global stage”.

Sound familiar? That’s because it’s almost an exact copy of TikTok.

It’s hard to ignore TikTok’s meteoric rise in the last couple of years.Having built upon the successful formula of the now-defunct Vine, which had 200 million users at its peak, TikTok has achieved 4 billion downloads and 800 million active users to date.

Why is TikTok so popular? It’s incredibly simple to use. Videos start playing the moment you open the app, and it’s innovative algorithm learns your preferences and drip-feeds you content accordingly. It’s no wonder users spend an average of 52 minutes a day within the app, increasing to 80 minutes for those aged 4 -15. But don’t be fooled into thinking TikTok is only for children. 42% of its audience are aged 18-24, making it an excellent platform to target Generation Z, from a marketing perspective.

So it’s clear why Instagram are attempting to replicate the TikTok experience with Reels. Their iteration comes at a time when Chinese-owned TikTok is being banned in India and potentially the US – the app’s two largest markets. Instagram intends to capture these markets from TikTok in the same way IG Stories captured Snapchat’s audience. The success of IG Stories is there for all to see – 500 million people use the feature every day, compared to 238 million Snapchat users. Will the same happen for Reels?

How is Instagram Reels performing?

It’s been a mixed reaction to Reels so far. Many users feel like it’s been ‘tacked-on’, hidden within the Stories interface:

In defence of Instagram, they’ve just added a new tab to user’s profiles:

And there are rumours of Reels replacing the Search button in the UI (with Search being moved to the top right) to make it more prominent:

In terms of performance metrics, it’s hard to judge at this early stage. In our opinion, it’s performing moderately well. Instagram are keenly pushing Reels in the Explore tab, like so:

We’ve also been seeing many influencers using Reels, as it provides a new way to provide content to an existing audience. Such videos have been generating vast amounts of organic reach, but there are some caveats. Firstly, most of these ‘Reels’ are simply re-uploads of TikTok videos. Secondly, this strong performance could easily be Instagram’s algorithm favouring Reels over other formats to improve its usage during this make-or-break period. Facebook have been notoriously decreasing the organic reach of posts on their apps to encourage the use of paid advertising. Expect this to happen to Reels once adoption has become widespread.

Does Reels have marketing potential?

Any type of content that could keep users engaged with your brand is worth adopting. Its emphasis on audio means musicians and labels are in the best position to use Reels. Food & Drink and Fashion brands can also get creative with the format, as these topics are already popular on TikTok.

If your business already incorporates TikTok into its communications strategy, then Reels should be the natural next step. There aren’t any ads running within Reels yet, but we expect they’ll be similar to stories, presentation-wise. Short, snappy videos will be the key to capturing your audience’s attention.

In the short-term, experiment with Reels in your organic posts.Your reach will improve tremendously if even one video becomes ‘featured’. Uploading your TikToks, or adapting your older 15-second videos to the format could involve your brand in the early ‘hype’ of Instagram Reels.

It’s too soon to say whether Reels will be a runaway success like Instagram Stories. Facebook’s previous attempt at emulating this format, Lasso, shut down on 10th July after only 18 months and 80,000 active users. While it’s safe to say that Reels won’t drop to this level, after the initial excitement has died down, will audiences abandon it for TikTok? Only time will tell.

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