I mean, it was probably to be expected.
Just days after TikTok announced that it had reached a billion active users, Facebook has today launched Reels on Facebook for all users in the US, bringing its short-form video competitor to many more people.
In all honesty, Facebook seems more excited about the addition than anybody else.
The Social Network has been testing Reels in its main app since March, starting in India, where TikTok is banned, giving Facebook more opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of the format.
And now, it’s bringing the option to its 250 Million+ US audience.
As explained by Facebook:
“Reels on Facebook can consist of music, audio, effects and more. You can find them in News Feed or in Groups, and when viewing a reel on Facebook, you can easily follow the creator directly from the video, like and comment on it, or share it with friends.”
The groups addition is the most interesting element – as you can see in the above video clip, along with the capacity to share your Reels to your News Feed, you’ll also be able to post your Reels direct to groups that you’re a member of, while Facebook’s also launching a new ‘Single Theme’ group setting “that makes it easy to prompt members to share their Reels”.
As you can see in this example, through themed Reels, you could prompt group members to, say, post videos of themselves blowing on their dogs’ ears to see their reaction, which could spark a new engagement trend in your group, and prompt further interaction within the community.
It’s a good angle for Facebook to take, especially considering that Facebook groups are used by more than 1.8 billion people every month. And much like its take on audio social, which is also being fed through groups, Facebook’s looking to use the advantage it has in hosting these dedicated communities to maximize Reels usage, and make it a bigger trend through more focused engagement.
But Facebook also knows that part of the lure of TikTok is reach, and the potential for internet fame, and it’s keen to point out that Reels on Facebook can also provide that as well.
“Reels can reach everyone, not just your existing followers, making it possible for the most creative, funny and inspiring people to break out. People can discover reels based on their interests and what’s popular both at the top of News Feed alongside Stories and Rooms and in a new, dedicated News Feed section.”
Facebook’s also expanding its test of recommending Instagram Reels on Facebook, providing more Reels content to lure more people into the option, while also giving Instagram creators more exposure potential through cross-app reach.
The expanded reach across both apps is one area in which Facebook has an advantage over TikTok, while it also has a much more solidified monetization system in place, and much greater resources to throw at incentivizing Reels creation.
Which Facebook is looking to do through a new bonus program:
“As part of our commitment to invest over $1 billion in creators through 2022, we’re also offering a new bonus program to help creators earn money when people view their reels. The ‘Reels Play’ bonus pays eligible creators based on the performance of their reels, and will be available on both Facebook and Instagram. After seeing creators embrace the Instagram Reels Summer bonus, we hope this new bonus will allow more creators to make money from their content.”
There are some challenges with incentive-based programs like this, as Snapchat has found with its Spotlight creator funding, which has gradually caused more angst among its creative community as those payments have dried up.
As a concept, it makes perfect sense – effective monetization of short-form content is difficult, because you can’t chuck in mid or pre-roll ads on a 15-30 second clip. That’s forcing each app to think more creatively, and looking to branded content partnerships and dedicated incentive programs, which can clearly act as a strong lure (Snapchat’s Spotlight quickly rose to 125 million users, spurred on by its payments system). But they can backfire if that same revenue stream leads to reliance, and the app’s not able to replace that income with a more sustainable cash flow.
Still, Facebook will be hoping to bring more creators in, with the even bigger lure of reaching Facebook’s audience.
“The ‘Reels Play’ program will pay a bonus to eligible Facebook creators whose Reels get at least 1000 views over a 30-day period on Facebook. The Reels Play on Facebook bonus program is currently invite-only. Creators who are invited will be notified in the Facebook App and in Creator Studio and can sign up to learn more here.”
Will the expansion of Reels to Facebook make it a more engaging, enticing option, and keep more people from spending their time on TikTok instead?
It seems unlikely. As you can see from this chart, TikTok’s growth rate is unprecedented, and its magnetism has only been amplified by the global lockdowns as a result of the pandemic.
TikTok’s allure among younger audiences, in particular, is impressive, and it’s that specific element that has Facebook spooked, with the ghost of MySpace still calling from the distant past, warning of potential obsolescence by failing to capture the youth vote.
Facebook had hoped, initially, to muscle TikTok out with better monetization tools, stealing top creators away. But with TikTok also developing new business options, aligned with its creator tools, that’s approach has become less effective over time, and with Facebook also continuously in the news for the wrong reasons, it does seem that TikTok has been able to hold firm through the main storm, and will now be able to better establish itself as a key challenger in the space.
That doesn’t mean that Facebook’s headed the way of MySpace – it still has 2.9 billion active users, and is expanding into new markets every day. But Facebook is no longer the cool kid on the block – it’s a utility, a service, which clearly has a place, but may well lose momentum over time as younger users continue to spend more time in other, more engaging places instead.
Which is, of course, why Facebook continues to fight, and battle for its hold on user attention where possible. But as has been the case for some years now, Facebook is simply no longer the innovator, it’s no longer leading the way, which leaves the door open for new, fresh competitors to step in.
Facebook, however, is now concentrating on the next stage, with a view to becoming a Metaverse company in future. Maybe that’s where Facebook can re-take the lead, and gain new advantage over the opposition – or maybe, Facebook simply needs to change focus and build on its utility tools as a means to solidify its place.
It’s hard to see TikTok ever filling that same need, in many respects - but then again, as it continues to grow, maybe it will become an even bigger thorn in Facebook’s side in the years to come.
Either way, now you can check out Reels on Facebook too, bringing older audiences into the short video trend. Expect some level of cringe as a result.