Instagram is looking to lean further into the TikTok-lead, short video trend by adding a new Reels tab on the home screen for all users, while it's also adding a Shop tab along the lower function bar to further its eCommerce push.
First off, on the new Reels tab - as explained by Instagram:
"At Instagram, our focus has always been on young people and creators because they’re trendsetters. Change is happening quickly right now, including how both of these groups use Instagram and engage with the world. This year, with the pandemic and much of the world sheltering in place, we’ve seen an explosion in short, entertaining videos on Instagram."
I mean, that explosion, of course, is happening primarily on TikTok, with Instagram looking to piggyback on the trend. But clearly, Instagram is seeing some momentum with Reels, which has lead to its decision to give Reels more direct exposure on the main screen.
Instagram already added a dedicated Reels tab for users in India back in September, where TikTok remains banned, and with more Indian users looking for an alternative, Reels has become a popular option. Some users in Germany and Italy have also reported seeing a Reels tab in their IG function bar.
Clearly, those initial tests have seen positive response, and increased engagement with Reels, leading to this new, broader roll-out.
Will that make Reels a more popular option?
Most of the discussion around Reels thus far has indicated that users find it to be a less-good version of TikTok, which is largely populated by re-purposed TikTok clips (complete with the TikTok logo) anyway. Most users, it seems, would prefer to just use TikTok instead, and with TikTok looking set to remain in the US, unabated, despite the Trump Administration's Executive Order seeking to force its sale, Reels doesn't look like it'll get the free boost of a TikTok ban, which it's had in India.
So it seems it probably won't ever be as popular as TikTok. But even so, with a billion users seeing that new tab, more of them, no doubt, will be prompted to check the latest Reels out - and if Instagram can offer better monetization options, that could work as a strong lure to get more TikTok creators to migrate across, and bring their large audiences with them.
On that front, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri has also told CNBC that ads are coming to Reels soon.
As per Mosseri:
"I think that we can leverage the story ad format [for Reels] because it’s the same immersive experience, so that’ll be helpful because you don’t need to get advertisers to create a bunch of new creative.”
That'll provide another option to consider for brands, and if Reels does take off, that could be a good way to boost your promotions, and connect with younger users in the app.
Instagram's evolving eCommerce tools will also provide new revenue opportunities in this respect, which is where the new Shop tab on the main screen also comes in.
Instagram's been testing its Shop tab on the main function bar since July, so some users have had it in their app for a while. But now, all users will get the new, direct connection option, taking them straight through to Instagram's evolving, in-app shopping experiences.
As explained by Instagram:
"With the Shop tab, we’re making it easy to get inspired by creators you love, shop on Instagram, and support small businesses. You can find personalized recommendations, editors’ picks curated by our @shop channel, shoppable videos, new product collections, and more."
The tab is the latest expansion of Shops on Instagram, with the next iteration of this likely to be the development of Facebook Pay, which will make it easier for users to make, essentially, one-click purchases in-app. Facebook's still working through the regulatory detail of its in-stream payments, but eventually, it will be very easy for Instagram users to simply tap on a product they like and make a purchase in-app.
Both of these additions, given their prominence in the app, are significant changes, and there is a risk that Instagram is getting too cluttered, that there are now simply too many options on the main screen of the app. But usage data will tell the story - it may seem a little overcrowded, but if people spend more time, and eventually money, in-app, then Instagram will be on a winner. And if it can steal some audience away from TikTok as well, that further adds to the benefits.
You'll see the new changes coming to your Instagram app shortly.
Instagram also posted this helpful Q and A on the update to the Instagram Creators IG profile.