It’s been in testing for a while, but today, Instagram has officially announced that users can now reply to post comments with Reels, providing another way to integrate Reels into the Instagram process.
As you can see in this example, now, when you reply to a comment on a post, you’ll also have the option to tap on the blue Reels button to create a video reply, which will then appear as a sticker that you can send to the commentor.
Here’s another look at the process in action (via @TheBKH):
On Instagram You can now reply to comments with a Reels pic.twitter.com/HJNnvxw2Gt— The BKH ???????? (@thebkh) December 10, 2021
It’s another way to help Instagram boost engagement, while also leaning into the short-form video trend. It’s also, unsurprisingly, almost identical to the same feature that TikTok added in June last year.
Want to reply to a comment with a video? Now you can! Available now for all users!♬ original sound - TikTok
Instagram’s added some new color options to the sticker, but essentially it’s the same thing. Which, given Instagram’s more recent history, is pretty much par for the course – though you will be able to reply to comments on regular posts and videos with Reels too, which expands the function a little.
On one hand, as with all of Instagram’s copycat functions, it feels a little cheap, a little stale maybe to see it simply re-create what TikTok already does.
On the other hand, it’s working – Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted in the company’s most recent earnings announcement that Reels is now “the primary driver of engagement growth” on the platform, with millions of users now interacting with Reels clips every day. If Meta can keep a few more short video fans on its apps, instead of seeing them drift off to TikTok, that’s a win, and that, in itself, is likely enough to justify its continued copying of TikTok’s features.
But I maintain that if Meta really wants to win back younger users, it needs to come out with new, unique features, and lead the way with the latest trends. A side-effect of replication is that you are inherently following someone else, and if you’re not seen as the leader in the latest shifts, you’re unlikely to be the cool app, and the place where younger users are primarily interacting.
Meta, of course, knows this. In fact, it’s a key part of Facebook’s growth story – once Facebook overtook MySpace as the primary social app of choice among mong users back in 2005, MySpace tried to copy Facebook’s key tools, in a last-ditch effort to stem the user migration.
That clearly didn’t work, and Facebook eventually became the place to be, which then propelled the company to bigger and better things.
TikTok is on a similar trajectory, and while Meta’s family of apps is far bigger than MySpace ever was, it’s not unfeasible to imagine TikTok becoming the top social app at some stage in the near future.
Meta has already said that it’s making young users a focus, and as part of that, it really needs to re-establish itself as the leader, not the follower of the latest trends.