Can Instagram make Reels happen, and use it as a tool to curb the rapid growth of rival video app TikTok?
Despite seemingly lukewarm initial response to the option, Instagram's still looking at ways to maximize the usage of it's TikTok clone functionality, and after adding a new Reels tab to the main screen for users in India last week, Instagram's now trying out a few more ways to boost Reels exposure, and get more people using the option.
First off, Instagram's started adding a display of 'Suggested Reels' in the main feed of some users.
As you can see in this example, shared by influencer marketing strategist Lindsey Gamble, the new suggested Reels listing appears between feed posts, highlighting some of the most relevant clips for you to check out.
The listings have been around for a couple of weeks, and provide another way for Instagram to boost Reels exposure. And if Instagram were to also add the new Reels tab in more regions, that would definitely make more people aware of them, giving Reels more opportunity to catch on.
Though whether they actually do is another thing - thus far, as noted, most feedback has suggested that Reels is just not as good as TikTok, and that the majority of Reels content is re-purposed from TikTok anyway. Which, in some ways, makes Reels an indirect advertisement for TikTok, which Instagram will no doubt be keen to address.
How it could address such is by promoting the best exclusive Reels content in order to maximize exposure for such, which Instagram's looking to do via a new, monthly listing of the top Reels trends.
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Introducing our monthly Reels Trend Report, where we take a deeper look at some of the most popular trends on Reels each month, starting with #Infotainment: the trend where creators are making the best use of their 15 seconds by teaching us a special skill in the form of an entertaining tutorial. ???? Check out these featured creators who did just that: @mackenzieturnero @blairimani @jakecohen ????
As per the caption, this is the first Reels Trend Report, which will "take a deeper look" at some of the most popular trends happening via the option. The first report looks at "infotainment", which could be a trend for brands to tap into with their Reels content.
Of course, as with all things Reels, TikTok is once again the inspiration here. TikTok also publishes a monthly trends report, which can be of value of you're looking to understand the latest happening in the app.
It seems that Instagram's leaving no stone left unturned in its TikTok replication efforts.
Indeed, another element that Instagram is apprently testing is a "Recommend as Featured" option for your Reels clips, which seems somewhat similar to TikTok's #ForYou featured page where it highlights the best content to each user.
Instagram appears to be looking to tap into the same approach, and given that almost every TikTok user adds the hashtag #ForYou in an attempt to get featured, that makes some sense.
Except, TikTok says that adding #ForYou, and related hashtags, won't do much to boost your chances of being featured.
As per TikTok:
"Hashtags like #FYP, #ForYou, and #ForYouPage work just like all other hashtags on TikTok, so adding these to your caption won’t necessarily improve your chances of getting on someone’s For You feed. Instead, we recommend using the space in your caption to add context to your video along with hashtags that are relevant to your content."
So maybe Instagram's replicating the wrong feature - or maybe, because Instagram's feed is more defined by the people you follow, as opposed to TikTok's more open, public stream, which enables it to pull the top-performing clips from more places, maybe then, by adding this check box, Instagram will be able to more closely replicate TikTok's feed approach, and showcase a wider range of Reels content within its suggestions.
Either way, it's only in testing at the moment, so we don't have much info to go on at this stage.
It's interesting to watch Instagram's attempts to copy each element of TikTok, as it will be equally interesting to see if that approach works. I mean, it worked with Stories, where Instagram blatantly ripped off Snapchat - and while Instagram Stories was initially met with similar scorn, it's gone on to become a key element of the platform, while also stunting Snapchat's momentum in the process (Snap has re-aligned now, but there was a point where it's active user count declined in the wake of Instagram's Stories launch).
Most industry analysts don't expect Reels to be as successful in this respect - but then again...
Instagram says that Reels is taking off in India, where TikTok has now been banned for more than two months. It hasn't provided any official stats, but that could be true, with many Indian TikTok influencers looking for a new, more secure home.
And we're closing in on the deadline for a TikTok takeover deal in the US, with negotiations reportedly on hold due to the Chinese Government implementing new rules around the transfer of technological advancements - like algorithms - in foreign trade deals. The official text of The White House's executive order on the sale of TikTok gives it till September 20th before sanctions are enacted against the app.
Uncertainty remains, and for every day it does, surely TikTok's creators are at least considering their options.
Instagram, and Reels, is there waiting. And it could still become a thing yet.