In a move that will be a surprise to absolutely no one, Instagram has today announced that it's making is TikTok-like 'Reels' functionality available in 50 regions, including the US, in addition to the 4 where it was already available.
Hellooooo, Reels ????— Instagram (@instagram) August 5, 2020
Introducing a new way to create and discover short, entertaining videos on Instagram.
Reels is rolling out today to more than 50 countries around the world.
Well, I mean, Instagram did already announce that Reels would be launched in the US in August, so it shouldn't be a surprise, of course. But with TikTok coming under pressure, and even - potentially - facing a ban in the US, Instagram, and parent company Facebook, are logically pushing ahead with the launch of Reels in more regions in order to provide an alternative landing spot for TikTok creators who may be concerned that their efforts in building a presence in the app could soon be erased from existence.
That doesn't seem overly likely in the current scenario. The US Government has given TikTok till September 15th to come up with a deal to become US-owned, and with the app estimated to be worth around $50 billion, you would expect that, one way or another, TikTok will figure it out.
But still, the speculation alone will be enough to spook many creators. And when you also consider the fact that Facebook has been offering lucrative deals to top TikTok stars in order to lure them across...
That creator-centric angle gets a focus in Instagram's announcement - as per Instagram:
"Reels invites you to create fun videos to share with your friends or anyone on Instagram. Record and edit 15-second multi-clip videos with audio, effects and new creative tools. You can share reels with your followers in Feed and if you have a public account you can make them available to the wider Instagram community through a new space in Explore. Reels in Explore offers anyone the chance to become a creator on Instagram and reach new audiences on a global stage."
It's difficult to tell if the in-Instagram approach will work for Reels, as opposed to creating its own separate app. Facebook has, of course, tried creating separate apps for its competitor offerings in the past - with Poke, SlingShot, Bonfire, Lasso, etc. All of those have failed to catch on, and it does seem like adding the feature within Instagram itself better plays to Facebook's strength, in regards to scale and mass-exposure.
But some could also see it as crowding the app, which started as a basic image sharing platform and now has messaging, live-streaming, Stories, IGTV. There's a lot going on in Instagram these days, and that could, eventually, start to feel like too much, and it wouldn't be a surprise if more simplified, focused competitor apps started cropping up offering similar tools.
That may well also be part of TikTok's appeal - the app opens to a basic, vertically-aligned feed of video clips, making it easy to just swipe on through. If anything, it seems that Instagram's more likely to re-align itself around Stories, and potentially, eventually, open to your Stories feed, as opposed to the traditional post stream. But that won't please everybody - and maybe, as a result, Instagram could open to different feeds for different users, some seeing the traditional feed, some opening up on Stories, some Reels.
But again, you can see that cluttering coming through. Will the addition of Reels be a little too much for users to concentrate on, impeding its popularity?
Either way, we'll find out soon - the lowdown on Instagram Reels is:
- Clips can be 15-seconds long, like TikTok, with users able to record a series of clips or use video uploads from their gallery
- You can add music, AR effects, speed up/slow down parts of the video, etc. Users can also use the music you've chosen in their own clips for remixes and responses
- Reels will have its own section within Explore, similar to IGTV. You can also share Reels to your Instagram feed or Story
- Reels will also have a separate tab on your Instagram profile
Instagram also posted a set of questions and answers about Reels on its Creators account:
There's not much mystery here - its TikTok, within Instagram. If you've used TikTok before, the presentation and style will be instantly familiar.
So will it work - will Facebook be able to use Reels to heap more pressure onto TikTok, and slow the app's growth?
A lot, of course, hinges on the TikTok sell-off, which still has a way to go. If TikTok is sold off to a US company, that will then begin a new era for the company, which will come with its own challenges, not the least of which being that TikTok still doesn't have an equitable way to compete with Facebook and YouTube on revenue generation.
TikTok has to first establish how it will pay its own bills, then how it will fund creators - and as it does that, Facebook will be looking to lure more TikTok stars across, flashing them dollar signs at every opportunity.
Reels might not be as good as TikTok, but if top creators can make money through the option, it could be good enough.
Definitely, you can imagine that many creators will be looking to, at the least, try it out in order to protect themselves against a possible TikTok shut down.