Is Instagram Reels the end of TikTok? A digital marketing agency weighs in!

wasamedia. August 21, 2020

By now we’ve all had some time to get acquainted with Instagram’s new Reels feature. Whether you love it, hate it or still need convincing, the surprise launch caused quite the stir amongst social media users and the marketing industry earlier this month.  

There’s no denying the extraordinary rise of TikTok as a social media juggernaut but with ongoing controversies regarding allegations surrounding data and the looming threat of the platform being banned in the US, the potential for an Instagram takeover should not be underestimated!   

If there’s one thing Facebook does well, it’s knowing how to dominate the digital market. In some cases this has involved obtaining ownership of competing platforms or mimicking their more successful features (ahem, see you later Snapchat). TikTok themselves did not hesitate to call out Reels for its uncanny resemblance…

Now that the dust has settled, we’ve done more than our fair share of scrolling and taken a crack at creating a couple of Reels of our own to be able to give you our expert advice on how Reels can benefit your brand and whether or not we think it stands a chance at stealing TikTok’s spotlight.  

In terms of aesthetics and functionality, Reels is very much designed to imitate the most popular features of TikTok with a similar visible play button, viewer count and editing tools. The most notable differences are that Reels videos are limited to 15 second clips and do not feature any integrated advertising (yet!).  

If any platform stands a chance at rivalling the astronomic force of TikTok based on sheer size and digital dominance alone, it would indeed be Instagram. However, one of the distinctive and unrivalled advantages of TikTok is it’s audience culture. Gen Z are becoming more and more inclined to engage with content that feels authentic and off the cuff compared to a highly curated Instagram feed. In many cases, thanks to TikTok’s unique algorithm, all it takes is one good video for a brand to go viral, meaning even accounts with zero followers can get millions of views. 

If you take the time to immerse yourself in the TikTok universe, there are many opportunities for brands to boost their awareness. Engaging content creators, being quick to jump on trends, tapping into niche audiences and creating frequent, fun content are almost guaranteed ways to build your online following.  

Louis Vuitton Reels

Early criticism of Reels is that the new feature feels ‘tacked on’, easily lost in the sea of Instagram stories and IGTV videos and flooded with reposts of TikTok content (watermark included). However, it would be naive to rule out the potential for Instagram to overtake the viral video platform just as they did with the launch of Stories back in 2016. Having the ability to utilise a pre-existing audience and synergise all content onto one platform, combined with the increased scrutiny surrounding TikTok and looming uncertainty of its accessibility means that at any moment there could be millions of brands and content creators scrambling to transition to another platform.

@fastandfood Reels

Early signs of success can be seen by the hundreds of thousands, and in some cases millions, of views gathered by early adopters such as Louis Vuitton, Fast and Food, Sephora and Redbull so we would recommend staying ahead of the curve and testing out Reels for yourself! 

Our verdict is this: 

Reels is for the established brands and creators that have limited time and resources to start creating on a whole new platform and want their content in one place.  

It is a great platform for sharing short-form video content that may not necessarily fit in with your usual “brand aesthetic” as the videos appear on its own tab in profile (similar to IGTV). There is an opportunity to be more authentic with the content and share that much craved video content that does so well on the Instagram algorithm. It is easy to stay true to voice and create content that fits your brand rather than tailor content to trends or what’s popular. There’s also an opportunity to reach a new audience with Reels being published to the explore page. 

If you do have the time though….TikTok still holds the crown for reach and value. TikTok is superior in editing tools, reach and algorithm. If you put time and energy into keeping up with trends, challenges (which is pretty easy to do if you spend hours scrolling through the ‘for you page’ like we do) and creators TikTok has a great return on investment if you are able to find your niche. 

It will be interesting to see in the coming months its success (or failure), but we’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think Reels will take over from TikTok or just get lost in the crowd?