sh*t just got reel

by Gia
August 20, 2020

Talk about convenient timing: just 2 weeks ago, when Trump announced he would “ban” TikTok, Instagram released a new Tiktok-esque feature called Reels. Coincidence? I think not. It seems like just a few months back, we were trying to keep up with TikTok and all its trends and now there’s a new kid on the block: IG Reels. Here’s the 4-1-1:

As an avid TikTok and Instagram user, IG Reels feels like a cheap, TikTok rip-off. It has the exact same function as TikTok to create fun, short-form videos using effects, filters, and music without the ease and addictive flow that makes TikTok irresistible. Still, with all the uncertainty of Trump’s TikTok ban, people are curious as to whether or not IG Reels will be the new TikTok. After all, back in 2016 when Instagram released Instagram stories, people initially didn’t buy in because it was simply a copycat of Snapchat stories. Now, IG stories have pretty much made Snapchat obsolete. Although its functionality is not up to TikTok’s standards, is it inevitable for IG Reels to succeed?

We can chuck it up to being the “early stages” of this feature, but here are 3 reasons IG Reels will not take over TikTok:

1. virality & shareability

The beauty of TikTok is that anyone could go viral overnight. All it takes is one video and the TikTok algorithm and poof! You’re a TikTok star. Instagram on the other hand, has a much slower process. It takes time to build your organic feed and followers, and becoming an influencer is a long, consistent process. Virality is so much harder to reach with IG Reels because it’s hidden within the explore page which is extremely saturated. Without the allure of becoming viral overnight, will people be inclined to make reels? TikToks are also so shareable that even people who aren’t on TikTok have seen TikTok videos. IG Reels just doesn’t have the functionality to share these videos across platforms.

2. trends

It seems like most of the content on reels is an adoption of TikTok trends: same songs, dances, challenges, effects, etc. But TikTok trends will always be TikTok trends no matter where they live. Without any original content on IG Reels, it’ll never feel… reel. In all fairness, this would only apply to anyone who’s on TikTok, which covers mostly Gen-Zs and Millennials. Regardless, Instagram makes it difficult to pinpoint specific trends on reels and participate in it. With TikTok’s discover page, you see daily trends and challenges, making it easy for users to hop on the bandwagon.

3. ease

Since IG Reels is one of many functions and facets of Instagram, it isn’t exactly “top of mind.” What makes TikTok so easy is that it curates videos for you and is immediately the first thing you see whereas you have to actively search for IG Reels. Instagram is filled with all types of content: infographics, pictures, IGTV videos, stories, and now Reels. But instead of making it easier to have everything in one app, the addition of reels makes it all the more overwhelming. TikTok eliminated the paradox of choice, making the app so easy, mindless, and entertaining.

I do have to give Instagram some credit: when everyone was feeling hopeless and scared for TikTok’s demise, they swooped in like a knight in shining armor with a replacement that, unfortunately, doesn’t quite live up to the standard. The one thing they got right though, was the timing. TikTok has already softened up a large population of mainly Gen-Zs and Millennials to the idea of short-form video content creation, that it wouldn’t take much convincing on Instagram’s end to get people to create reels. They’re also in a much better position to tap into non-TikTokers who are already on Instagram, making short-form video creation accessible to Gen-Xs and Boomers (though whether they use it is questionable).

The biggest difference between IG Reels and TikTok though is the audience and platform. TikTok is a place for “shitposting” anything and everything from shower thoughts to embarrassing stories. Instagram on the other hand, is a place for people to establish a personal brand that’s much more curated. As IG Reels becomes accessible to a much larger audience, I’m curious to see how this organic-type of content fits into Instagram’s platform. That is, will IG Reels make Instagram profiles less curated and more organic or will the videos people create follow the current curated aesthetic of Instagram?

TikTok has changed the way we use social media as a medium for entertainment and brought new meaning to “authenticity.” Though IG Reels hasn’t “disrupted” the game, it will still surely influence our behavior online. As the social media landscape is ever-changing, I can’t help but wonder: Does integrating IG Reels into Instagram’s platform provide a solid middle-ground for communication amongst different generations? The answer may depend on TikTok’s fate in the foreseeable future but what I do know is this: IG Reels doesn’t have to replace TikTok for it to be successful. It’s ultimately up to us to determine what we want to do with Reels, not as the new TikTok, but as its own entity. Stay tuned!