two sets of legs in different color pants - instagram reels

Instagram Reels: The New(Ish) Frontier

While we were all standing around with our hands in pockets, waiting for sports to start up again, Instagram added a new feature that may succeed in capturing some of TikTok’s user base.

What Happened? 

In an effort to grab up some of the market share left wanting by TikTok’s political troubles, Instagram released its newest feature, Instagram Reels. And it pretty closely mimics TikTok..

To be clear (and fair), this wasn’t an afterthought for Facebook. The company was planning to release Reels before TikTok was banned in India and before the U.S. government set TikTok’s doomsday clock for 90 days. And if you recall, this is the same strategy the Facebook subsidiary used when battling the Snapchat insurgency. Instagram created Stories – multimedia content that disappeared after 24 hours. 

Instagram has released this handy little how to guide, which outlines how to navigate the new feature, its privacy settings, and how it will appear on the app. Although this product release has been met with some negative sentiment in the press, like these articles from Vox and New York Times, I still think that Instagram will be able to turn this into a success. The reason for this “optimism”? Think back to the initial reception of Stories compared to how they have now become one of the premier features of the platform.  

Why Did They Do It? 

Well, if you’ve followed the meteoric rise of TikTok as a social media platform, then I think this question somewhat answers itself. With the massive year over year growth in TikTok downloads, and the younger generations piling in, TikTok has become a real threat to Facebook as a company. The younger user base and higher download volumes meant that it would soon start to seriously eat into Facebook’s year over year growth numbers, and into their pockets as well. 

So, the release of the new Reels feature on Instagram is an effort to to try and stave off another attack from a rapidly-growing competitor in the social media space. 

What Does This Mean For Brands and Marketers? 

Move fast… Although the initial reception has been tepid at best, there are a lot of great use cases for this new feature for creators and brands alike. 

First off, Reels lives on it’s own tab within your Instagram profile. This means that much like the ephemeral nature of Stories has given them a unique purpose and creative style, so too can Reels create a new and unique way for you to engage with your followers. With these short form videos you can highlight a completely different side of your brand, both personal or commercial. You can be more real (pun intended), and connect on a more human level than you can on your manicured and planned grids. 

Another is to create a short form video series, where all associated content carry a theme or story line. Because you can make custom cover pictures for Reels, you’ll be able to illustrate to your following that designated posts are part of a content series. Additionally, as these are short clips this is not as labor intensive as trying to do the same on IGTV. What kind of content you want to use and create is up to you, but really the possibilities are endless and provide a great way to engage with your followers.  

In conclusion, I think that the current limitations and pushback we are seeing with regards to Reels are going to fade away as Instagram continues to refine and improve the feature. So, much like any new product/feature, there are going to be hiccups, but there will also be rewards for those early movers who learn how to navigate it and use it to form new connections with their audiences. 

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