There is a war raging; a silent war for the soul of social media users. When it comes to buzz, the viral video app TikTok has been hard to beat in 2020’s social media scene. But now, Instagram has entered the chat.
On Thursday 5th August 2020, the Facebook-owned property officially launched Instagram Reels in the U.S. and 49 other countries. Reels is Instagram’s answer to the short-form video style that’s swept the internet, like on the since-shuttered Vine, ephemeral Snapchat, and current behemoth TikTok, which recently topped 2 billion downloads.
Much like TikTok, Reels offers users a suite of creative tools to splice together 15-second videos with customizable music, text, special effects, and scene-stitching technology, as well as a dedicated way to discover and share those clips. With Reels, Instagram—with its billion-plus monthly users—is hoping to bulk up its piece of the social media puzzle, adding to its arsenal of 15-second snippets on the ephemeral Stories, minute-long traditional grid videos, and longer-form video hosted on IGTV and Instagram Live.
Reels have been in the works for over a year and have been tested in Brazil, Germany, France, and India for months. In that time, new entrants have made their own strides: Triller, Byte, Likee, Dubsmash, Roposo, and Mitron are just a few of the apps trying to get a slice of the short-video pie.
But in this time, TikTok has seemed to be the giant to topple as its over 800 million monthly users make it a behemoth in the short video market. For those who have worked in digital video marketing for long enough, there seem to be some patterns emerging in regards to these latest video-sharing app craze.
We have seen the rise and fall of fun-sharing apps like Vine, as well as the development of video for mainstays like Twitter and Facebook. Yet, there always seems to be that next cool thing younger and younger generations are adopting around the corner.
Can we safely say that Instagram Reels is the new kid on the block to dethrone the behemoth that is TikTok? The Chinese iOS and Android social media video app now boasts over 2 billion downloads and over 800 million active users and has enjoyed over six consecutive quarters as the most downloaded app in the iOS App Store (up to March 2020).
Other companies like Byte and Triller have tried to win over TikTok users, but there has been little to no opportunity for them to compete in a social media market dominated by a few giants. There is also news that Snapchat is looking to create a similar type of feed to help its users find and explore new content. If any of these alternatives are planning to take down TikTok, their time is now, and Instagram Reels might run away with it as anyone with a smartphone is familiar with Instagram, which makes it the natural winner of this war. It is possible that we might see TikTok fall just as quickly as it came to power.
Can Instagram really takedown. TikTok?
Instagram is trying to become a one-stop shop for every digital need. It provides the option of combining viewing a regular feed of posts from people you follow, including their Stories, plus the explore page, and now Reels. Add to that the opportunity to shop on the platform.
Reels is a big deal because it shifts Instagram's social media tone. Before now, Instagram was a platform for static images. Slowly, it has introduced video posts, Stories, and now Reels; all of which have generated a community of creators that rivals YouTube. Reels makes it much easier for users to discover and follow new creators on Instagram because the videos are included on a new part of the Explore page, completely open to the public.
Although the interface of Reels is very similar to TikTok, it is, however, going to take more than looks and in-app accessibility for Instagram needs to surpass TikTok. Instagram is trying to do a lot of things at once, but like Stories, this is likely to become a mainstay of the app. It isn't quite toe-to-toe with TikTok yet, but that won't matter in a little while, because right now, you can't even talk about TikTok without mentioning Instagram Reels.