In case you’ve been blissfully away from a social media information supply lately, on 5 August Facebook launched Instagram Reels.

I’m going to stroll by means of a number of the ‘how we acquired right here’ points first.

Quite a lot of this text can be in regards to the shopper side of social networks, however I’m tying within the model side towards the tip.

As social media entrepreneurs, it’s vital to perceive the buyer tradition angle of the ebb and circulate of the completely different platforms, as this could drive the way you method every as a model.

If you’re already conversant in Reels and TikTok and need to skip to the content material about what it all means for brands, use our desk of contents:

What are Instagram Reels and TikTok anyway

TikTok’s background

TikTok was first launched as ‘Douyin’ in China in September 2016. In 2017, ByteDance (the developer) launched ‘TikTok’ in non-mainland China markets, though it didn’t actually take off till after the rising service was launched with Musical.ly (who ByteDance acquired)  in August 2018.

TikTok’s major options are:

  • All content material is video with audio
  • The audio is mostly a phase of a music monitor (however may additionally embrace voice overs or different sounds)
  • Initially content material wanted to be 15 seconds lengthy, however that was later prolonged to 60 seconds
  • Customers browse TikToks by means of the ‘For You’ feed (generally known as the ‘for you web page’ or FYP), which is a completely algorithmically-driven infinitely-long feed of TikToks
  • Customers can like, remark and share movies (together with sharing to different social networks)
  • Customers can observe their favorite TikTok creators and see a (separate) feed of simply accounts that they observe

TikTok was (IMHO) born out of the ashes that was Vine (#RIP), which was an analogous short-form (6-7 seconds) video service launched in 2012 however shut down in 2016, nevertheless customers browsed Vine extra like they do Instagram than having the ‘For you web page’.

TikTok’s massive innovation on Vine was including the flexibility to sync tracks to music, which opened many doorways for varied artistic endeavours.

Additional, the ‘for you web page’ allowed customers to get a gigantic quantity of natural discovery, the place customers would come throughout the account

Very like Vine and others earlier than it, a lot of TikTok’s hottest content material is both particular ‘dances’ to a selected music monitor, or emotionally-driven content material (humorous/unhappy/scary/…). Lots of the now-popular YouTube influencers had their begin on Vine.

Right here’s an instance of a ‘dance’ from @charlidamelio, who’s probably the most adopted TikTok account (she grew a lot of her following from dances like this, that are then ‘duetted’ by others):

@charlidameliobe pleased music video out now hyperlink in bio dc @haleygilchrist_ 💕💕♬ Be Happy – Dixie D’Amelio

If you happen to haven’t seen TikTok earlier than, take a look at our roundup of 10 cat TikToks that made us laugh.

TikTok will not be with out controversy although. Wired’s cowl story for their September subject highlighted that TikTok has pushed what they described as ‘the evolution of digital blackface‘.

Moreover (mentioned a bit later), the truth that TikTok is owned and operated by a Chinese language firm has brought on bans in India, and at the moment it’s wanting like they are going to be pressured to promote their non-mainland China operations to a US firm (Microsoft is the front-runner).

In comes Instagram and Facebook

Facebook uh … retains a watch on different social networks, as you would possibly anticipate. All of us do not forget that ‘tales’ as a format began with Snapchat and have been shamelessly copied to Instagram (then Facebook – admittedly LinkedIn will not be missing in blame right here too).

Facebook wanted a solution to TikTok, and that reply was “Reels”. It was initially launched in November 2019 in Brazil.

It’s now develop into “Instagram Reels”, and the format is built-in into Instagram correct.

Reels was launched in most countries 5 August. Right here’s the video they shared at launch:

Like TikTok, it has a 15 second restrict, and is designed round sharing movies synced to music tracks.

Customers browse Reels by means of a customized model of the ‘discover web page’, and Instagram has launched an analogous fashion of algorithm (presumably combining accounts that you simply observe in addition to trending (they name them ‘featured’) movies, with featured movies curated by Instagram workers) to permit you to scroll infinitely (center picture under). You’ll be able to see the entire reels made by a consumer on their profile web page in a brand new tab/part (subsequent to IGTV – see the fitting hand picture under).

Picture by way of Facebook’s announcement

Customers also can see Reels of their regular Instagram feed (left hand picture above), and may select whether or not to put up simply to the Discover feed or additionally to their major Instagram feed. It’s also possible to share Reels to your Instagram story or DM them to somebody.

Picture by way of Facebook’s announcement

Variations between Reels and TikTok

As journalist Joanna Stern highlighted, some points of Reels are clearly ripped off one-for-one, just like the structure of Reels’ view rely and ‘play button’:

Mark Zuckerberg has remarked earlier than when Instagram copied the tales format from Snapchat that they don’t seem to be fearful about copying options that they suppose are nice.

You actually have a look at the 2 merchandise subsequent to one another, understanding that Reels has most likely been within the works for not less than a 12 months now, and do that:

Underlying platform tradition

The tradition of a selected social community is a very vital determinant to who makes use of it and the kind of content material that performs properly. It’s not simply the format (story vs profile vs Reel/TikTok), however the underlying ‘fashion’ and what folks anticipate once they use that social community.

To grasp extra about this cultural side, observe the work of journalist Taylor Lorenz or lecturers like Danah Boyd. Boyd is a improbable professional within the house of ‘ethnography’ (examine of tradition) and the way it relates to youthful generations’ use of social networks – her PhD dissertation is fascinating studying should you actually need to nerd out, however I additionally advocate her book on the topic. Data and Society, based by Boyd, can be an ideal and under-rated information supply.

TikTok’s tradition is evidently one centred across the For You Web page, and the idea of natural discovery of content material. It doesn’t matter (as) a lot what number of followers you’ve got, extra so the variety of views your TikToks get.

This actually incentivises engagement throughout completely different accounts, and since it’s much less ‘profile-centric’, profitable TikTok customers will typically create a big quantity of content material to see what resonates.

TikTok’s tradition is in its early days – the sooner article about ‘digital blackface‘ a very good instance of how expectations and norms are nonetheless in growth.

Eugene Wei has written a improbable piece on TikTok and what he calls “cultural abstraction”. It is best to definitely read it. I’m wanting ahead to his later posts within the collection about TikTok.

Instagram is clearly fairly completely different, and comes with a protracted historical past and tradition.

Tales launched extra of an ephemeral ‘vibe’, however Instagram for customers continues to be very closely tied to their particular person model and character. Due to having numerous followers who they know in the actual world on Instagram (and understanding sharing Instagram account usernames is commonly a means to discover out extra about somebody met on a relationship app for instance), content material can typically be much less ‘open’.

Instagram has been making an attempt for a while to ship each a ‘skilled public face’ and a ‘pal community’ vibe with options like ‘shut pals’ to limit the place tales (because the extra ephemeral format) are distributed whereas nonetheless encouraging customers to permit anybody to observe them.

It’s but to be seen how Reels modifications the cultural dynamic of Instagram. I’m positive that inside current influencers, we’ll see them rapidly check the brand new format and see what occurs.

I’m extra long run with how Reels modifications (or not) the underlying Instagram tradition. Tales was positively a powerful success in including a extra informal/ephemeral layer of communication to Instagram.


TikTok has adverts, which seem interspersed whereas scrolling by means of the For You Web page (very like how Instagram tales adverts seem as you ‘faucet by means of’ them).

At present Instagram Reels doesn’t have any promoting, though that’s seemingly to change sooner or later if it takes off.

Size of movies

Instagram limits all movies to 15 seconds (at the moment) whereas TikTok permits customers to string collectively up to four movies, primarily permitting 60 seconds of content material per put up.

Public vs (doubtlessly) personal

TikTok is primarily all public content material (whereas it’s possible to create private accounts, that is much less widespread as movies received’t seem on the For You web page, so that you don’t get that natural discovery), whereas Instagram Reels consists of the overlay of whether or not the ‘mum or dad’ Instagram account is public or personal.

From the Instagram FAQs on Reels:

Who can see and share my reels?


Who can see and share your reels follows your account’s privateness settings:


For public accounts: Anybody on Instagram can see and share your reels. Individuals may even see your reels on Discover and locations like impact, hashtag and audio pages. Anybody on Instagram can create a reel utilizing your unique audio.
For personal accounts: Solely your permitted followers can see and share your reels. When somebody shares your reel, solely your followers shall be in a position to see it. Nobody shall be in a position to create a reel utilizing your unique audio.


Have in mind, reels you put up to Feed or Discover will seem within the Reels tab in your Instagram profile. Reels shared to Tales and Direct will disappear in 24 hours and received’t seem in your profile.


Will Reels or TikTok win the battle? What is the warfare?

It is a actually nice query, and the jury could be very a lot nonetheless out as to whether or not Reels will acquire mass traction. If Instagram Tales are something to go by, TikTok could also be in hassle.

That is doubly so if President Trump (or one other nation) decides to ‘ban’ TikTok (India already has!). Even a divestment of TikTok’s operations within the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia shall be an enormous distraction, and Microsoft will not be essentially the corporate you affiliate with youthful audiences (Yammer anybody? Let’s have a YamJam).

Nonetheless, Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn reveals that it is feasible for them to be principally hands-off with an acquisition.

So there’s a battle happening within the quick time period, which can properly trigger TikTok sufficient distraction to lose the lead. Equally, Instagram might (as occurred with tales and Snapchat) efficiently cease folks deciding to go and play with TikTok, which can hamper progress efforts. In fact, Snapchat isn’t useless – they’ve 238 million daily active users and grew properly in quarter 2 of 2020 (principally outdoors the US) – however they didn’t find yourself the ‘Facebook killer’ some pundits urged (hoped?) they’d be.

However I preserve coming again to this query of tradition, and I feel that’s the place issues would possibly get unstuck for Reels.

The problem Instagram has is shifting the tradition from public (feed) and informal/ephemeral (tales) into this sense of virtually what I’d name ‘structured enjoyable’ (e.g. the viral dances to a sure monitor).

It’s no small factor to change the tradition of a social community a part of the ‘massive blue community’ with 3.14 billion folks throughout all of Facebook’s apps (they don’t break down the month-to-month energetic customers for Instagram but).

The profit they’ve is that a number of the playbook of what is going to seemingly achieve success is already written – I can see content material that performs properly on TikTok additionally performing properly on Instagram (this type of emotion-driven content material, significantly for ‘humorous’). A lot of the content material at the moment doing properly on Reels appears to be TikToks which were cross-posted to Reels.

We will even see what number of influencers transfer from one platform to one other.

The potential ban of TikTok has as soon as once more reminded that neighborhood of the dangers of being beholden to a single social community for distribution – influencers at the moment are a lot extra savvy about making an attempt to drive followers to observe them all over the place (e.g. from TikTok to their Instagram or YouTube).

How brands ought to take into consideration rising platforms like TikTok and Reels

Okay in order that’s all nice for the buyer side of this warfare. What does it means for brands?

I feel that you simply want to meet three issues to actually have a look at having a presence on TikTok or Reels:

  • the flexibility to generate customised video content material of an applicable size and elegance,
  • an understanding of the shifting and altering tradition of the channel, and
  • the aptitude to soar on rising tendencies with out prolonged manufacturing or approval cycles.

What received’t work (however shall be tried!) shall be simply lazily slamming video content material from one place to the subsequent. Jonathan lately wrote about this ‘create once, post everywhere’ (COPE) strategy and the pitfalls.

That cultural understanding is actually vital to success, and there may be nothing worse than the cringe of seeing content material clearly designed to be a Facebook advert simply slammed into TikTok as if it’s the identical factor.

Equally, brands with lengthy approval cycles and complicated branding environments are unlikely to carry out properly, as by the point a chunk of content material is specced/shot/produced, the pattern is over.

Categorising your social media channels

As a marketing consultant, one of many major actions that I labored by means of with some shoppers who had ‘channel sprawl’ (tons of accounts throughout completely different social networks, a lot of which have been dormant/principally unused) was figuring out the place every channel sits.

You’ll be able to consider your social networks as going into considered one of 4 classes:

  1. Core channels, the place you’ve got an energetic presence, posting and fascinating frequently. These channels are the place you actively ‘push’ prospects towards.
  2. Satellite tv for pc channels, the place you’ve got a presence that you simply control, and possibly put up from time to time, however it’s not likely vital.
  3. Experimental channels, the place you’re seeing if one thing works for the model, however it’s typically one particular person on the group ‘enjoying round’ to see what sticks reasonably than any form of focus.
  4. Ignored channels, the place you’ve got chosen not to have interaction on the platform in any respect (you might need registered an account to cease somebody name-squatting, however you’re not likely “there”).

It goes with out saying that the majority effort and a focus needs to be spent on core channels.

What I feel lots of people get incorrect is considering that each channel is a core channel. It’s completely okay to name one thing a satellite tv for pc channel and not likely pay (as) a lot consideration to it. You want to – there are solely so many hours in a day.

Moreover, your model will work properly in some locations and poorly in others. There isn’t any use beating a useless horse – in case your viewers doesn’t need to observe you in a selected place (for no matter motive!), you aren’t going to out of the blue make them accomplish that.

Lastly, some channels ought to simply be ignored. You don’t want a Google+ or MySpace profile (even when they weren’t shut down!).

TikTok or Reels could be seen as an experimental channel within the quick time period, otherwise you would possibly put it in your ‘ignored’ bucket as extra of a wait-and-see method.

One problem with experimental channels is that they’ll really feel within the shorter time period like a waste of time, as a result of you’ve got to spend loads of time understanding the tradition and figuring out what works or doesn’t earlier than actually seeing a lot success.

Nonetheless you want to be specific in regards to the function of every channel.

You’re all the time lots higher to do few issues (channels) properly than many issues poorly, and it is remarkably simple to unfold your self too skinny.


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