Instagram

Instagram Rushed Reels, A Less Than Stellar TikTok Copycat

Erika Lovegreen

August 17, 2020

Instagram Reels Logo

When Instagram rolled out its Reels feature last week, many content creators were excited. On the heels of the Trump Administration imposing an executive order to ban TikTok in September, timing seemingly could not be more brilliant to launch a copycat. Sadly, in our opinion, Reels has turned out to be a complicated add on and nothing more for short video creation.

Where Reels Falls Short

When first exploring Reels, an immediate observation is how difficult it can be to find within the Instagram app. For those who have yet to use it, Reels can be located on the second tab of the camera screen (swipe right with the camera is turned when creating a Story), under the Explore tab, or on your profile ONLY if you’ve created one.

For most content creators, if a feature is hard to find, it will never be top of mind. Unlike Stories, which was clearly built into the core user experience of Instagram as noted by its position at the top of the app, Reels looks and feels like an afterthought.

If you have hung in there far enough to find it, to create a Reel is equally arduous. In TikTok, you can quickly select several videos, plug them into the app, and hit one button that automatically re-orders clips, trims and can matches movement to the beat of the music that’s been cleverly recommended for you (essentially a project that takes under a minute). Conversely, in Reels, you must search for music, manually trim the clips, and synchronize it. (I.e., a full production that can take up to 10-15 minutes in our experience).

Another missed capability of Reels is downloading videos. If you download a video, to try to use on another platform, the music is removed due to Third-party restrictions. When you download a video from TikTok, the music agreements have already been worked out so that you can use the videos on other channels. For a creator, this can save a lot of time and energy when looking to re-purpose content.

Reels Videos Are Not Promoted Well, A Hit to Brands, Influencers, and Users

If you accomplished making an actual Reels video that you feel is good enough to share with your audience, understand two things:

  • 1) If posted to Stories no one will know it was made in Reels (there is no branding)
  • 2) The videos are being put into the diluted Explore Tab with little hope of strong distribution.

Beyond creative capabilities, TikTok’s ease of use and exploration has helped its tremendous market disruption. You open the app and can begin exploring right away with an algorithm curated to you and your interests. Having to navigate to another tab and find a host of content that is not catered to you, exposes Instagram’s weakness (especially in video).

If TikTok Goes Away with a Ban, Where Else Can You Go for Short Video Creation

Several apps on the market that are gaining momentum for creators are Triller and Byte. Both have similar features to TikTok and, according to market research, have been picking up downloads in the last two months.

Triller’s strength is its music partnerships and expansive library. There are 100+ filters and the user experience remains seamless.

Byte on the other hand, has a similar format as TikTok but with really cool customizable profile features (you can even move old TikTok videos to a Byte profile). Looking at Apple and Google Play reviews for both, the biggest complaints seem to be some occasional tech glitches.

Takeaway

Ban or not, what is clear is the race to compete with TikTok. There is a highly engaged audience for short video creation and consumption who are closely following where to go next. Instagram has huge potential if it can put resource behind getting Reels right due to its massive established fanbase. The channel is (was) clearly hoping for the success of Stories with the launch of Reels, but unfortunately, we believe it has a way to go.

If you are creating content with short video, the best advice we can give is keep consider playing with Triller and/or Byte, use Stories on Instagram as its functionality can accomplish most, and perhaps wait to see if Reels improves before investing too much time.