Despite its newness in the social media landscape, we’ve seen creators eager to experiment with the format and have gained a few insights for how brands can leverage Reels within their influencer and social strategies.
WHAT TO KNOW NOW
Time for testing.
The launch of Instagram Reels in the U.S. is very fresh, so it’s a bit early to determine the full impact on influencer marketing. We've been monitoring the growth of Reels and have already seen influencers testing out the format to diversify their platforms, especially with the looming potential of a TikTok ban. Reels may provide an excellent alternative for brands concerned about committing to TikTok budgets until the regulatory uncertainty gets resolved.
Creativity is king.
There’s a lot of overlap in terms of content themes between Reels and TikTok as both formats aim to entertain audiences. As we’re in the early stages of experimenting with Reels, look into content trends popular on TikTok as an example of what Reels aims to become.
One of the primary differentiators of Reels is its integration within the Instagram platform itself, which has over 1B+ users. Creators can quickly get started on Reels with their existing audiences intact, and don't have to worry about growing an audience from the ground up on a brand new platform. For brands, this means they can tap into healthy existing audience communities and the reliable data associated with them.
Reels vs. TikTok.
While Reels looks and feels a lot like TikTok, there are a couple of key differentiators between the platforms. TikTok allows for videos up to 60 seconds, while Reels has a 15-second limit. Additionally, some popular TikTok features such as Duet and the ability to monetize from Live are not currently available on Reels.
THE DETAILS ON REELS
Launched last week, Reels is a new content format on Instagram that allows users to create and share short-form, soundtrack-based videos (full info here). The format was first tested in November 2019 in select international countries and is now officially rolled out in more than 50 countries, including the U.S.
Similar to TikTok, Reels focuses on short-form video content with robust in-app editing features allowing users to film and customize video audio, effects, speed, and time all within the app. After creating Reels content, users will have the option to post their videos to their Stories, Explore Feed, and/or the new dedicated Reels tab on their profiles. “Featured” Reels found in the Explore tab are a selection of public Reels chosen by Instagram to help users discover original content.
The launch of Reels comes as TikTok faces a potential ban in the U.S. and additional scrutiny around data privacy concerns (NYT). With the TikTok platform at risk, Instagram has an open opportunity to attract the Gen Z user base that has found a home on TikTok.
Different Features, Different Roles
Instagram users either share polished, curated photos to their Feed, quick, personal, and casual snippets in Stories that disappear after 24 hours, or almost YouTube-like creator content to IGTV (TechCrunch). Meanwhile, there was a gap for short-form entertainment videos that can live in-feed—enter Reels. Reels was designed with entertainment in mind, a content category where Instagram wants more notice.
TikTok’s demographic is changing significantly. The platform’s usage by Gen Z is declining while the Millennial user base is on the rise. If the Millennial demographic, who already make up a significant portion of Instagram’s user base, keep their short-form content on Instagram, then the platform effectively protects and even grows their user base (AlleyWatch).
HOW INFLUENCERS ARE LEVERAGING REELS
Creator Early Access
According to WSJ, Facebook provided a monetary incentive to popular TikTok creators to post content on Reels ahead of its full launch to gain traction with a splashy first week. These prominent influencers were paid to create exclusive content for the platform or at least post on Reels first.
Plans to Use Reels
While influencers are open to experimenting with Reels, commitment towards the format is mixed. Some plan on posting on TikTok and Reels to diversify their social presence since the content can work on both platforms. Others who never quite found their footing on TikTok, whether it be a lack of virality, are happy to see a new alternative crop up on Instagram (Time).
Collectively surveyed our community of influencers on the launch of Reels and received the below results:
- 49% of creators haven’t started using Reels, but have plans to in the future.
- 28% of creators have already started using Reels.
- The top themes influencers plan to create content around are DIY/How-to’s, Fashion, and Challenges.
As creators first tested out Reels, videos tended to succeed when they focused on "things that work on Instagram anyway" like dancing, cute/awe-worthy content, and visual videos for an international audience. Fashion was another big area that succeeded on Reels (Technology Review). We will continue to monitor these trends and watch for content innovation as more creators adopt the format.
- Instagram Launches Reels, Its Attempt to Keep You Off TikTok (The Verge)
- With TikTok Mired in Uncertainty, Facebook Pounces With Instagram Reels (NY Times)
- Instagram Reels launches globally in over 50 countries, including the US (TechCrunch)
- TikTok Users Drawn to Rival Platforms as Trump Threatens U.S. Ban (WSJ)
- The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Reels (Later)
- What Is Instagram Reels? Launch Date, Differences from TikTok, Implications for Advertisers (MediaKix)
- Instagram Reels Sees Early Brand Interest With Dunkin, Red Bull, Maybelline On Board (Adage)