But Instagram and the parent company Facebook (FB) find it harder to do the same with TikTok.
Instagram launched Reels, a short-form video product, in the United States on August 5, days after former President Donald Trump announced plans to ban Chinese-owned TikTok in the country, sending panicked users who climbed to find alternatives.
Six months later, it does not take off as the company had hoped. TikTok has survived the Trump administration and remains popular, with about 100 million users in the United States, a significant impact on American pop culture and a loyal mix of influencers who do not seem to be going anywhere. Unlike stories at this point in history, Instagram has not released any calculations about the wheels so far.
“TikTok is light years ahead of Reels,”
; said Evan Asano, CEO of influencer marketing agency Mediakix, referring to TikTok’s powerful content recommendation system and the fact that the app is far more focused than Instagram, which has a growing list of competing video offerings. .
Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, recently admitted that Reels had work to do, and indicated a need for Instagram to simplify or consolidate the various video product offerings.
“I’m not happy about that yet,” Mosseri said in a Verge interview last month about Reels. “We are growing both in terms of how much people share and how much people spend, but we have a long way to go.”
Facebook has been criticized by regulators and critics for its aggressive approach to acquiring or cloning rivals to maintain its dominance in the social media market. But Instagram’s early battle to take on TikTok is a reminder that a number of Facebook’s copycat products have flopped or fallen short. Building a clone is easy; Creating a vibrant society is not, even for the social media giant.
Instagram has made some adjustments to the product since its launch, including giving Reels its own dedicated tab on the Instagram home screen and adding more editing tools. But Instagram Reels remains largely a home for TikTok’s biggest hits, with many people publishing popular TikTok videos with the platform’s trademark Watermark. It is common to browse Reels videos and watch one TikTok video after another.
“Everyone always wants to tell me ‘I’ll film TikToks,’ but they never say ‘We’ll film wheels,'” said Parker Pannell, a 17-year-old with 2.4 million TikTok fans who thinks of putting on wheels as an afterthought. “TikTok creates the trends, they build new creators, people build their most loyal sequels [there]. People are so overwhelmed in this environment of TikTok, they are not ready to switch to another platform like Reels. ”
This is not the first time Instagram has struggled to get a grip with video. In 2018, it rolled out a new long-format video feature and standalone app called IGTV, in an attempt to better compete with YouTube, but it had trouble taking off. Instagram eventually removed the IGTV button from the top of people’s feeds because hardly anyone clicked on it. IGTV videos are now part of the main feed.
With Reels, Instagram has tried to replicate much of what makes TikTok popular, including editing effects and the ability to add music or a background sound. But what’s harder to emulate is TikTok’s powerful “For You Page” and its algorithm, which serves videos tailored to each user’s interests.
“I will never count Instagram out in any way. They are usually laser-focused on how we can stay on top of the competition,” said Karyn Spencer, CMO at influencer agency Whalar and former creator of the creators of the closed short video platform Vine. . “At the same time, I do not think any of us are experiencing the same type of algorithm on Instagram that we are currently experiencing on TikTok.”
The slower start with Reels may also mark a broader problem with Instagram. “Making it easy first” has long been a mantra for the company, but some social media experts say the app has become increasingly complicated and confusing as more and more features are rolled out. And it’s hard not to feel Facebook’s influence, especially since Instagram’s founders left in 2018.
TikTok’s simplicity gives it a “big advantage”, said Asano from Mediakix and added that Instagram now has shopping opportunities, stories, wheels and other video formats, which he feels end up competing with each other.
“Pretty soon you end up with a monster that no one can understand,” he said.