Instagram Reels: The Good, The Bad, And The Verdict

As a leading social media platform, Instagram is on top of its game when it comes to dropping new updates and features that take the virtual world by storm. With constant innovation at its forefront, the creative brains behind the app have amazed the users since its inception, contributing to its massive popularity today. And now all eyes are on its latest addition: the Instagram Reels, a feature that lets users create short and fun video clips to share with friends, followers, or even the world.

If this description sounds strangely familiar, then you are not alone in this thought. The  format is indeed the backbone of TikTok, another great application that is quickly carving its own niche in the realm of social media. While Instagram now has a diverse user base in terms of age, TikTok is known to be particularly favoured by the younger section of the audience. So will Instagram Reels give TikTok a run for its money, or does it fail to live up to our expectations? Let’s find out!

What’s in it?

On 5th August 2020, Instagram announced Instagram Reels, a feature that enables the user to create short 15-second videos using a multitude of editing tools akin to its competitor TikTok. For instance, the user can attach audio to their clip from the Instagram music library or use their own original music. Fun filters and AR effects could also be added to enhance the creative experience. A timer allows to record the clips hands-free, while a feature to manipulate speed allows creators to make fast or slow-motion videos.

In order to access Reels, tap on the Instagram camera and select the Reels option that sits at the bottom beside Live and Story, the other content sharing options on the app. The editing tools can be found on the left-hand side of the screen. Once recorded, move to the share screen to save a draft of your reel. You can also change the cover image, add a fun caption or tag your friends. Do not forget to add a trending and relevant hashtag either!

Proceed to share your video to a special Reels tab or your Feed. You can also send it as a DM to your friend or share it as a Story, in which case it will only be available for 24 hours. If your account is a private one, only your followers can see the reel. In case of public accounts, Reels can be shared to a dedicated space called Explore, where other Instagram users who do not follow you can also discover your creations.

The Good

Firstly, the fact that Instagram is known for replicating formats established by other platforms with astounding success is a massive indication that Instagram Reels might flourish as well. Take the example of Instagram Story for instance; they borrowed the concept from Snapchat but truly put their own twist to the feature, making it their own. This convinces us that although critics are hailing Reels as a TikTok rip-off right now, they might not do so for long.

Secondly, Reels could thrive amongst the portfolio of other content sharing options on Instagram, complementing Story and IGTV. Story has functioned greatly for users as an open digital diary, while IGTV is known for its slightly more formal series-based content. Reels fill the gap in-between, allowing for informal storytelling within a short span of time that lasts longer than 24 hours. Thanks to its accessibility to non-followers, it could be a great way for brands to advertise their product in conjunction to the other features.

Thirdly, the positioning of Reels on Instagram makes it a recipe for success. Facebook had previously tried to launch a similar content-sharing app that failed miserably, gaining less than 600000 downloads. However, this time the integration of this feature on an app with an already established user base will give it an upper hand. Amongst 1 billion active users on the app, many will be compelled to try out this feature.

The Bad

The main issue with Reels lies with its technical aspects; according to reviews from various users it simply does not rival the ease of creating and sharing content that its competitor TikTok is known for. For instance, TikTok allows users to choose some video clips and apply the ‘sound sync’ feature; the app should then automatically select highlights of those videos and adjust the music accordingly. In Reels, the user needs to find a good song on his own and manually trim the video to match the music.

This goes to show that it is indeed not as easy to create an engaging short clip on Reels as it is on TikTok. While on TikTok you can easily create a great video in less than 2 minutes, doing the same on Instagram can take up to 10 minutes. Moreover, there are major problems in terms of navigation on Instagram. Reels are thrown in together with posts on a crammed Explore page, making it difficult to even notice them in the first place. This also means that Reels lacks TikTok’s ability to make videos go quickly viral.

On top of these, Instagram Reels is missing many crucial features that make TikTok a success, such as the ability to create ‘Duet’ reaction videos, automatic music recommendation for your clips, and the ‘For You’ feed that is personalised to show clips that suit the user’s interests. In terms of algorithm and user-friendliness, Instagram Reels is still inferior to its rival.

The Verdict

From a business perspective, it makes complete sense for Instagram to embark on the bandwagon and create a feature similar to TikTok. In recent times, TikTok has been facing some crisis in the international market; it has already been banned in India and might face a similar fate in the US market. This provides opportunities for Instagram to benefit from this market gap. Moreover, the changing demography of TikTok users with more and more millennials signing up means Instagram’s user base has sufficient interest in the format. And hence it is right to offer them what they desire.

Except that the task must be executed with fashion and perfection. Instagram should not only match its competitor TikTok in terms of quality but must surpass it by offering unique features that make the user experience a delight. At the moment, the app is failing to do even the former. The final verdict: unless Instagram Reels improves its algorithm, updates its features and offers at least the same level of comfort as TikTok, users of the Chinese app will be reluctant to shift to Instagram’s new addition. 

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