In one of the least surprising product launches of 2020, Instagram has released it’s newest feature – Reels. Taking on the rising popularity of the Chinese owned TikTok, Instagram Reels allows users to create a short “15-second multi-clip with audio, effects and new creative tools”. The videos are able to be shared on a user’s feed or on their story for a 24-hour period.

Although Instagram has been testing this since November 2019, the timing and political contexts are fascinating. Firstly, there was the announcement that Microsoft was negotiating to purchase TikTok prior to the Reels announcement. Then the U.S. Government, via a Trumpian executive order, has demanded TikTok’s owners divest ownership within 45 days or face ban. India has already banned TikTok due to security concerns.

TikTok is worth something in the order of $30 billion and it appears both US companies (Microsoft via takeover and Instragram via competitive pressures) and the U.S. Government see it as ripe for the picking. Given the wide publicity over the serious security concerns in TikTok, combined with the general distrust of China and the Chinese Government promoted by Western Governments, the timing couldn’t be better for Instagram Reels.

It isn’t the first time Instagram has taken on a competitor by offering a similar feature. Instagram stories was launched to combat Snapchat and has taken over in the “disappearing” short photo/video content market.

From a business point of view it is something to be aware of in our content strategy, and now is the best time. Instagram is prioritising Reels in their revamped Explore and will be very keen to ensure maximum visibility of Reels content.

For business, it is likely to be a great tool. Businesses to have been seen to engage their audience through TikTok (although, this is generally the case for businesses who have Generation Z target market). Utilising Instagram Reels is an accessible feature for a wider audience range. Instagram has a wider demographic and a higher population of existing users.

Businesses can get creative and create short-snappy videos that can be placed on their Instagram feeds displaying their latest products, making announcements, promoting services, while proving an easy method of engagement with their brand. This video format and “style” of content (that TikTok is based on) has captured Gen Z’s world-wide, with colourful imagery, music, dances and being of a straight-to-the-point nature. Will it be successful for Instagram and it’s users? Time will tell.

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