Instagram Launches Short Form Reels to Compete with TikTok

In early August, Instagram announced the launch of Instagram Reels, a new short-form video format. Reels allows users to record and edit 15-second multi-clip videos with audio, effects, and other creative tools. If you read our recent blog post on Tik Tok, this format should sound familiar. At first impression, Instagram Reels looks and feels very similar to its competitor app, Tik Tok. 

The roll-out of Instagram Reels also comes at an interesting time, with the uncertain future of Tik Tok in the United States, after threats of a potential ban from the country. Although the probability of a ban is unclear, it has some users looking for an alternate app to switch to as a backup plan. Whether Tik Tok continues to operate in the United States or not, Instagram Reels will likely be an emerging trend in social media and ultimately within advertising. Although the initial experience with Instagram Reels is very similar to Tik Tok, there are some things that stand out from each app. Keep reading for early key takeaways from the launch of Instagram Reels.

What is Instagram Reels?


As stated above, Instagram Reels is a new way for content creators to record and share short-form video content. Reels will offer a plethora of tools for video editing, including audio, AR Effects, Camera Timers, an ‘align’ feature, and a speed setting. Users can layer a song from the Instagram music library or use the original audio from their video. If a video is posted to a public account with original audio, other users can select that audio from the reel, and use it for their own. Reels also offers the option to add augmented reality Effects from the effect gallery, containing effects from content creators as well as from Instagram itself. There are other editing options offered as well such as a camera timer for hands-free clips, an align feature to create smooth transitions, and a speed feature, which can speed up or slow down videos.

Instagram Reels can be posted either to a user’s feed or story, as well as sent via direct message. If a reel is posted to a user’s feed with a public account, it can also be shown in the Instagram Explore tab. Instagram offers a vertical feed customized to the user to easily watch Reels they would be interested in, similar to the ‘For You’ page on Tik Tok. The algorithm is new and will likely experience some changes over time, but it is probable that the algorithm uses the pages the user interacts with as well as their likes and followers to tailor content. Viewers can click on certain hashtags, songs, or effects to view Reels with similar hashtags, songs, or effects.

Instagram Reels vs Tik Tok

For many reasons, the launch of Instagram Reels has brought on many comparisons to Tik Tok, another popular short-form video app, which has been gaining popularity very quickly. There is some crossover between creators on Instagram and Tik Tok, though their primary bases differ. One of the main attributes that stands out from Reels is that Instagram was able to incorporate another dimension to their existing Instagram app to create and share short-form video content that lives in a well-known app that so many users already use and love for other reasons, whereas short-form video sharing is the entirety of the Tik Tok app. This allows current Instagram users to try creating this kind of content without having to download another app, create extra accounts, and rebuild a follower base while still encouraging those that do not currently have Instagram but use apps like Tik Tok to make the switch over to Instagram Reels instead. 

Although some creators are hesitant to switch their platform, many are intrigued by the new option from Instagram. The rollout of Instagram Reels comes at an interesting time, as Tik Tok could possibly be facing a ban in the United States. Although the path to a United States ban on Tik Tok is unclear, many users are looking for alternatives. Whether Tik Tok ultimately does get banned or not, Instagram Reels introduces some interesting competition which could possibly take some creators from Tik Tok.

Instagram Reels for Business

As of right now, Instagram is not offering any paid advertising options. It is believed that they want to build a community within Instagram Reels and allow new users to create content with Reels before they try to monetize it. Although there are no official advertising options through the format, businesses can still use the format to boost reach and engagement rates. If your brand is already utilizing Instagram, it will likely be worth trying out Instagram Reels. Using Reels can be a lighthearted and engaging experience between a consumer and a brand, and creating content that showcases a genuine, more human side of the brand can be really effective. Take a look at what kind of organic posts your audience resonates with and responds well to, and tailor that content to fit an Instagram Reels format. Another strategy to take Instagram Reels on with is posting educational content. Think of blog topics your brand might post, condensed into engaging 15 second video clips. Posting educational content around the industry that you are in can show users your expertise of the industry and attract positive attention to your brand. Some companies have also utilized Instagram Reels to showcase their products and services that they offer. As more time goes by and Instagram possibly begins to monetize Reels, we will likely see a rise in influencer/brand partnerships, such as those we have seen on Tik Tok. Whatever strategy you choose to use, Instagram Reels could be the next big way to showcase your brand in a fun, engaging, and effective way.

Written by Dylan Labadie

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