Instagram Goes After TikTok with “Reels” and Full Screen Stories

Photo by NOAH SEELAM/AFP via Getty Images

The takeaways

  • Instagram takes on TikTok with a clone app, “Reels,” and a full-screen version of its Snapchat-inspired Stories feature. 
  • As Reels expands to new markets, news emerged today of its testing in India, which banned TikTok this week. 
  • The tools highlight Facebook and Instagram’s belief in the Stories format’s continuing growth and establishing themselves internationally.

What happened?

Today, as Facebook announced the discontinuation of its TikTok clone, Lasso, news broke that fellow clone Instagram Reels is being tested in India, which recently banned a large number of Chinese apps – including TikTok.

Now downloadable in Brazil, France and Germany, users of Reels can record 15-second video clips set to music. By posting them to their Instagram feeds – outside of the Stories setting – Reels have the potential to go viral. 

Instagram is also testing a new double-story Stories feed with select users that features a full-screen display similar to TikTok’s. By tapping a prompt, the feature creates a display grid of tappable Stories. The feature signifies Instagram’s willingness to take advantage of both that format’s popularity and the increasing use of Stories.

Opportunities for growth

Clearly, Instagram is closely monitoring consumer behaviour. As we noted before, Reels is a direct result of TikTok’s trendsetting format, as are Google’s Stories tests on YouTube and its other services. Moreover, TikTok’s audience figures are robust: Adweek reported it as “the most downloaded ever in a quarter” in Q1 2020. Comscore data shows an increase in US-based TikTok users aged between 25-34 from 22.4% in January to 27.4% in April as the 18-24 bracket declined from 41.1% to 35.3%. 

In other words, the millennial appetite for tappable content and 15-second videos is growing. The tools offer new monetization avenues for publishers and advertisers alike, and their popularity isn’t slowing down – Instagram itself numbers its user base at over 1 billion and its Stories users at over 500 million. Facebook’s focus on less saturated international markets creates new footholds, allowing it to use its tried and true strategy of slowing its competitors’ future growth through versions of their own products.

With Facebook’s belief that Stories will overtake the news feed as the primary service for social media engagement, it is naturally in publishers’ best interests to cultivate these audiences. 

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