What is the difference between TikToks UX and YouTube

First observations on reels: will Instagram be able to use them to erode Tiktok?

If you are even a little interested in social media and digital marketing, it will not have passed by: There is a new feature on Instagram's platform in Germany and France. Reels are Facebook's answer to the rapidly increasing popularity of the social video app Tiktok in recent months. Will Facebook manage to contain Tiktok's growth? In addition a first personal assessment.

First of all, however, for all of you who have avoided the previous coverage of the format, the most important information is briefly summarized: Reels are short videos that are up to 15 seconds long and can be accompanied by music. They can be produced in story camera mode. There is now the Reels tab at the foot of the screen. The format was previously only available in Brazil (see the demo video for the launch in November 2019 below); yesterday the test was extended to Germany and France (as far as I know, it is the first time that Instagram is testing such a central feature early on in the German market).

Reels are integrated in four places in Instagram

Users can find published reels in several places on Instagram: On the one hand, there is a separate tab on the user profiles (similar to IGTV), under which all of a user's reels can be called up collectively. It is also possible to post a preview of the respective short video in an Instagram story or in the normal feed. In addition, reels from users who are not followed are now also integrated at the head of the Explore page, on which Instagram's search function is embedded.

This is what Reels looks like in the story camera (left). Users can select pieces of music, apply effects to the recording or change the playback speed. On the right a published reel by influencer Carmen Kroll alias "carmushka".

After spending an evening taking a closer look at Reels and their integration into Instagram, I want to share my first observations and impressions with you. First of all: It's amazing how unrestrained Instagram is copying the new Tiktok format. Instagram management doesn't seem to want to bother at all, even to fake innovations or unique selling points.

A blatant copy

Reels have the same basic feature set as Tiktok videos - even if the editing options on Instagram may not be as comprehensive as on the competitor from China. This impression continues with the influencers and the content that they have prepared for the Reels launch over the past few weeks. When I wiped through the Reels feed for the first time, I was presented with a large part of the same songs, the same memes and the same challenges as on Tiktok.

Reels are integrated in various places within Instagram: with a separate tab (left), on the explore page (middle) and as a preview in stories

Can Instagram be successful with such an undisguised copy - possibly even buy the guts from Tiktok? To find an answer to this question, it is worth looking into the past. Because it's not the first time that Instagram has copied a central feature of a competitor - and is very successful with it. In August 2016, Instagram launched Stories, a kind of one-to-one copy of Snapchat Stories. The number of users on Instagram Stories has overtaken that of Snapchat at a tremendous rate; The advertising revenues generated with stories have also increased at a pace that has never been the case on any other digital platform.

Can Instagram repeat the snap stunt?

At this point a very important "but": Before Reels started in Germany, I would have thought that Tiktok was already too big for Instagram to manage a similar stunt with Tiktok. Now that I've looked at the integration of Reels in Instagram and thought a little, I don't necessarily want to revise that assessment. But at least I'm not so sure of her anymore.

One of the main reasons why Instagram was more successful with the Stories format than Snap itself was that Instagram was more generous with its reach compared to Snap. At Snap, the “Discovery” possibilities of users and their stories, with which one was not personally connected, were (at least as far as I remember) very limited in the beginning, presumably because founder Evan Spiegel had the “value proposition” of the platform - a private one , more secure messenger - didn't want to water down. Viral effects on Snap were therefore most likely still possible via word-of-mouth - for example, as in the legendary jet ski story by DJ Khaled.

Why Instagram Stories were so successful

Instagram, on the other hand, is a platform that was designed much more for reach from an early stage. In addition, the stories on Instagram were and are for users the Possibility to be played directly above the feed. Stories were and still are an attractive way for influencers to regain organic reach on Instagram, which the algorithm had recently been increasingly restricting in the regular feed.

The result: it is easier to achieve high reach with Instagram Stories than with the Snap version. That is why Instagram Stories have been received with open arms by influencers, whose business is reach and who at the same time bind users to the platform with their content, and Instagram Stories overtook those from Snap.

Does Tiktok now have the same fate?

So what does this comparison say about the chances of Reels? On Tiktok, users can already achieve enormous ranges: access numbers in the seven- and eight-digit range are absolutely not uncommon.

But there is one thing where Tiktok and Instagram are probably the most different from each other. Instagram plays (apart from the Explore page) users' content from other users who they follow. With Tiktok, on the other hand, videos are played to users based on user behavior - you don't have to follow anyone.

Are followers on Tiktok worth less than on Instagram?

There is also a following function on Tiktok. However, the majority of content consumption takes place via the for you page, on which users land directly when they open the app, and in which the most viral videos (a little personalized based on user behavior) are played. If you want to see the videos of the Tiktok accounts that you are following, you have to tap the "I am following" tab. With influencers who are successful on Tiktok, up to 80 percent of the views come from the “For You” page.

For this reason, many influencers apparently attach less importance to followers on Tiktok than to those on Instagram. On Tiktok, users have to earn the range that is in the really relevant area again and again. To put it a little exaggerated: On Tiktok you start over with every video.

Reliable reach can be generated on Instagram

That should also be the reason why some Tiktokkers keep trying to convert their Tiktok viewers into Instagram followers. To do this, they post prank videos or other videos that arouse the curiosity of the viewer, accompanied by the "Call to Action": "You can find the resolution / the result on my Instagram account."

My impression is: If you have built a good, committed community on Instagram, provide it with content that interests you and with which you interact, with formats and features that Instagram is currently trying to push (in the end, stories, AR filters and IGTV), despite the drop in average organic reach, it is still possible to reliably achieve high reach on Instagram.

And that could be exactly the factor that makes reels more attractive than "Tiktoks" for the high-reach creators.

"The holy grail" as bait

In addition, Instagram also wants to get influencers to produce reels with an extremely attractive placement. Because since yesterday, the new format is very prominently integrated at the top and in large format on Instagram's Explore page. Getting to the Explore page has recently been something like the “holy grail” for influencers and the operators of viral accounts on Instagram - because it was and still is one of the best ways to gain new followers and thus marketable ones Extend range. First experiences of users who were featured prominently with their reel on the Explore page show that in one case the view numbers can explode in a similar way to a placement on the “For You” page on YouTube.

Carmen Kroll, alias "carmushka", came to a similar conclusion, as can be read in an article she has just published on LinkedIn: "Same in content, not yet comparable to Tiktok in terms of virality, but much more calculable", Kroll writes about Reels there. The influencer believes: The battle between Tiktok and Instagram will not be decided by the creators this time, but primarily by the brands. “Where the more lucrative campaigns are implemented in the end, the top creators will stay for the long term. And here I see Instagram clearly ahead. ”Although Kroll has grown“ big ”on Instagram and currently has 963,000 subscribers there. There are 46,600 on Tiktok.

Does Tiktok need Instagram influencers?

In contrast, what speaks in favor of Tiktok in the fight for the most successful short video platform? On the one hand, presumably that the user interface and “user experience” of the platform are completely tailored to short videos. The users open the app and don't have to do anything else; you will immediately find the content that is relevant to you. When I made it a habit for a while to check out Tiktok every evening out of professional interests, it not seldom happened to me that an hour or more suddenly passed by.

In addition, new influencers have emerged on Tiktok: Mr. Lawyer or Younes Zarou with his tutorial videos, for example. Most of the successful Tiktok influencers also have an Instagram account. In recent weeks, however, it has been more the case that many of the “big” Instagram influencers have set up a Tiktok account: Caro Daur, Pamela Reif, Stefanie Giesinger - even Lisa and Lena have returned to Tiktok after about a year of absence.

Is Tiktok now taking countermeasures?

The coming weeks will show whether Instagram can at least slow down this trend a little with reels. Tiktok may find a way to make followers more valuable to users again, but that doesn't worsen the user experience.