Here’s a throwback for you. It’s 2016, and Instagram just announced its Stories feature to the world.
If you were already using Snapchat, you might have thought Instagram Stories was merely an imitation feature. One that would fade from memory after its 15 minutes of fame. Fast-forward to today, and many marketers and consumers are saying, “Snapchat, who?”
Over the years, Instagram has released new features to Stories to make it easier for marketers to customize an audience’s experience with their brand. Some features include the ability to add music and specialty stickers (thanks to augmented reality technology). Notably, the added capabilities also made it easier for users to stick with just one platform to reach their target audiences, rather than bouncing between Snapchat and Stories.
With Instagram’s introduction of Reels in 2020, a direct competitor to video-sharing social networking TikTok, it’s obvious that Instagram’s plan to become a one-stop-shop for a myriad of social media experiences is working. Now, not only can users share photos, videos, and Stories on Instagram, but B2B marketers who aren’t yet ready to make the leap to TikTok can also stay in their comfort zone by trying Reels first. It’s an easy way for brands to dip their toes into sharing content in a new way – with minimal risk.
Here are three ways Instagram Reels is already challenging TikTok and why your brand should try it.
1. Instagram Reels hasn’t experienced a rocky beginning*
Since its launch in the U.S., TikTok has dealt with a fair amount of uncertainty, with politicians and decision-makers vying against its growth, as well as users accusing the platform of not speaking out on social issues when asked. For example:
- In September 2020, it was announced that after much back-and-forth about ownership in the U.S., ByteDance and Oracle had reached a deal in which the latter would serve as TikTok’s partner to provide cloud hosting. However, as of February 2021, it appears that deal might now be off.
- Kevin Mayer, the former CEO of TikTok, stepped down from his position in August 2020 amid the mounting drama and growing political tensions between the U.S. and China.
- Users have begun calling out TikTok for not stepping in when its many influencers and its algorithm promote what many believe is racist and homophobic content.
This to say, the TikTok of today will likely look and function differently than the TikTok of tomorrow.
This ongoing volatility around the future of TikTok can make brands understandably hesitant to try the app. Marketers want to invest in social platforms that are a safe bet. What does this mean in the larger context of the social, tech, and B2B industry? Well, we don’t know yet, and that’s the problem.
Ultimately, regardless of how TikTok will shift in the future, marketers can get a feel for how the platform originally operated – sans drama – by trying out Instagram Reels. After all, Instagram and its 1 billion-plus user base aren’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future.
2. Reels allows marketers to engage their existing audience with a new type of content
Starting a marketing strategy on a new platform is not something your brand should take lightly. It’s a business decision that necessitates a deep analysis of your target audiences and a solid channel strategy that allows your content to shine – and convert viewers.
Reels provides a unique opportunity for you to experiment with creating content using a new style of short-form video without having to find and establish a new audience on a new app. And, you can experiment while also growing your existing follower base on Instagram and maintaining relevancy with a younger demographic.
Before diving into Reels with full force, brainstorm video ideas with your team. Discuss how you’ll build on your Instagram strategy to incorporate this specific capability. Humans have short attention spans, and platforms like Reels allow marketers to tap into that. Disseminating your message to a wide audience (and engaging with them in a human, near real-time way) has never been more accessible than it is today.
3. Reels offers many of the same (and better) features as TikTok
Reels currently limits users to 30-second videos, whereas TikTok allows users to share videos up to a minute long. And for B2B brands just beginning their journey creating short-form videos, starting with more abbreviated content will be an easier bridge to cross. Trust me, filling a minute with quality video content is more difficult than you might think.
Despite the video length differences, Reels mirrors TikTok by offering filters, licensed music, and access to audiences who might not normally see your content. This ensures B2B marketers and social media managers don’t have to give up the features they love if they decide to forego TikTok and use Reels.
While the apps share many of the same features, it doesn’t mean users should post the same content. As TikTok creators are making the transition to Reels, many of the videos they’re posting are the same ones from their TikTok accounts. This is generally a no-no in social media marketing, as posting repetitive content across apps frustrates (and bores) followers.
If you’re taking the plunge into Reels on behalf of your brand, be sure to create fresh content for the app. Video content deserves its own unique strategy and editorial calendar – just like your other thought leadership content.
The Clock is TikToking – Get on the Reels train early
In so many words, TikTok walked so Instagram Reels could run. And now Reels has an advantage, not only because of the platform’s existing users and market stability, but also because it had the opportunity to learn from how TikTok rolled out its platform.
You don’t need to be a consumer brand to build a successful and engaging presence on Instagram and its Reels feature. With the uncertain future of TikTok, even B2B marketers have an opportunity to jump on the Instagram Reels train early and establish themselves as a short-form video expert – and brand powerhouse.
*INK will continue to update this blog post as new information is released.