Let’s get reel: Should TikTok be worried about Instagram reels?

3 minutes read

Nicole Wheater

Account Director

Yes, I know, Instagram Reels launched in August and isn’t exactly hot off the press but, with the new-car-smell starting to wear off, it seems like a good time to step back and reassess the could-be TikTok threat.

An article out from Fortune this month claims that Instagram’s Reels is struggling to gain traction. TikTok users complain that Reels’ editing tools and special effects are limited, and young Generation Z users wouldn’t be caught dead on Insta, which is where ‘old people’ (apparently me) hang out.

Unsurprisingly, Instagram is keeping tight-lipped about just how many people are using Reels so far, however it’s clear there is a lot of investment from the global giant to get a piece of the ‘entertainment’ social pie.

In fact, just last week, Instagram announced a product update which will see the length of videos doubled, allowing users to make 30 second videos instead of 15 seconds. Whereas, OG and Reels’ main competitor TikTok allows creators up to a minute for their clips.

So, is it likely that Instagram Reels will take down TikTok?
Short answer, maybe, but my bet is no. At least, not completely.

To unpack this a bit more, let’s take a short walk down memory lane. This is not completely uncharted territory; the rise and fall of social media platforms has been happening since the beginning of time (okay, 1997 – but that’s basically the Dark Ages).

Instagram Stories vs Snapchat

We all remember Instagram Stories busting on to the scene in 2016 to rival Snapchat, right? While it took Instagram Stories just five months to surpass Snapchat’s user count, it wasn’t all bad news for Snapchat.

The arguably more authentic and unpolished social media platform, Snapchat, continues to hold firm today with 1 in 4 Aussies continuing to use and love the app, compared to 1 in 3 on Instagram.

How was Snapchat able to retain its popularity?

In a recent interview with The Australian, Snapchat’s co-founder, Bobby Murphy, said a few years on from Instagram Stories’ arrival he still isn’t worried about competition from the likes of TikTok and Instagram. According to Bobby, Snapchat’s key differentiators continue to win out on the competition.

Rather than being threatened by Instagram’s Stories arrival, Snapchat doubled-down and invested heavily in what its core audience loved most about the platform. The app hangs its hat on friend-to-friend communications through the use of the camera, and users keep coming back for its unrivaled augmented reality. Conversely, Instagram and TikTok are geared towards users viewing content and scrolling feeds.

So perhaps those who called time on the death of Snapchat back in 2016 were a little shortsighted.

More than a quarter of Aussies (6.2 million) continue to use Snapchat each month so clearly Snapchat’s core differentiators have earned its audience’s loyalty and retained its popularity with Generation Z and millennial users.

Will Instagram Reels steal market share from TikTok?

In closing, and back to the present day; is it likely that Instagram’s Reels will steal a bit of the social pie from TikTok? Look, probably – but I would caution to hold judgement for now.

Taking our learnings from the Snapchat vs Instagram Stories landgrab, the important thing to remember is the key differentiators between the platforms. What demographic pull does the platform have? What do their audiences use it for? (Like, really use it for?) And how likely is it for a competitor platform to truly rival and offer a paralleled experience?

From where I’m standing, the user experience, functionality, and content offering on TikTok still comes out on top of Instagram Reels… for now.

If you’re a brand weighing up the right social platforms for a customer landgrab of your own, drop us a line at hello@aruga.com.au or contact us here.