Our Reaction to Reels

Posted 07.08.20

Wednesday, August 5th saw the launch of Reels, the new Tik Tok clone from Instagram. The company made the announcement in a blog post as the feature set was rolled out across the globe yesterday. 

Anyone familiar with Tik Tok will see the similarities; record and share short video clips (15 seconds), with the ability to add audio (from Instagrams music library or your own original audio), AR effects (all which seem eerily similar to those already available on Snapchat), a timer and countdown feature to record hands-free, as well the ability to speed up and slow down your recording. 

What Instagram has done well, as they did with the launch of their Stories feature, is bake these new Reels features into the existing Instagram user experience. To record a share a Reel is pretty seamless, simply select “Reels” at the bottom of the Instagram camera, and you are given a set of editing tools to start creating your videos with.  

Not only that but any user anywhere in the world can now start creating reels and Instagram’s existing scale and the habitual nature of the app could see huge user adoption within a matter of hours and days. 


So, with it fresh in our hands, what does the team here at wilderness think of Instagram’s latest product development? 


Owais Tambe – Paid Media Lead

I’ll bet on Instagram / Reels here. TikTok’s demographic is significantly changing. The platform’s usage by 13 to 23-year-olds is declining while users aged 24 to 40 are on the rise.

If the 24 to 40 demographic, who already make up a significant portion of Instagram’s user base, take their short-form content to Instagram, Reels has a huge chance to make a serious impact on the short-form content arena.

The one straight takeaway after using Reels was how different it is to TikTok’s ‘For You’ algorithm feed. TikTok works because it’s the ability to surprise and delight you with the content from ANYONE, not just people you follow. Similarly, Instagram users would prefer being served Reels from prominent content creators and not just their IG friends.


Zahra Hasan – Strategist
Instagram Reels doesn’t offer anything that TikTok doesn’t. It’ll need to focus on better discoverability and a total rehaul of how people use the platform in order to see real uptake. TikTok is a space for creators and content consumers who are looking for content that is authentic and brand-free. Currently, Instagram is a place for more curated content, and shifting that perception will not be easy for Instagram to do.

The only way I can see audiences shifting away from TikTok to Instagram Reels is if the former really does get banned in the US and if the latter figures out how to rival TikTok’s powerful algorithm and its data-driven ‘For You’ page – which very quickly learns from what and how people watch, engage with and share content. In fact, it would be far more worthwhile for them to launch a separate Reels app to Instagram and build that out.


Flossie Joseph – Strategist

TikTok doesn’t see itself as a social media platform, but rather “an engine of culture where you can unleash your brand’s creative side.” People use it more for being entertained by strangers, rather than sharing personal content with friends and family. As a very social platform, it would be interesting to see how Instagram switches between the ‘close friends, private accounts, bare-all content to loved ones’ approach vs anonymous, widespread discoverability. 

Also as well taking a page/chapter from TikTok’s book this week, Instagram have also (finally) made new fonts available for their stories so there are now more than 4 to choose from. As welcome as this update is, these fonts are so alike the ones that Snapchat have had available on their platform for years before. I’d love to confidently say that the reels rip off will never catch on, but we all thought that when they introduced IG stories after Snapchat… and disappearing content after Snapchat… and face filters after Snapchat. 


Ryan Nair – Strategist

Seeing Instagram roll out ‘Reels’ feels like the platform arriving late to the party. To see TikTok completely monopolise this organic creative market in terms of the ‘next’ big social media platform shows they’ve cemented themselves in this market. Despite Byte’s grounding in the legacy that was Vine, I haven’t heard much around the success of this platform, so it leads me to question the authenticity of Reels and longevity of competing in that space for Facebook’s own benefit.

Having said that, Instagram is the platform for escapism for a lot of people. TikTok, despite its success, does have a lot of stigma attached to it, in light of questions around stealing information as well as stereotypes around the kind of audience that exists there. Not everyone I know uses TikTok, absolutely everyone I know uses Instagram. So perhaps, Reels will take off, but only time will tell if this will be another IGTV crash and burn situation. 


Safiya Pomell – Senior Strategist

Is there a visual platform Instagram hasn’t tried to come for? The right target market is present but the discoverable/ shareable aspect of this new feature that made Tik Tok so popular is not. With this being said, it’s likely Instagram will adjust accordingly… we hated stories when they were first introduced following the rise in Snapchat, but now around 500 million users use this feature a day. 

Currently, it doesn’t feel like it can compete due to the curated nature of a users feed. With only the Explore page to find new content, following IG’s update removing visibility of friends activity, it has created a smaller window to discover new content. It almost feels like Reels would be more suited as an actual tab on the explore page rather than popping up every now & again. This will allow Instagram to quickly learn more about engaged users. Content also seems recycled from Tik Tok & it doesn’t appear IG has created an option that allows users to easily download videos & share cross-platform with recognition of the original account, which is what marked a stamp on Tik Tok’s highly shareable user experience. 

Now Instagram has moved to a more curated user experience over a ‘viral’ moment, the success of Reels would require Instagram to re-think its purpose, but with a few tweaks Instagram could give Tik Tok a run for it’s money.