Getting Real with Instagram Reels

3 min readAug 19, 2020

TikTok has found its way back into the spotlight, but this time it’s because of its forever rival, Facebook, on their release of a brand new Instagram social feature; Instagram Reels. If you’ve already seen reels start to appear on your feed, or had a brief (or endless) dabble in the continuous scrolling timeline, you probably will have noticed that the feature is quite familiar. Actually, it’s extremely familiar, in that it is a near-exact copycat of the popular platform, TikTok.

If you’re curious about the TikTok tea, how to start reeling yourself, or just want to get savvy at swiping, our Associate Director of Social Strategy Nicole Wei has you covered with our Instagram Reels breakdown.

The Why

TikTok found itself in hot water in recent times with its ban in India, potential ban in the United States, and the US Senate’s unanimous support of a bill that would ban the app on government-issued devices, after national security concerns. Recently, TikTok’s owner, Beijing based company ByteDance, has been given until September 15th to either sell its US operations to Microsoft or face an outright ban.

Leveraging the launch of Instagram Reels on the back of the TikTok crisis is a clever move from Facebook. Whether or not loyal TikTok users will make the transition is another story. However, if Instagram Reels launch goes anything like the launch of Instagram stories in 2016, which currently has 500 million daily users, it could be a game-changer for the app.

The How

Instagram Reels operates in an identical way to TikTok, even down to the ways username, captions, and audio tracks are displayed on the left. The look is mighty familiar and will feel like a home away from home for anyone familiar with TikTok.

The new Reels Explore Feed (aka the For You Page) can be found on your Instagram Explore page and, just like TikTok, operates with a continuous feed. Like the aforementioned app, be prepared to sign away hours of your life to the endless scrolling.

Users can record and edit together 15-second video clips set to music and share them on stories, explore feeds, and the new reels tab. Are you tempted to make your own? Simply open your Instagram story camera and find the reels icon.

What Next

Where Instagram Reels maybe a little cheeky in its blatant copycat design, it still does offer brands exciting new ways to improve engagement and grow their following. Reels allows brands to sell personality in the same way Instagram stories do, but with a longer shelf life as they don’t expire after 24 hours.

The feature is designed to be a fast, fun way to share creative and potentially viral videos with a broad audience. The social feature allows videos to show up on explore pages, reaching a whole new audience, and links directly back to your Instagram account. For brands, this could be an invaluable way to optimize Instagram’s 1 million active users and grow their following, one viral video at a time.

My favourite videos I’ve seen so far are this makeup tutorial from Sephora, a collaboration with @ryanbpotter, which gained over 1.9 million views. This clever use of influencer marketing from Walmart, and this smart use of creative editing to showcase products for Topshop.

Keeping it Reel

Already the feature is proving to be of interest to creators and brands. It certainly has the potential to make waves in the world of digital marketing. With the future of TikTok looking tentative, Instagram Reels may just be the next biggest thing for video sharing. Whether or not there’s space for both of them is another question. Which one gets your vote?

If you’re looking for more advice on TikTok, social media marketing, or just general social savviness, contact us. We’d love to hear from you.




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