Instagram Reels has just been launched as an extension of the Facebook-owned image and video sharing platform. Desperate to infiltrate the zeitgeist that TikTok has created, Reels is here to make waves, and it will only be a matter of time before we’re exposed to the magnitude of the swell.

It is not an unfamiliar pattern. There are pretty much two ways that the Facebook giant goes about levelling up.

  1. Facebook likes something. Facebook buys it.
  2. Facebook likes something. Facebook copies it.

Facebook started the trend years back, allowing third-party companies to create nifty solutions using the Facebook API, which Facebook would then incorporate into its own platform if it added enough value. Then as their hunger grew, Mark Zuckerberg and co. began ordering off the adult menu, with a starter of the photo-sharing app, Instagram, for circa £1 billion in 2012 before moving onto the main – WhatsApp messaging service for £19 billion in 2014.

Then came the age of imitation. Not long after Snapchat was dominating the mobile-first, multimedia messaging market, and short-lifespan content had been embraced with open arms, did Facebook introduce Instagram Stories. You would be splitting hairs trying to setup a “spot the difference” between the two platforms, and because most of the population already had an Instagram account, it only followed they would embrace Stories. The graph illustrates the rolling beast that was Snapchat until late 2016 when Instagram Stories was launched. It did not take long for Stories to completely eclipse Snapchat and subsequently for their daily active users to plateau somewhat.

What Instagram Stories did to Snapchat, the launch of Instagram Reels clearly intends to do to TikTok’s place in the video-sharing social environment. This latest addition to Facebooks “Family of Apps” seems to be timed to perfection, as just yesterday Donald Trump issued orders banning TikTok and WeChat from US operations in 45 days if they are not sold by Chinese parent companies. That’s as far as my political commentary stretches, but I have no doubt that Instagram Reels is going to attract a lot of attention, and if the orders do pass or TikTok stops operating in the US for any reason, then it’s clear where everyone will flock to get their next fix of trend-setting, video-sharing content. It follows that with significant influencers on the platform being US-based, if they start embracing Instagram Reels then their global followers will soon embark on the migration themselves.

For advertisers, TikTok is relatively new to the game and a lot newer to the UK game so many brands are still dipping their toes into running self-serve ads across the platform. No doubt this will continue if results are there but because Instagram Reels is still set within a familiar environment for users and advertisers, it is likely that experimentation by brands will have already started.

Watch this space for updates or – if you’re too impatient to watch this space, get in touch with us to see how we can help build you a cutting-edge, results-driven social media strategy.

Bruce Tissington, Senior Social Strategist