This article was published on July 1, 2022

Instagram’s plan to make all its video Reels is a transparent TikTok ripoff

Ahh, the old "steal and hope no one notices" technique, genius


Instagram’s plan to make all its video Reels is a transparent TikTok ripoff
Callum Booth
Story by

Callum Booth

Editor of Plugged by TNW

Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He w Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He writes about gear, gadgets, and apps — with a particular focus on Apple — and also makes the occasional odd video. Basically, he's halfway between an abrasive gadget nerd and thinky art boy.

It’s no secret that Instagram is losing the social media war to TikTok. If Meta’s app is ever going to reverse this trend, it needs to come up with new and interesting features.

Or so you’d think. Instead it appears that Instagram is going to continue the Facebook tradition of ‘If You Can’t Beat It, Copy It.’ And goddamn, it’s copying the hell out of TikTok.

The mighty plan? To make every video posted on the platform a Reel. A feature that, if you remember, was stolen from TikTok anyway.

Anyway, here’s the news itself:


Now, according to an email received by TechCrunch, the rationale behind Meta’s move to make all Instagram videos Reels is “to simplify and improve the video experience.”

On one hand, yeah, that makes sense. Having two different flavors of video on one platform is kinda confusing. But when you take a step back from this, the story changes.

In fact, this move seems part of a deliberate strategy to ape TikTok as much as humanly possible in order to keep users on Meta’s app.

Let’s look at the stats. On a purely numerical level, Instagram is ahead of TikTok. The former app has around 1.4 billion users, while the latter 1 billion.

On the surface, this looks good. But that doesn’t tell the full story. The real problem is who’s using the apps — and how they’re using them.

Last year, the number of Gen Z TikTok users surpassed that of Instagram. To reframe that, Meta’s app is becoming unfashionable amongst the youth.

This is not only an issue because it hampers future growth, but because Instagram was meant to be Meta’s pathway to young people, as Facebook has become the social network for old folks.

And while marketers still prefer Instagram over TikTok, this won’t last long.. Currently, the average time spent on Instagram globally is 28 minutes. On TikTok this clocks in at 52 minutes.

Those are levels of engagement that can’t be ignored. The reason marketers aren’t falling over themselves to move to the platform is simply because they don’t fully understand it yet.

The majority of marketing is a conservative industry, always on the lookout for a sure thing. While there are easy-to-follow best practices for Instagram, the same doesn’t currently exist for TikTok.

But it will. And when it does, it’s inevitable that marketers — and their money — will flow into TikTok.

With all this bubbling in the background, it’s hard to see Instagram making every video on its platform a Reel not being a response to TikTok’s burgeoning influence.

Effectively, Meta is panicking. Its main competitor is attracting a younger audience that spends far more time on the app than its own.

In a world where visionaries were held in high esteem, this would be a moment where Instagram experiments and tries out new ideas in order to draw users back.

But this isn’t that world. And, instead, Instagram’s gonna do all that Meta knows: copy someone else and hope it works.

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