Instagram is officially going head-to-head with TikTok by launching its own short-form video platform called Reels.
Beginning in August, Instagram users in the U.S. will have access to Reels, which is currently test-driving in Germany, France, India, and Brazil. Rather than housing Reels on a separate app, the TikTok-like initiative will be built into Instagram itself. Users will create 15-second video clips set to music that can then be added to their stories and profiles. The looping video clips will have a dedicated space on user’s profiles as well as their own section on Instagram’s Explore tab.
Instagram has nearly one billion monthly users, so folding Reels into its already established platform allows it to quickly introduce the feature to a loyal audience. The move also means Instagram will not have to market a new app or work to establish a new following, instead getting to utilize its vast pre-existing reach. However, the brand may have to put effort into gaining user activity rates as high as competitor TikTok, whose Gen-Z dominant crowd helped it quickly gain momentum and record downloads, according to a Gartner report. In addition to the U.S., Instagram plans to introduce Reels to 50 other countries in the coming weeks, which could help the feature foster a global following.
Though Reels was designed as a direct competitor to TikTok, the feature may not face as stiff competition as anticipated. The threat of TikTok being banned in the United States means its 70 million U.S. users would need somewhere else to go, making the arrival of Reels very timely. Instagram recently used this tactic by launching Reels in India, days after TikTok was banned in the country. Even if TikTok is banned, Reels could still face rivals in Byte or Dubsmash—alternative apps with similar purposes that have seen a surge in downloads since the threat to ban TikTok was announced.
Introducing Reels on Instagram could spur a new wave of creativity from app users, and open up a new pathway to marketing for brands looking to reach trendy, tech-savvy consumers. While the purpose of Reels may seem familiar, the imaginativeness it allows could lead to it becoming the app’s new go-to feature.