Instagram launches reels and gives brands social innovation that is here to stay

Learning from the success of others

Facebook has a history of learning from and/or acquiring popular social media applications. Instagram (acquired by Facebook after its huge success) has been the perfect example of much of Facebook's approach to staying on top of the tech and social media space by learning from the success and mistakes of others.

Most recently, the tech giant launched Reels, its response to TikTok—short-form, creative, dubbable videos that can live on users’ feeds or in their own tabs. The feature is a clear competitor to TikTok and launched while the app was facing a ban due to information security concerns. Instagram has also since added more features including timed text, longer videos, and an extended timer for creators to prepare their shot before recording begins. This innovation comes after features that lured users off other apps including the shop page, IGTV, Stories, Saved boards, and more.

Stay a while

It’s no mistake that Instagram gives users plenty of reason to stay in the app. Users can find ease in abandoning other platforms and centralizing their social media diet with Instagram. Marketers and brands are comfortable making content on the platform knowing that Instagram is actively, or only a few updates and rollouts away from, adding users’ favorite social media features. Lucky for IG the strategy is about who’s doing it best, so it matters not that FB didn’t come up with the idea first.

Reels doesn't currently have ad space or the opportunity to pay to promote reels content. This leaves brands and creatives with two things to think about:

  1. The app is already promoting and giving increased visibility to reels created right now (more impressions for organic)
  2. The ad space option is more than likely in the near future, pending building an audience that is surely migrating from TikTok. This migration comes in the wake of a ban on the app and the launch of Reels as an alternative that allows them to create with an app that is not a one-trick-pony.

The shiny new toy of UGC and Organic

Brands should use Reels to showcase creativity and ingenuity. The feature was made for scroll-stopping, viral-ready content. Whether it’s creating a challenge or CTA that results in high-quality UGC, or an influencer campaign that calls for influencers and creators to really showcase their content game and engagement. Using reels like the shiny new toy it is can have great payoff in brand social moments.

Influencer and entrepreneur @gabifresh using the Reels feature with the “Wheel of Fashion”

Avoiding this feature because it’s not available for paid promo at the moment could turn out to be a huge mistake. Marketers should focus on optimizing the excitement of reels now while the boost in content visibility is free, the audience is growing, and the feature is fresh.

Reels conveniently had its debut amidst the ongoing pursuance of a ban on the Chinese owned TikTok by the U.S. government under the Trump administration. Facebook/Instagram was able to roll out reels just as TikTok became a big question mark. Facebook knows this and either by strategy or by fate, they have positioned themselves for future ad dollars and use from brands that want to engage with these short form creative videos without wondering if their investments will, quite literally, disappear.

Alexandria Johnson is a Chicago-based Social Engagement Manager at Camp + King. Previously Alexandria managed social media strategy and execution client-side as a freelancer and consultant.

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