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Instagram looks to copy TikTok’s Reel Feature August 24, 2021

Instagram reels

Social Media platforms are always looking to revitalise and add new features to their applications. In recent years, social platforms have started to mimic – in some cases completely clone – each other’s features as they prove to be more popular. We saw Youtube, Facebook and Instagram clone Snapchat’s story feature as consumers opted for feeds that replenish daily and stay fresh with short and snappy updates. The current darling of the social influencer landscape is TikTok. So, what can more established platforms gleam and take from TikTok?

Intagram’s Reel

Instagram’s Reel section is a more recent addition that works as an exploration page. The Reels page displays posts and videos from the people you follow. And, if your settings allow it, Reel also displays posts and videos from the pages your friends follow also. It is an expansion on the standard Instagram feed and was introduced with the aim of growing engagement with other profiles.

Alessandro Palazzi, an application researcher, found that Instagram is testing a TikTok-style curated feed for its’ Reel section. Instead of showcasing content from people you already know, the Reel section will display popular and recommended videos. The user will then be able to drill into similar content that is recommended to them and hopefully start interacting and engaging with profiles they don’t know personally.

What changes are being made to Instagram?

After the changes are implemented, when you go into the Reels section, you will find a feed of popular and recommended videos that activate when clicked on or hovered over. Thereafter, you can swipe across on a post to discover other similar content or swipe down to move onto the next trend and register your disinterest. This is almost identical to TikTok’s navigation behaviour.

At the moment, Instagram is a medley of different feeds. Its’ algorithm aims to show multiple posts and pieces of content on your feed at one time. One could argue it values quantity over quantity. TikTok’s algorithm pushes full screen content to measure engagement on singular posts easily. On TikTok everything matters. If you swipe away early then TikTok knows you’re not interested. If you watch it more than once then TikTok knows something appealed to you. TikTok also has a clickable spinning LP icon so you can tell it when the music in the post is what grabbed you. TikTok has so many metrics to measure engagement and Instagram has very few.

By changing its Reel section to a mini-TikTok alternative, they can gain some much-needed insight into their user base’s behaviour and how they can serve it better. The hope is that with these changes they can better understand their audience’s wants, needs and interests… rather than limiting themselves to curating isolated social bubbles with minimal engagement.

What are the benefits of this change?

TikTok has been proven to have better content discovery and engagement than Instagram. When you log into TikTok, you are presented with a ‘For You’ stream. This stream is curated with posts that TikTok picks based on your likes, behaviour and watch time. When you log into Instagram, you are presented with your main feed. This is only the people you are following and keeps you in your own social bubble.

TikTok allows its users to find new, exciting and fresh content which keeps the energetic feel of the platform intact. Instagram Chief Adam Mosseri said: “TikTok is better than Instagram at providing reliable entertainment.” He went on to say that “you know you can tap on TikTok and you’re immediately going to smile and be entertained.”

TikTok users are more active than Instagram users and that engagement is enviable for the big wigs at Instagram.

Mosseri has made it clear that what Instagram wants is a fresh and entertaining feed at the heart of its platform. The discovery that Reels is pivoting into a curated TikTok-style feed based on trends and engagement is further indication that Instagram is not happy with its metrics. They want a more active user base and Reels’ new look may help them achieve that.

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