TikTok and Instagram Reels: the Rise of Short-Form Marketing

Published on November 12, 2020

New Competition

The world of short-form video content has experienced a tumultuous couple of months (as have their massive audiences, by extension), and many creators have considered the possibility of losing a key platform. While it looks like TikTok will continue to operate in the United States thanks to a new deal with Oracle and Walmart, Instagram could not have chosen a better moment to premiere their direct competitor, Reels, in 50 countries including the United States. 

Instagram Reels enables users to record, edit, and share 15-second video clips, complete with easy-to-use audio and special effects. The clips can be posted to Stories, on the new Reels tab, and on the Instagram Explore Feed, which now curates these 15-second videos from popular and trending accounts on the platform. Much like TikTok’s “For You” page, Reels promises to show content based on who you follow, where you are, and what kind of content you generally consume. This means that content creators on the platform have a new venue for organically expanding their audience, and therefore the reach of their brand. As with any new feature on the platform, Instagram’s algorithm prioritizes new features. Accordingly, your content stands a good chance of showing up on many users’ Explore pages, and with the simple tap of that follow button, these users can add themselves to your audience.

Benefits to Your Brand

Even in its nascent form, Instagram Reels is proving to be a space where both content creators and companies can make a strong brand statement by telling succinct stories that show off what makes them unique, trendy, or desirable.

An added benefit of Reels is ease-of-use. For anyone with existing TikTok content, transitioning from TikTok is easy: simply repurpose your existing video content from TikTok for your Instagram Reels! Similarly, you can repurpose content you have previously posted to your Instagram Stories as well. 

As certain fashion companies and Influencers are already demonstrating, Reels lends itself to short-form vlog content—from travel snippets to cooking recipes to lifestyle content. Plus, the new Explore feature will help extend your reach and promote engagement. On the other hand, if you’re new to this kind of content Reels also makes it easier for you as a content creator or as a business to enter the world of short-form video in a familiar setting (Instagram), as opposed to learning your way around a totally different platform like TikTok. 

Act Quickly and Experiment

Within four years, Instagram Stories grew from a novelty feature meant to rival SnapChat to a mainstay with over 500 million users daily—and counting. With Instagram’s track record and the growing multi-generational popularity of short-form video content, Instagram Reels is almost certainly here to stay, regardless of TikTok’s future in the U.S. 

Establish a presence as early as possible before competition increases and begins to saturate the market. Instagram is already encouraging popular creators from TikTok to transition to Reels, at no small expense. Since Influencers and companies are already beginning to use Reels promotionally, expect cross-promotions, partnered branding, and branded Instagram Reels to take center stage over time. 

Audiovisual content from video to AR is becoming increasingly pertinent as the world of social media and its underlying technologies evolve and spread. If you’re already using video in some form for marketing or branding online, then set aside time to experiment with short-form content as well. 

Hone your Reels strategy around telling micro-stories that highlight the core identity of your brand from a human perspective. This could be short videos of your product-line in action, casual mini-vlogs showcasing your customers enjoying your services, unboxing videos, or videos of customers bonding over using your products. Of course, with short-form storytelling like this comedy is always a plus!

The more you incorporate this kind of content into your overall strategy, the more effectively you’ll be able to use Reels as a distinct way of extending your online presence. Especially as Instagram devotes greater attention and resources to this feature in the coming months.

Ryan Walker is a Grit Daily contributor whose resume spans a decade of digital marketing and media, including leading the west coast experiential team for Diageo, and running events for Oprah and Rodeo Drive clients through his prior business, Alchemy.  He currently holds the title of Founder and CEO of the entertainment and media industry’s most recognized social media management firm, TSMA Consulting. Ryan travels the world educating professionals on targeting and capturing the attention of Millennial and Generation Z consumers through utilization of social media algorithms and content.

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