Is Reels the Real Deal?

clock 12 months ago

Remember when Snap was Snapchat and it was the only thing people spoke about? It was so ‘cut-through’, ‘disruptive’ and ‘cool’ to have a video that disappeared after 24 hours - and if you hadn’t heard of it, you were deemed out of touch or old.

It was so disruptive that Zuckerberg wanted to buy it to make Facebook even more secure and powerful, and it was hot news that Evan Spiegel wouldn’t sell it to him. Not good news for the biggest social media platform on the planet.

But if you’re Zucks, you don’t worry about not getting your own way, you get a work around and sort it yourself. So in August 2016, Zuckerberg launched an exact clone of Snapchat stories and unimaginatively called it Instagram Stories. There was a lot of outrage on this one, it was deemed across the industry as a beyond shameless move and something that was too ‘below the belt’ for even the most competitive of companies. At the time I remember thinking ‘this guy is brutal and desperate, I don’t think it will work’. What do I know? Nothing.

Three months later Zucks was bathing in his own genius glory, Instagram stories had 100 million daily users and had slowed Snapchat’s previous growth rate by 82%. 12 months later, Snapchat had 178 million daily users and Instagram had surpassed them with 250 million daily users. Now known as Snap, the platform has 238 million daily users…Instagram Stories has 500 million. Wow. It will go down in history as one of Mark Zuckerberg’s greatest moves.

Well, buckle up because that pesky little billionaire is at it again, but this time he’s taking on the new kid on the block, TikTok.

Instagram Reels

Reels is the latest bullet in the barrel for Facebook and, launched on Wednesday 5th August, will be available to all UK users. As a Facebook partner, we’ve got early access to the product so I wanted to share where you can find it, what it looks like and my thoughts on it as a whole.

Firstly, you’ll find it in the section where you create stories. In between ‘Live’ and ‘Normal’.

It’s got everything you’d expect from a TikTok challenger, effects, green screen, a massive music library, other users’ audio and the functionality to duet…it’s basically a complete rip off of TikTok. But, I do think it’s got one notch up on them from the get go, and that’s custom augmented reality (AR) filters.

AR Filters

TikTok does allow for custom AR effects, but you have to contact TikTok directly to get it done, and their offering is definitely aimed more at brands than creators. Reels uses Spark AR. Spark AR is a tool owned by Facebook that allows creators to design and build their own augmented reality filters for Instagram. Creator filters are included within the Reels feature, adding more creativity, personality and virality for creators, and more opportunity for brands as soon as they launch.


Whilst they’ve had their share of problems, with India banning the app from future downloads and the mad haired, mumbling maniac in America throwing his weight around with threats of a further ban in the States, 2020 has definitely been TikTok’s year. They’ve been one of the ‘Reel’ (sorrynotsorry) success stories of lockdown, hitting 800 million users worldwide, becoming the platform that everyone is talking about, hitting growth rates and time spent on the app that every other platform is jealous of.….sound familiar?

Exactly four years to the month after launching his last masterplan, Zucks has launched another copycat product. The question is, will it work this time around? Will it have the same impact on a more powerful, higher growth and viral competitor in TikTok? Does Instagram’s huge audience and experience mean it can topple any platform? Who knows. One thing is for sure, you can never rule out Mark Zuckerberg and the goliath that is Facebook, and if executed correctly, Reels could be a huge wound for TikTok as the war of the platforms continues.

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