What Is Instagram Reels? Launch Date, Differences From TikTok, Implications For Advertisers

What Is Instagram Reels

Facebook is doling out huge sums of money (again) this time to top TikTok influencers to get them over to Instagram Reels. Sound familiar? It’s the same approach Facebook took with YouTube creators when rolling out its Facebook Video and Live Streaming platforms.

TikTok, the video-sharing social app has been banned in India (again) and is facing a possible ban in the U.S. but a Microsoft acquisition (making TikTok a U.S.-owned company) would evade such a ban.

Facebook, always ready to capitalize on a competing social media app’s predicament (e.g. how Instagram Stories cannibalized Snapchat), rolled out its own TikTok clone today (August 5, 2020) via Instagram named “Reels”. Previously, Facebook attempted to rival TikTok with “Lasso” which sat within Facebook’s app, but it failed to gain traction.

Read to learn more about what is Instagram Reels, its differences from TikTok, whether it’ll succeed and implications for influencers and advertisers:

What Is Instagram Reels? Facebook’s TikTok Rival

Instagram Reels is a new creative video platform within the Instagram app that allows users to “record and edit 15-second multi-clip videos with audio, effects, and new creative tools.”

Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels takes TikTok’s viral success formula of quick looping video snippets paired with short audio tracks or original/custom audio and places it right in the center of the Instagram app.

Now, along with Instagram Stories, IGTV, and live streaming, 1.5+ billion Instagram users will be able to use Reels to create TikTok-style content.

How Is TikTok Different From Instagram Reels?

On the surface, Instagram Reels and TikTok are similar. The primary differences so far include 1) the time limit for each Reels or TikTok video (15 seconds for Reels vs. 60 seconds for TikTok), 2) how Reels shared from private Instagram account disappear after 24-hours (similar to how Stories currently function), and 3) how Instagram vs. TikTok surface trending videos.

Currently, much of TikTok’s success and the virality of its content and creators rests on the TikTok algorithm. High-performing content moves through the four phases of the TikTok algorithm and ends up on TikTok’s For You Page (the “homepage” for TikTok — what users see immediately upon opening the app).

In place of a For You Page, Instagram has their Discover or Explore page. Reels can be found here along with Stories and curated posts and videos. Additionally, Instagram may designate some Reels as “Featured.”

Instagram Reels vs. TikTok

Clicking into a Reels post from Instagram’s Explore page plays the Reel and from there, scrolling up provides much of the same experience as scrolling through TikTok’s For You Page.

Instagram Reels Release Date & The Push For Influencers

Instagram Reels rolled out to U.S. users on August 5, 2020 with 50 other countries to quickly follow in early August. Previously, Reels was tested in France, Germany, Brazil and India ahead of its U.S. release date.

As evinced by both YouTube’s popularity and longevity, the key to a platform’s success rests much on its early adopters namely the creators and influencers who are adept at creating entertaining and shareable content.

For Reels to succeed, it’s likely the same formula and Facebook has been busy offering exclusive well-paying contracts complete with NDAs for TikTok influencers to create solely (or at least uploading content first) on Reels. For some influencers, Instagram will also cover production costs.

TikTok has been aggressive these last few years about promoting its app (targeting users, advertisers, and creators) by taking out ads on both Instagram and Facebook and recently announced (July 22, 2020) its $200M TikTok Creator Fund — seemingly a direct effort to keep its influencers from migrating over to Instagram.

Facebook/Instagram is no newcomer to the influencer game (having enlisted several celebrities and influencers for the past rollouts of Facebook Video, Watch, etc.). Instagram Reels’ launch featured the teaser release of Miley Cyrus’s latest song (debuted on Reels). Instagram and Cyrus have had a longstanding partnership stemming back to her 2015 #InstaPride campaign.

Access Reels In Instagram

Instagram Reel’s Impact For Influencers & Advertisers

Much like Snapchat (prior to competition from Instagram Stories), TikTok was able to command high ad rates (e.g. up to $300k for certain Hashtag Challenges and ad packages) as it’s been unchallenged in the social media app sphere. TikTok does present certain demographics that are not found on other apps. With the rollout of Instagram Reels, much of this will change.

Facebook will likely roll out a comparable (if not better) clone of TikTok (as it did with Instagram Stories supplanting Snapchat). If history repeats itself, Instagram Reels will experience massive adoption from both influencers and advertisers as it’s easier to centralize everything on a single app vs. juggling between several.

Instagram Reels explore page

The introduction of Instagram Reels (and its various advertising options within the Instagram/Facebook platform) eliminates the TikTok monopoly for quick, creative, music-driven content — which likely will drive down the cost of TikTok ads.

Reels will make it easy for Instagram influencers not on TikTok to start creating TikTok-style content on Instagram whereas many TikTok influencers will opt for the opportunity to grow (or further grow) their Instagram following with Reels.

Whether Instagram Reels supplants TikTok or TikTok finds a way to remain competitive and unique from Reels, it’s likely that quick, creative, audio-driven video clips (from TikTok or Reels) are here to stay as audiences worldwide can’t seem to get enough of TikTok content — TikTok’s engagement rates and time spent on the platform are one of the highest in the industry and brands marketing on TikTok have seen high ROIs.


Instagram Reels gives advertisers an in-demand influencer marketing channel within an established social media platform.