Instagram Reels: smash-hit or wannabe?

Pauline Alterio, Social Media and Website Manager

Instagram users in the United States first noticed a new feature appear on their Discovery page on August 5. Dubbed Reels is Instagram’s latest attempt to increase their user base, this time taking aim at one of the most popular apps in the world: TikTok. 

Reels allows users to create short, 15-second videos that can showcase a variety of songs, filters, and stickers to share with friends. This new feature has the same aspects that TikTok does, and has left some users to wonder if Reels is simply a copy of the viral Chinese-owned app. However, with a looming US TikTok ban, will Reels take the place of TikTok? 

Reels was first introduced to Instagram in November of 2019 in Brazil. The feature went under the Spanish equivalent of ‘Cenas,’ and according to Influencer Marketing Hub, Instagram saw a 4.34% increase in new Brazilian users, compared to the average monthly growth of 1%. Since then, Reels has expanded in waves to 49 other countries over the course of the Summer. When the feature was released to Indian users in July, Instagram saw an increase of consumer use by 3.5%, as reported by data firm Apptopia.

Despite Reels’ effect on the usage of Instagram, is it still a beneficial feature? Senior Gavin Hosterman feels that it is both positive and negative. While he believes Reels is a “positive” addition because it “might lead to more creativity,” he noted that “the algorithm is very bad and it [the videos on Reels] tends to repeat a lot.”

   “I don’t think it’s going to have a huge effect on Instagram [if TikTok gets banned], but I feel like there will be more content on Instagram due to more TikTokers flooding to the app,” Gavin said.

Even without a TikTok ban currently in place, Gavin may be right on an increase of app-wide content: already many celebrities and companies have taken advantage of Reels. The French Red Bull Instagram page has made several videos under Reels, with the most popular video amassing over 2.4 million views. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, two-thirds of all NBA teams have posted at least one Reel on Instagram, and as a result are receiving 22% higher engagement compared to their Instagram posts or stories. The Los Angeles Lakers lead NBA teams in the number of likes and plays on Reels with their most popular video recording over 5.2 million views and 107,000 likes.

Another one of Reels supposed highlights is its ability to give new voices to new people, and it is because of this that freshman Laura Lodge believes Reels is a “positive” thing. 

“[It] gives people other points of views,” she said. 

Laura also holds the opinion that Instagram did not copy TikTok by creating Reels, despite the two platforms being nearly identical.

“They’re two different things made by two different creators,” she said.

While Reels has increased Instagram’s overall statistics, it is unknown if Reels will have a large long-term impact on Instagram. The new feature’s fate likely sits in the palms of TikTok, and whether the latter receives the boot from the U.S. government later this year.