Instagram Tests New ‘Audio’ Tab in Explore to Improve Music Discovery

Instagram appears to be testing yet another TikTok-focused addition, with a new ‘Audio’ tab appearing for some users in their Explore options, which enables you to search for specific tracks in the app.

As you can see in this example, posted by @WFBrother on Twitter (and shared by Matt Navarra), the new option enables you to search for songs by keyword, and provides a listing of registered tracks in Instagram’s system. Tapping through on a result then takes you to a separate page for that song/clip, which includes options to save or use the audio in your own post, while it also shows you all the Reels clips that have used that same song or sound.

Which is very similar to the same functionality on TikTok. Search for a song title in TikTok and you’ll be able to find similar results in the ‘Sounds’ tab, while tapping through on a song title within a TikTok clip will take you to a display of all the clips that have used the same audio, which lends itself to increased interaction and sharing in the app as users look to tap into the latest trending tracks, and see how others have created clips around certain music themes.

TikTok music display

You can also do the same within Instagram Reels itself – tap on the music ticker at the bottom of any Reels clip and it’ll show you the same listing of all the Reels that have used that track as this new Audio tab does. So really, it’s not anything new, functionally, but it does provide another way to maximize music engagement within the app, and maybe highlight some of the latest Reels trends to a wider audience.

Which is likely the real focus here. Instagram’s still trying to work out how to make Reels a bigger element, in an effort to fend off rising competition from TikTok, and this new discovery option could be another way to showcase the best trends based on popular tracks. 

Instagram is also reportedly working on a new incentive program that would reward users for creating Reels clips, while it’s also testing new ways to share Reels to Facebook, expanding their reach across its network.

Will that work, and get more people engaged with Reels clips? It probably will, to some degree, but whether that will be enough to get people away from TikTok is probably the bigger question, and on that front, it seems unlikely. 

Last week, new data from App Annie showed that users are now spending as much time in TikTok, on average, as people are on Facebook, while TikTok users are already spending more time in the app than those on Instagram. Despite various challenges, TikTok has continued to go from strength to strength, and is now the leader on new trend shifts like music engagement, which has Facebook constantly playing catch-up.

Facebook still holds all the cards in terms of overall users and overall engagement, and it has a massive advantage in regards to both ad spend and reach. But TikTok remains a thorn in its side, and has become a major threat to its longer-term prospects, given the platform’s connection with younger audiences, and the potential for that to form new habitual behaviors that stem through into older brackets.

Does that mean that Facebook is at risk? No, Facebook is still the overall leader, and its ongoing growth in new regions has it positioned for steady evolution moving forward, as does its investment in AR and VR technologies. But TikTok has been able to shrug off Facebook’s various challenges and continue on, which would no doubt be a concern, on some level, for Zuck and Co, and will ensure the app remains a problem for Facebook for some time yet.

So what can Facebook do? Rather than just let it happen, Facebook will no doubt continue to add replica features like this, small, duplicate additions designed to keep users on its apps by giving them the same functionality that they can then use among the networks of friends that they’ve already created, rather than floating off to TikTok instead.

That’s been an effective approach for Facebook thus far – but maybe, this time, it will need to come up with its own new innovations to somehow get larger chunks of its user base back to Facebook and IG instead. 

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