In a move that will surprise no one, Instagram has confirmed that it will launch its TikTok-like ‘Reels’ functionality in more regions next month, including the US, as TikTok itself faces more questions over its future, and TikTok users seek out alternatives as a result.
As reported by NBC’s Dylan Byers, Instagram is looking to launch Reels in the US, and 50 other regions, “in a matter of weeks”, expanding beyond the current four nations where the function is accessible. Facebook has confirmed this timeline to TechCrunch, with US users set to get access to Reels in August.
Rather than creating a separate app – which has been parent company Facebook’s go-to strategy for combating rising competitors – Reels is built into Instagram itself, enabling Instagram users to create 15-second, looping video clips, set to music, which are then displayed in a dedicated space on user profiles, and a separate section within the Explore tab.
Essentially, that enables users to share TikTok-like clips on Instagram, which has over a billion active users. Rather than trying to establish a new audience for the option, in a new app, Instagram is looking to quell TikTok’s rise by utilizing its massive scale.
And the expansion of Reels into the US comes at a particularly opportune time.
Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that US authorities were considering a ban on TikTok due to concerns that users of the app were putting “private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.” US President Donald Trump later reiterated that the White House was indeed considering banning the app.
That sent a wave of concern through the TikTok community, with platform influencers, in particular, shaken by the thought that they could lose all that they’d built within the app overnight – which is what Indian users experienced last month, when the Indian Government blocked the Chinese-owned app.
As a result, downloads of alternative video apps have surged. Byte, from the co-founder of Vine, has quickly risen up the App Store charts as a result, while influencers have also been looking to diversify their presence into other platforms in order to protect themselves from a possible TikTok ban. Given this, now’s the perfect time for Instagram to expand access to its own alternative tool. And worth noting, Instagram also launched Reels in India just days after its TikTok ban.
Will that work? Will that get more people turning to Instagram for TikTok style clips, instead of TikTok itself?
It can’t hurt, and you can bet that Facebook will also be looking to amplify those TikTok shutdown concerns wherever possible, in order to prompt more creators, in particular, to shift across to Instagram instead.
Given this, the expansion of Reels is fairly logical – and for marketers, it could open up new opportunities, and new potential for creative expression and engagement within the app.
Whether Reels becomes the new Stories, and sees Instagram halting TikTok’s growth as a result, we’ll have to wait and see, but you can imagine, with so many TikTok-ers looking at their options, that Reels will see significant usage.
We’ll keep you updated on the expanded roll-out.