When Instagram announced in a blog post this month that it was expanding its Remix feature, making it easier for users to create and share video content whilst ensuring each new video uploaded to the platform would automatically become a Reel, the backlash from disgruntled users was seismic. It was also entirely expected.
Upon launch in 2020, Meta’s Reels feature was variously described as a TikTok copycat. At the time, users took to their profiles to lambast Instagram for moving away from its core, photo-sharing premise. Undeterred, Meta quietly continued to develop Reels, waiting for the dust to settle before the next phase of its all-in gamble on video content.
History tells us we’ve been here before. Rewind to 2016, and Meta had another, share-stealing competitor in its sights. Snapchat’s short-form, finite stories had revolutionised the way users shared content online, posing a serious threat to Facebook and Instagram’s longstanding hold on the social media industry. Upon introducing Stories to these platforms, Meta was met with an at-times furious user backlash, and reporters united to label it a Snapchat clone. The response, from Instagram’s then-Vice President of Product, Kevin Weil, was unequivocal: “this is the way the tech industry works”.
Indeed, with the latest Reels roll-out, Meta is not the only company tempted by a slice of the TikTok pie; Twitter has tested a new For You page, where users are fed a continuous stream of video content. Such developments have proved polarising among users: the7stars’ Lowdown found only 33% of 16-34s supported the trend, with 39% hoping Instagram would reverse course. But will such fierce debate among users dissuade Meta from its pivot towards video content?
Whilst the furore over the launches of Stories and Reels eventually died down, with at least the former now viewed as an essential part of Instagram’s offering, with this latest announcement Meta may have encountered more ferocious opponents. Influencers including Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner took to their stories to plead ‘Make Instagram Instagram Again’. Perhaps sweating over the immediate 6% drop in its share price – part of a year-long Meta stocks slump – Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri announced the company was temporarily hitting the brakes on the Reels roll-out.
But while the outcry may have prompted a moratorium on the ‘Tiktok-ification’ of Instagram, it will likely only be temporary. With Meta’s userbase ageing and TikTok growing rapidly among Gen Z, the increased homogenisation of social media platforms is likely to continue. And with the opportunity to potentially reach Instagram’s two million-strong monthly users with curated, brand-led video content, brands should be ready for the next step in the process.