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Digital experts highlight the dilemma before Instagram Reels in India

Instagram introduced Instagram Reels in India right after the Government banned over 100 Chinese apps, including TikTok. Facebook-owned Instagram Reels has similar features to TikTok, which also allow users to create short videos and share it with their followers. 

It may be recalled that in 2018, Facebook had launched a TikTok clone, called Lasso, which didn’t work well and was shut down earlier this year. Instagram Reels was first introduced in Brazil in the year 2019, where it was called ‘Cenas’. The purpose to launch Reels was to understand how Instagram users would respond to a different sort of mobile video experience. Instagram already had a long video format named ‘IGTV’, where users were able to upload long videos. 

Also read: Zee Music Co. integrates ‘Shakuntala Devi’ on Instagram Reels

Now, Instagram Reels is launching globally and is available in over 50 countries such as India, Brazil, France, Germany, the U.K., Japan, Australia, Spain, Mexico, and Argentina, among several others.  

Adgully spoke to a cross-section of digital experts on the adoption of Instagram Reels in India. 

Agencies like So Cheers and Brand Visage believe that Instagram Reels can be popular in Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets if they facilitate features and are able to catch up with the penetration of TikTok, whereas some agencies feel that Instagram Reels has a long way ahead and many things to do to become popular.  

TikTok was very popular in the Tier 2 and 3 markets before the ban; to replace TikTok or to gain that audience and reach, Facebook will have to spend aggressively. Along with spending aggressively, Instagram Reels needs to focus on getting creators on board, besides reinventing its features for stickiness. According to Sudish Balan, Chief Business Officer, Tonic Worldwide, “It’s not about just spending aggressively. They will have to go about it strategically. If Reels has to acquire users, it first needs to gain creators who are well versed with the 15-second magic that they created on the earlier platform. Who then will go ahead and create content which will appeal to this audience. Instagram has already started acquiring these creators and you can see some glimpses of them on Reels. The other challenge is that the users of the original app had it easy for them in terms of UX as it was a standalone app. Instagram has Feed, Stories, IGTV and now Reels. For the masses, it is like walking into a store with too many options and coming out buying nothing because they are confused. So, Facebook needs to simplify the user journey.” 

Before introducing Reels, Instagram already had a long video format option, IGTV, which is quite popular among the masses and is used by a lot of users. Reels, being a competition to TikTok, the advertisements on Reels have to be strategically planned and will have to emulate the same format and create native ads to become as effective as TikTok was. “Reels will help influencers catch the attention of people generating greater visibility, which can lead to winning more followers and potential customers for the brands. The added advantage of Instagram Reels is that it allows adding of filters and placing music without any copyright restrictions. Thus, I see it as a great platform to advertise, which should start soon,” opines Siddharth Khanna, Co-Founder & CEO, Brand Visage Communications.

While TikTok was known as a user-friendly platform, the question is can Instagram be as user friendly as TikTok? While So Cheers and Brand Visage believe that Instagram can be a user friendly language app, Tonic Worldwide’s Balan feels Instagram isn’t a user friendly language app because it does not offer regional languages like TikTok.

Meanwhile, though a late entrant in the Indian market, Instagram Reels has been able to create a place for itself in a short period and is today one of the most used apps. A lot of content creators and influencers have created their presence and built an audience on Instagram Reels. Before Reels, they were active users of IGTV features, but because of the ban on TikTok and with Reels offering similar features, influencers and content creators started to veer towards this app. “Reels will definitely aid this movement as well,” asserts Balan.

Commenting on this, Rajni Daswani, Director - Brand Experience & Employee Engagement, So Cheers, says, “Majority of the top creators had their presence on the platform and they were updating content on IGTV, which were being made on other social platforms. Reels has definitely motivated the creators to create and post content on IGTV. We are seeing great creators’ surge on IGTV and Reels, which is also driving user growth. Instagram is also pushing Reels through their Explore feed.”

Because of the ban on TikTok, many of its users are shifting to apps with similar features. There are several homegrown apps as well which offer similar features are looking to capitalising on this gap in the market. However, these homegrown apps are not as popular as Instagram, which has a sizeable presence of influencers and content creators on the platform. “This move gave the right stickiness to the platform at the right time. We at Brand Visage have already started conceptualising campaigns for our clients to get the best traction,” says Siddharth from Brand Visage. Reels will gain more creators, which will lead to more content and audience, besides the time spent on instagram by the users will also increase.

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