One year of Instagram Reels - Has it lived up to the expectations of creators & brands?

Influencers, content creators and social media users were left high and dry when the Indian Government ban on Chinese apps in 2020 took away one of their favourite platforms, the hugely popular short video app TikTok. Quite a few players rushed to fill in the void left by the ban on TikTok. One player has captured a sizeable share of this market – Instagram Reels. 

It was in July 2020 that Instagram ventured into the short video space by launching ‘Reels’. The platform allows users to create short videos, add creative filters, music and share the videos with their followers on their feed. The ‘Reels’ feature received positive reception from users since its launch and the hashtag #FeelKaroReel began trending on Instagram. 

At the time of launch of Instagram Reels in India, Ajit Mohan, Vice President and Managing Director, Facebook India, had said, “With Reels, we’re unveiling the future of entertainment on the platform, in a way that ignites creativity. With the multiple creative formats, whichever way you want to express yourself, it can now be on Instagram.” 

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According to Kantar, the average time spent on Instagram per day has more than doubled (2.3X), and Facebook, too, saw a significant 35% jump in time-spent on the platform, with the bulk of this additional engagement being driven by smaller town consumers. Among the youth audience aged below 24 years, average time spent per day on Instagram grew by 35% amid the pandemic. 

Instagram is used by over a billion people globally across many surfaces – Reels, Feed, Stories, IGTV and Live. According to Hootsuite, Reels on Instagram generate 67% more engagement than their regular video posts, which is an average of 121,800 engagements per Reel, compared to 21,600 per video. 

After Reels celebrated its first anniversary in July 2021, Adgully reached out to few influencers, digital marketing experts and brands to know about their experience related to Instagram Reels and how it has helped them in terms of performance as well as revenue after the pandemic. 

Danish Malik, Founder and Managing Director at Boomlet Media commented that ; "Instagram downloads increased by 11.4% with a total of 7.8 Million users in India that gave an opportunity to the creators and even brands to reach out to the masses in form of short content for their campaigns. Before the last year, the most preferred short content campaign was Instagram stories which come with a drawback of a timelimit of 24hours and the second was a youtube video where brands ask us for a brand integration within the first 15 sec. However, things went totally changed after the reels launched that came with even extra features of edits, filters and music that can be added on. Also, the retention on the profile is forever until the user doesn't archive it.

Today, 49% of campaigns that we are doing for brands are on reels, whereas 23% are on stories and the rest includes posts, IGTV and LIVE content. Also, this gave new creators to come onboard across the categories resulting in repetition of the same set of influencers for your brands or even their competitors has been reduced in recent days."

Performance of Reels in India 

Speaking on how Reels has been powering brands’ and influencers’ engagement with consumers, Sujit Patil, Vice President and Head - Corporate Brand and Communications, Godrej Industries Ltd and Associate Companies, said, “Post launch of Reels, with lip-syncing dialogues and BGM (background music) collection, Instagram gave more tools to brands and influencers to play with. Consequently, the next generation of content creators and micro influencers on Instagram emerged from beyond metro and Tier 1 cities. This also reflects in Godrej Group’s ‘Little Things We Do’ research, which revealed almost one in every five said that during the lockdown, they explored their creative side by making content for social media. Deep-dive and we noticed, in cities such as Indore (29%), Lucknow and Kanpur (25%), the percentage was much higher than the national average. These new sets of users were not just new creators who were using social media for expressing themselves, but were also learning from established influencers and brands on the go. Thus, the platform had a new influx of creators and consumers which meant better reach for the platform, brands and content creators.” 

Instagram Reels & influencer marketing 

Elaborating on what Reels has meant for the creator community, Arvind Nair, Regional Director, Mirum, said, “Facebook has spent the past year integrating more commerce features onto their platforms, and specifically on Instagram. What started as a pivot to support businesses during the pandemic, now has a potential to deliver high value through influencers and commerce. The creator economy is growing and Reels are a significant fuel on that ship.” 

He further said, “Brands have already been present on Reels either directly or via creators over the last year. As Instagram integrates shopping within Reels, businesses and creators tagging products in Reels will open a new way for brand discovery.” 

90% of people follow a business on Instagram, and people are already embracing Reels to discover new creators and businesses. Keeping this in mind, Instagram also launched Reels ads, which is full-screen and immersive, similar to ads in Stories. As with organic Reels content, ads can be up to 30 seconds in duration and people can comment, like, view, save, share and skip Reels ads, which gives a different turning point for the brands/ businesses to interact with their followers more closely and push their reach all over the world. 

Reels powering brands & influencers collaboration 

When asked how Instagram Reels has been helping brands collaborate with top-notch influencers and also what interested them to turn on their campaigns on Reels, Shradha Agarwal, COO and Strategy Head, Grapes Digital, responded, “With the introduction of Reels, Instagram is not merely seen as a photo posting platform, but it has evolved rapidly and has become an entertainment platform with Reels’ popularity across different age groups of people in India. Instagram downloads increased by 11.4% in India when Reels was introduced in July last year. Even the average time spent by the Indian users on the platform increased by 3.5%. This figure defines the immense traction received in the market.” 

According to Agarwal, “Brands across categories like fashion, food, lifestyle and beauty are riding on the Reels bandwagon because the potential is high, and they receive a high engagement level. Instagram is pushing it effectively to influencers across such categories, sharing the proposition that Reels are the best way to increase engagement and followers. Along with this, Instagram Reels has also benefitted the music’ industry a lot.” 

The road ahead 

“Bite size content, where the viewer doesn’t have to spend a lot of time has already proved effective with TikTok’s success in India. Brands and successful creators were aware of its effectiveness. Hence, they couldn’t miss this opportunity when Reels got introduced on Instagram,” observed Anita Tejwani, Founder, They Sway. She further said that Instagram as a platform is no more about pictures. “The focus has moved towards empowering new creators and businesses. I believe Reels are going to become a place where the audience can enjoy watching content and at the same time purchase products used in the content in one click.”

(Edited and additional inputs by Shanta Saikia.)


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