There has been a major social media upheaval after the TikTok ban, with some video creators scrambling to attempt other formats and some others trying out Indian-made apps to see if they suit their style. Amidst all the chaos, Instagram rolled out its Reels feature in India yesterday. The interface for Instagram Reels is simple. Users simply have to select the in-built camera option on the top-left corner of the Instagram app, which will then display the Reels button at the bottom. Selecting that, a bunch of fun tools and filters come up that creators can then use to record 15-second videos.
Instagram Reels went live last evening with promotion from Indian influencers like Ammy Virk, Kusha Kapila, Komal Pandey, and Ankush Bahuguna, who tested out the new feature with short videos and the hashtag #FeeltitReelit. With this launch, India becomes the fourth country behind Brazil, France, and Germany where media giant Facebook is testing Reels. So how has it been faring so far?
Instagram Reels, First Opinions
Okay, before everything, let’s address the elephant in the room. Instagram Reels, without a shadow of a doubt, seems to have directly borrowed from TikTok, cashing in on the video format the banned app had made popular in the Indian mainstream. Ajit Mohan, vice president and managing director of Facebook India, said, “We were listening hard to our consumers, that they had an appetite for the format that Reels represents.” Clearly.
But the question is, does Instagram Reels borrow well?
Yes, it actually does. With its four primary characters – Audio, Speed, Effects, Timer – available as icons on the left side of the screen, Reels covers all major aspects with regard to video creation. Just like on TikTok, the video can be recorded in pieces with a start-stop operation of its record button, as well as a hands-free option. The audio/video speed can be slowed or fastened to your liking. It also has an align feature that bodes well, since it gives an approximate outline of where the users can pick up from when recording the video after a pause.
The best part is that Reels wonderfully works in tandem with Instagram’s pre-existing filters. Instagram was already leading the game with its creative story filters – which ranged from whacky animal-eared ones to mini-games to aesthetic vintage effects – sourced from users themselves. So this means, on Reels, there is something for everyone. However, it will require users to choose only from the filters they have pre-downloaded at the time of video recording. This is not a big hassle since users can always go back, explore the humongous Insta filter library, download something, and come back to record with the filter they like.
Downsides to Reels
Though Reels scores well for covering all the bases, there are a couple of options that just don’t appeal too much at the outset. The first is the music library. Though the list is quite exhaustive, the display is rather randomly arranged. For instance, the ‘Browse’ option throws up a curated list of songs that apparently move on a rotational basis. This morning, it featured ‘Black Artists’ and ‘Pride songs’, which was then replaced by ‘Love’ and ‘Family’, which has now again been replaced by the initial categories. However, it is reported that Facebook will soon enhance its audio collection through its T-Series and Zee Music tie-ups.
Though the entire video format has been customised to suit the app, a section of Instagram’s regular users are finding Reels an aberration, especially since it jarringly takes up one half of the ‘Explore’ page. This has unsettled the interface of the app, which was already disproportionately crowded with IGTV videos, stories, and promotional posts, alongside good ol’ photos.
Tarana Singhal, a 21-year old avid Instagrammer, says, “I spend the larger half of my day on Instagram. The new Reels feature, to me, does not seem that engaging. Moreover, the way it has been introduced to the Insta feed is quite unattractive. I think I’ll take some time to warm up to it.”
Arun Prakash, another 23-year old user, says, “I think Reels is pretty redundant for Instagram since we have stories and IGTV already… it is just save-able stories with more edit options. I think, reels being in its nascent stage needs a lot of development and above all needs a reason to exist amidst stories and IGTV.”
Are TikTokers Happy with Reels?
TikTok had become somewhat of a sensation in India, so much so that its video content was trickling liberally into Instagram and Twitter too. With the ban, TikTokers were rendered platform-less and were increasingly exploring other options to rebuild their legacies and fame that had come to define Indian TikTok. Now through Instagram Reels, they have an open field to come out and play. But does it live up to their expectations? Are they enjoying the feature?
It seems so. Former TikTokers like Avneet Kaur, Sameeksha Sud, and Garima Chaurasia have already begun creating short-form content on Reels, generating up to 6 million, 719K, and 320K views respectively. Mohan said in his comment, “…we’re already looking at Instagram’s penetration being fairly deep into the country.” But whether Reels will be as representative of rural India as TikTok was, only time will tell. In the meantime, one thing is clear – with TikTok-like videos becoming the norm on Instagram with Reels, deriding the banned app for its “cringe content” will, henceforth, be hypocritical.
Instagram Reels is going to be a challenge – both for former TikTokers as well as Instagram. For TikTokers, the competition is going to be tough, for they will now have to try matching pace with the big kids who already reign the Instagram space – fashion influencers, movie stars, large brands, etc. As for Instagram Reels, it has some big TikToking shoes to fill. The stakes are high, and so are the hopes of millions of people.
Picture Credit: Instagram
Tanvi Akhauri is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. Views expressed are the author’s own.