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#Social Media

TikToks Uncertain Fate Paves Way for Instagram Reels

You might be wondering, ‘What the heck is happening in the social space right now?’ and ‘Why have I prioritized wildly average short-form content over sleep?’ The second question may just be me, but let’s focus on the first and start with the most recent updates involving TikTok:

1. President Donald Trump issued a pair of Executive Orders on August 7th one directed toward ByteDance (TikTok) and one for Tencent (WeChat) which calls for banning these Chinese-owned companies due to the alleged national security threats these apps pose.

2. Having recently surpassed 100MM users (in the United States alone), TikTok released a statement noting the orders came as a complete ‘shock’ while Tencent, one of the largest investors in online games (Fortnite, Call of Duty, and Riot) and owner of the messenger/social/commerce app WeChat, has yet to make a statement.

As rumblings of a TikTok acquisition loomed prior to the Executive Orders, with conglomerates Microsoft and Twitter among suspected contenders, the future of the app remains unclear. What is certain, is TikTok’s uncertainty triggered an uphill battle for the social platform. Nearly overnight, Instagram Reels and Triller have obtained a toehold on the short-form video landscape. To keep up with the ever-changing landscape, here’s what brands need to know about these app/product expansions and how brands can immediately capitalize on the increased competition in the social app space.

 

Although TikTok did not invent short-form content, they undoubtedly inspired the evolution of the short, user-generated, meme-style, musically driven (and Musical.ly-inspired) content that has infiltrated social feeds. Instagram Reels is a TikTok-proclaimed ‘copycat product’ which sits as an extension within the existing Instagram ecosystemwhereas Triller more directly competes with TikTok with an even greater emphasis on celebrity users and music creation and dissemination.

Let’s go deeper into each….

Instagram Reels:

Can Facebook create their own products? Of course, but recent product launches could lead users to answer with a soft ‘no’. Influenced by the likes of Snap, Amazon, and most recently, TikTok, last week Facebook launched Instagram Reels. Although Instagram’s product chief, Vishal Shah, states ‘the timing of the launch is coincidental and the feature has been in development for more than a year,’ it’s no secret Facebook is notorious for their unofficial ‘borrow and make-it-even-better business model,’ which has a proven track record (think, Instagram Stories). Although, it is worth noting Facebook's previous attempt to compete with TikTokLasso, failed. 

As opposed to IGTV, which launched as an Instagram extension and supplemental IGTV app, Reels seamlessly ties into the Instagram user experience. Reels invites users to create vertical, 15 second videos through an in-app editing studio and share content with friends and followers. Again, think Instagram Stories, but make it broad. Reels show up in dedicated placements within Feed and Explore, enabling creators to reach new audiences globally.

Triller:

Triller has been making headlines this month, most notably for becoming the most downloaded app in the App Store, but they have been around since 2015, two years before TikTok’s debut. Triller is an AI-powered music video app and talent discovery platform that allows users to create professional-looking videos in a matter of seconds. Sounds familiar, right? Fairly. The differentiator is Triller has secured deals with major celebrities (angel investors include Snoop Dogg, The Weekend, Marshmellow, and Lil Wayne) and record labels, centering their app around music. This explains why their algorithm tends to favor music-based content over voiced dialogue, despite having two public in-app feeds: one called ‘music,’ the other ‘social’. Aniz Uzzaman, general partner of Pegasus Tech Ventures, an early investor in Triller, called out, “Celebrity-quality content is one thing that sets Triller apart from TikTok,” referring to Triller creators Alicia Keys, Cardi B, and other big names.

Over the past two weeks, Triller has expanded both their user base and team, bringing on the likes of TikTokstars Noah Beck and Josh Richards, Richards being named their new Chief Strategy Officer at only 18 years old. This strategic move generated an immediate influx of TikTok stars and their corresponding cult-like followings to Triller.

Differentiated Offerings:

Although TikTok, Instagram Reels, and Triller content adheres to the expected short-form video themes, there are some key app nuances worth calling out:

Paid Advertising Opportunities

Over the past year, TikTok has invested greatly in both their advertising products and internal brand partnership teams, recently launching their self-service auction interface, removing a large barrier to entry for businesses.  The social app has a myriad of advertising offerings ranging from First-View Brand Takeovers to In-Feed to most famously, Hashtag Challenges, which allows brands to create content around a hashtag and contract influencers as a part of the paid package to increase scale.

Instagram, with arguably the most robust advertising capabilities among social platforms, is following Facebook’s organic-first, paid-second approach when it comes to new products. Facebook & Instagram Stories, Explore, and IGTV, all launched without paid opportunities. Instagram Reels is currently organic only, but it is presumably only a matter of time until this placement becomes available within Ads Manager, where advertisers will be able to opt-in to begin testing as a part of the larger Instagram network.

Triller has been slow moving when it comes to paid opportunities for brands, and after quick scrolls through the app, it is clear advertising is limited and virtually nonexistent. We are still waiting on official response from Triller product teams on their existing direct advertising capabilities, but it will likely take time until a seamless, auction-based interface is available.

 

Influencer Monetization

There is no denying dedicated fans will follow their favorite creators from platform to platform, proven by the fact that 68% of users come to Instagram to interact with creators. Therefore, all three social apps are making strides to keep or convince influencers to choose their platform.

 

TikTok announced a $200MM Creator Fund and is now looking to expand this to ~$2B. While previously, creators could monetize their live streams, the new program will pay select creators for making videos. Specific eligibility requirements and creator limits are still TBD, but users must be 18+ and have amassed a baseline number of followers.

 

Instagram already allows for influencers and creators to earn revenue through brand deals and sponsored posts, but Instagram doesn’t directly pay people for content. Well, they didn’t - until Reels. Instagram offered financial incentives to persuade TikTok creators to begin posting on Reels. Evergreen monetization remains unavailable.

 

Triller’s monetization efforts fall more closely in-line with TikTok. Fans can exchange real money for ‘Triller Gold’. However, the drawback is this ‘Gold’ can only be given to verified users whereas on TikTok, unverified users are eligible.

 

Creative Capabilities

To date, TikTok hosts the most sophisticated and seamless editing interface, but from an organic content creation standpoint, there are some quick platform differences brands should be aware of:

  • Maximum Video Length: TikTok- 60 seconds, Triller- 30 seconds, Reels- 15 seconds.
  • Privacy: Triller and TikTok gives users option to choose public versus private pre and post launch, whereas Reels does not allow you to make a video private once live. Reels does, however, allow you to choose if you’d like the Reel to live on your master Instagram Feed or only on the Reels tab.
  • Saving Content: All apps allow for saving created content, but only Reels allows you to export without stitching on a branded logo overlay.
  • Audio: All enable users to create sounds or choose from a music library, but Reels does not allow users to upload new sounds directly into music library.
  • Duets: Creating content based off other on-platform content (videos, comments) is native to only TikTok.
  • View Counts: TikTok updates views in real-time, Triller has a slight delay, and Reels often requires closing and re-opening app to see latest view count.
  • Maximum Caption Length: TikTok- 150 characters, Triller- ~100 characters, Reels- 2,200, which aligns with Instagram In-Feed caption length, allowing for more hashtags.
  • Experience: TikTok’s interface is by far the most advanced, followed by Reels. Triller trails as the app sees lagged load time and provides an all-around less user-friendly experience, proven by the frustrated app online reviews, but Triller is investing in their product given recent success and will likely implement improvements in near future.
  • Hashtag Tracking: When selecting relevant hashtags, TikTok and Reels show hashtag volume whereas Triller keeps volume private.
  • Cover Photo: Reels users can upload a custom cover photo, TikTok users can choose and edit their cover photo, but not upload directly. Triller does not appear to allow users to choose or upload cover photo.
  • Location Tagging: Triller is the only app that enables location tagging when posting content. Instagram has this functionality, but it is not currently available for Reels.
  • Editing Posts: Once post is live, Reels and Triller allow copy edits, TikTok does not.
  • Insights: All platforms have limited insights, showing only view count, comments, likes. Despite Reels being a part of the Instagram family, deeper analytics are currently unavailable.

Why Brands Should Take Advantage ASAP

Despite the paid opportunities currently available on TikTok, and the lack thereof on Reels and Triller, there are still three key justifications for brands to immediately engage with Instagram Reels and Triller:

1.  Increase Reach & Video Views

Given Reels is new, content volume is still growing. Brands who get in NOW will see higher video view rates compared to previous In-Feed content, while exposing themselves to a larger audience, driving follower growth. One influencer saw an increase of 500%+ when comparing In-Feed video views to Reels and follower growth has exceeded 1,000% WoW since activating Reels.

2.  Ease of Platform Adoption

Jumping onto a new platform can be stressful and intimidating, but for brands with an existing TikTok presence, Reels and Triller adoption can be as simple as exporting TikTok videos, cropping out TikTok logo, and pushing live. Archived Instagram Stories can also be quickly reconfigured and made into a successful Reel.

3.  Expand Influencer Marketing Efforts

Even without direct buys available, from a paid advertising perspective, brands can and should activate influencers ASAP to capitalize on the incremental reach opportunity or to help build out their own Reels and Triller profiles through branded, influencer-created content.

With advertisers exploring alternative options to TikTok as implications of the Executive Order play out, Instagram Reels and Triller provide immediate, viable options for brands. Although we cannot undermine the strength of community that exists on TikTok, we will likely see more creators and their followers explore these platforms and wherever users go- advertisers must follow.