Shreyas Kulkarni
Social Media

Instagram's hunger for Reels is unsatiable

They're everywhere. But, people are tired of them, the Kardashian sisters have railed against the TikTok aping, and has the static-post become obsolete?

Stillness is the antidote for surviving a chaotic world. Social media and Instagram, in particular, will disagree with this adage.

What was once a world of cute dog photographs and brand posts with witty captions, has now turned into a world of short-form videos, live streams, stories, and 2D animations stringed by music mashups.

Instagram is no longer a mere photo-sharing app. A couple of days ago, it announced all new video posts shorter than 15 minutes will be shared as reels. The Meta-owned app launched its short-form video offering in 2020 and it has gone on to become an all-consuming force.

Instagram's hunger for Reels is unsatiable
The Verge

Instagram users, including the most influential ones – sisters Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian, have started to rally against the change. They want Instagram to stay true to its original purpose and not imitate ByteDance-owned short-form video app TikTok.

The two voices are not mere celebrities. Jenner and Kardashian hold the ability to sway opinion and inflict financial damage.

A 2018 tweet from Jenner against Snapchat wiped $1.3 billion from the social media app’s fortunes. She has 361 million Insta followers, while Kardashian boasts 326 million fans.

This collective angst against Instagram is because of the app’s ever-changing algorithm, which seemingly benefits Reels and whose singular purpose is to apparently take on and eventually beat TikTok.

Users miss seeing updates from their friends, what their favourite brands are up to, and reading posts from their favourite creators. Instead, they have to see suggested Reels and branded content basis data the app collects from users’ time spent on Instagram.

The first dislike against Reels

In India, the biggest casualty of the app so far is The Whole Truth. Earlier this month, the clean label packaged foods brand announced that it is taking a break from Instagram.

Speaking to afaqs!, co-founder Shashank Mehta said, “… the trend has moved from deep content to frivolous short-form content and that no longer serves our purpose. So, we decided to take a break.”

The other side’s story

This tirade against Reels, is only one side of the story. Jigal Bhanushali, senior manager, Sportskeeda, says, “Reels is a godsend for platforms and creators, because it is where you can show off your creative side.”

Bhanushali handles Sportskeeda’s combat wrestling beat, which includes individual Instagram accounts for boxing, wrestling and mixed martial arts. He was earlier the social media director of finance news site

He says one needs to approach each content format differently. “If it’s a news article, then we approach it from static and stories POV, Reels is purely for viewership…”

When asked if the influx of Reels has made the good old static posts obsolete, he disagrees and reveals that while in viewership terms, Reels has raced ahead, with some touching the 800,000 views mark, “some of our highest engagement is still on static format.”

Bhanushali believes that going forward, Instagram will become an all-encompassing app, courtesy of all its features, such as live stories, long-form posts, multiple images in the same post (making it a thread), Reels, IGTV and directing traffic to your website through the link in bio.

Instagram’s chief just confirmed that the shift to video will continue, but static/photo posts will stay, reminds Aftab Naqvi, global CEO and co-founder, Goozoop Group. He feels that “it is all about how the audience is consuming content and how platforms are responding to it.”

Naqvi states the cliché of content being king still holds true, and how we adapt to evolving mediums and formats remains a key case-to-case strategy for all our clients. “Not every Reel content gets better engagement, not all static content is dead.”

Client call

Reels is near ubiquity and this must have influenced brands that advertise on Instagram.

Says Naqvi, “Our strategic consulting to clients is to play across formats based on content.” He believes the shift will continue to AR/MR content, as average content interaction is around 12 seconds with AR interactive content.

“The thought is to create audience-profiting content that contributes to brand salience.”

Sowmya Iyer, founder and CEO, DViO Digital, feels since its debut, brands and creators find the Reels format “reels in more reach and visibility” and, as it betters a brand’s overall Instagram metrics, “every client wants to experiment with this trending format.”

However, this format will not necessarily work for all sectors. Iyer mentions, “Fashion, entertainment, education and DIY content will profit the most from Reels… for industries like finance and IT, where the main focus is technical information and demographics, statics or explanatory videos will add more value.”

Speaking about whether a brand should go for Reels or static posts, she says there is no one-size-fits-all rule. However, “given that Instagram plans to prioritise video content in 2022, Reels seems like a safe bet for earning more reach and engagement for brands and content creators.”

‘Reel’ing ahead

Instagram seems resolute. Co-founder Adam Mosseri responded to Jenner and Kardashian and, among other things, said, “We’re going to continue to support photos… I do believe more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time…”

This may spell wonders for Indian brands, because a RedSeer report on short-form video this month says the space can take up to 10-20% of the digital ad pie. Short-form apps are looking at a $12-15 billion monetisation opportunity by 2030, with advertising, video commerce and gifting leading the way.

The only worry is the inability of most, if not all, short-form apps to monetise their offerings. TikTok has managed to overcome this challenge and raked in $4 billion in advertising revenue in 2021.

“It is difficult to monetise Reels,” states Iyer. She explains that one of the two types of reels is to pay and get content creators and then promote the content they post. While content creators are affordable, celebrities and micro and macro influencers are not always real-time effective.

“The client doesn’t want to pay, they want cost-free Reels from user-generated content... Brands appreciate it and put a message to the user asking for permission to use the Reel, instead of having a content curator create one.” Going forward, this will become a more common practice, remarks Iyer.

“Ads on Reels have not gone to all audiences at this stage,” Arun Srinivas, director – global business group (India), Meta, told afaqs! earlier in July, adding, “We are still trying to learn and scale up. As a responsible platform, we want to deliver value to advertisers.”

Going forward, one can’t quite predict Instagram’s changing tracks and algorithms accurately. So, brands, platforms, creators and users will have to remain flexible and try to adapt to what the app churns out.

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