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Instagram goes all-in on Reels - and annoys its users

Instagram has released a controversial update to their app, replacing the "Create" button that uploads photos with a new button that takes the user into "Reels" - Instagram's short-form video competitor to TikTok.

A new shopping button has also been added to the bottom bar, with the Explore button being relegated to the top right-hand corner of the app along with the old Create button.

The new buttons, taking the place of the old buttons

Instagram's spin-machine was running at a full six-trillion RPM to try and convince its users this was anything other than a desperate attempt to claw users back from TikTok and squeeze shopping dollars out of users still loyal to the platform... and mostly failing.

Today we’re announcing some big changes to Instagram — a Reels tab and a Shop tab.

The Reels tab makes it easier for you to discover short, fun videos from creators all over the world and people just like you.

The Shop tab gives you a better way to connect with brands and creators and discover products you love.


Instagram's users, meanwhile, were not convinced and the hashtag #instagramupdate has been trending on Twitter with users expressing their frustration with the platform. Broadly, and predictably, Instagram users don't want the platform to turn into TikTok or Amazon.


Ouch... the votes speak for themselves here

Replacing features, or "pivoting", without alienating existing users is a problem faced by social networks whenever a new competitor enters their space.

By offering something new, and a new space not yet dominated by existing creators, TikTok was able to grab a healthy chunk of people's attention. Incumbent providers, like Instagram, fear their user engagement levels dropping as users turn their attention to a competitor and so are faced with a tough choice - double down on their original reason d'etre and focus on users who love their platform or play catch-up with copycat features to try and stop user attrition. Invariably, social networks seem to go for option B and, invariably, it's unpopular... at least at the start.

It's not the first time that Facebook or Instagram have released an unpopular update and I would expect them to weather this storm. A large chunk of their userbase don't have friends or contacts or followers on TikTok and will relish the opportunity to jump on the short-form video bandwagon, especially as it's relatively easy to download and repost from one platform to another. Facebook's "Stories" is already heavily populated with re-posted TikTok videos and, in reality, it doesn't matter to social networks where content is created - it matters where it is consumed.

And as for the shopping button? Well, the answer here is even more simple - capturing and retaining high value creators is another way to protect your social media platform. Giving creators an easy way to monetise their online presence makes Instagram an attractive prospect for a wide range on influencers who might otherwise migrate to other platforms. That merch don't sell itself, right?

What should you do about Instagram and TikTok and your brand?

First and foremost, my first rule of social media promotion is that you don't get to choose the platform. Wherever your customers are, which platform they are on, they are talking about you... hopefully.

So, if you may not think you're a "TikTok" brand, but that's not really your decision. If you want to engage with people who are on that platform then the only choice is to be on that platform.

But, just because you are moving to a new platform that doesn't mean that you need to rework your brand to suit that platform. Your brand personality is your brand personality and your brand's tone of voice should remain your tone of voice. It's OK to adapt, but adopting a "false face" approach to social media is rarely successful.

What you can do very effectively is re-purpose content across platforms. Got a nice long YouTube video? Great, now:

  • Take screenshots from it, add in quotes, and post to Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn
  • Edit out short sections from it and post to Instagram Reels, Facebook Stories, and TikTok

Creating long-form content and then re-purposing it across different channels is one of the most cost-effective ways you can increase your output and reach on social media. In The Truth About SEO, I call it Write-Once-Publish-Often.

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