Instagram Introduces TikTok Lookalike “Reels”
By Tracey Dowdy
With President Trump promising to ban TikTok unless it can find a U.S. buyer by September 15, Instagram’s timing on the release of its new feature Reels couldn’t be better. With Reels, Facebook’s – Instagram’s parent company – goal is not just to capture TikTok’s audience if the app does end up banned in the U.S. — it’s to snag them and keep them even if TikTok does find a U.S. buyer.
Unsurprisingly, Reels is similar to TikTok as it lets you create short-form videos up to 15 seconds long, add popular music, and choose from a variety of filters and effects. The feature is contained entirely inside of Instagram; it’s not a new app. You can decide to make your profile public so you can be the next Addison Rae or Charli D’Amelio or keep your content private. Reels created under private accounts will only post to the user’s Feed and Stories.
As with other Instagram posts, users can save their Reels as Drafts while they’re a work in progress. When ready to go live, Reels can be users can be uploaded to Stories, Stories with Close Friends only, or as a D.M.
To create a Reel, open Instagram, and tap on the camera icon. When the camera opens, slide right under the shutter to open Reels. You can record one video, a series of clips, or upload videos from your photo gallery, manipulate the speed, apply special effects, set a timer, and add audio. You can send Reels directly to your friends on Instagram because Reels lives within the Instagram app.
Instagram’s product director Robby Stein said that while TikTok popularized the short video format, the two products are quite different. “I think TikTok deserves a ton of credit for popularizing formats in this space, and it’s just great work. But at the end of the day, no two products are exactly alike, and ours are not either. We’re going big with entertainment and [making Explore] the permanent place for you to go lean back, relax, and be inspired every day. It’s our hope that with this format we have a new chapter of entertainment on Instagram.”
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.