Influencers Don’t See Instagram Reels’ Expansion to 30 Seconds as a Threat to TikTok

The extra time is seen as a positive, but not a game-changer

Instagram doubled the maximum length of Reels in September. Instagram

Instagram’s move last month to extend the maximum length of its Reels short-form video feature from 15 seconds to 30 seconds sparked several conversations in the influencer and creator community about how to take advantage of the extra time, but few concerns about its impact on TikTok—the platform that Reels was inspired by.

TikTok users can actually create videos as long as 60 seconds by stringing four 15-second segments together, but its music licensing agreements limit clips of songs to 15 seconds. With music serving as the backbone for must content on the platform, 15 second remains the norm.

Video ads on TikTok can run anywhere from 5 seconds to 60 seconds, although the company suggests that brands keep them in the 9- to 15-second range. Video ads in its newsfeed are not limited in length, but TikTok suggests between 5 and 60 seconds for these units.

Members of the influencer and creator communities were excited at some of the potential uses of the extra time in Reels.

William Brown, senior manager of platforms at social content monetization platform Fullscreen, said in an email, “For brands, this update allows more time to do things like showcase products and communicate information. For creators, the update allows more time to express themselves and attract new audiences.”

Evy Lyons, vice president of marketing at influencer marketing platform Traackr, saw a more practical benefit for creators, pointing out that they will be able to repurpose their longer TikTok videos on Reels, “incentivizing them to use both platforms for anything they do.”

Brown also believes creators will lean more on Instagram’s music library, saying, “Although Instagram made a music library available for Reels, the previous 15-second restriction limited creators. Now, creators can use up to 30 seconds of a song from the Instagram music library. This should lead to more engagement with Reels and more Reels content posted by creators.”

Generation Z remains the coveted audience for platforms, but Ricky Ray Butler, CEO of BEN—which uses artificial intelligence to provide product placement across platforms including Instagram, TikTok, Twitch and YouTube—believes Instagram will use Reels as a way to maintain its older audience and, if the feature proves successful, it will be implemented on the platform of parent company Facebook as well.

Monetization opportunities have not been introduced for Reels yet, but the potential intrigued many in the industry.

Butler believes Instagram should have made monetization a first priority for Reels, saying in an interview, “What all the platforms need to be realizing is that their competitors are bigger threats if they haven’t figured out how to keep the creators, influencers and celebrities happy.”

Brown said 30-second Reels will allow for better monetization of the feature when Instagram decides to go that route, and Keith Bendes, head of brand strategy at influencer marketing platform Linqia, added in an email, “We anticipate even more changes in the coming year, including the ability to run paid media inside Reels and the inclusion of shopping capabilities.”

As for TikTok, while it is dealing with a plethora of issues, the emergence of Reels doesn’t appear to be one of them.

The strength of its algorithm was cited by several in the sector.

Alexander Frolov, co-founder and CEO of HypeAuditor, an AI-powered tool that helps brands and marketers match up with the right influencers, said in an email, “The greatest TikTok achievement is its recommendations algorithm and the simplicity of content creation, while the biggest challenge facing Reels, Dubsmash, Byte and Triller is to beat it and make the product even better.”

Lyons attributed much of TikTok’s success to its algorithm being content-based instead of network-based, and the potential this creates for content to go viral: “This is what really put TikTok on the map—the idea of an ‘instant influencer,’ or someone who can suddenly become very famous essentially overnight on the internet.”

Evan Horowitz, CEO of creative studio Movers+Shakers, also called out TikTok’s “embrace of imperfection and authenticity,” along with its content discovery experience.

TikTok’s ease of use was cited as a factor by Butler, who believes Instagram must make Reels more intuitive, saying friends and creators have told him it’s not very easy to work with music and navigate through the creation process.

“Instagram has experience in replicating features where they’ve executed really well,” he added. “I don’t think it executed really well on Reels.”

He also believes that Instagram should add the ability for viewers of Reels to exit the platform through links, saying, “Our company would have incentivized influencers to start creating Reels. Brands will pay influencers more money when they have better data to measure when it comes to key performance indicators.”

Overall, the consensus seemed to be that while Reels would benefit from the new video length, those benefits wouldn’t come at TikTok’s expense.

“Tweaking Reels’ feature set doesn’t address the main barriers to broader adoption,” Horowitz said. “We’d like to see Reels make discovering new accounts feel more organic and authentic—and, more important, for it to distance itself from Instagram’s highly polished aesthetic.”

“It will take a lot of time for brands to switch to Reels, Triller or similar platforms,” Frolov said. “First, the market needs to understand how it works and what metrics it should use when selecting influencers. Second, after the pandemic, brands have become more frugal with spending habits and are hesitant to allocate money to unpredictable marketing channels.”

And Lyons concluded, “Unless Instagram changes the format and underlying algorithms of its app—which is unlikely—it will always be in a slightly different category than TikTok.” David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.