Instagram’s recently announced Reels feature will not hamper the rapid growth of Chinese app TikTok, according to one social media expert.
Since rebranding from Musical.ly to TikTok in August last year, the app – which invites users to lip-sync, dance or act out comedy sketches in 15-second videos – has enjoyed enormous success, hitting 1.5 billion global downloads last week, per analytics site Sensor Tower.
TikTok’s parent company ByteDance was last year deemed the world’s most valuable startup.
But the unbridled ascendency of TikTok was placed under threat earlier this month, when Instagram released plans for ‘Reels’.
Instagram openly acknowledges Reels is a similar product to TikTok, with company director of product management Robby Stein telling the media “at the end of the day, sharing video with music is a pretty universal idea we think everyone might be interested in using”.
With over 1 billion active monthly users and 500 million stories shared per day on the platform, Instagram hopes it will bring in some of TikTok’s users through its sheer scale.
But according to CEO and co-founder of The Influencer Marketing Factory Alessandro Bogliari, TikTok’s unique approach and young audience mean it can hold off the looming threat of Reels.
“TikTok tells the authentic stories of the daily life of teenagers, that is what younger audiences want now,” he told B&T.
“TikTok has already this amazing power to get in front of millions of people, so it should not fear Instagram at all.”
When asked about TikTok’s recent growth, Bogliari attributed the success of the platform to the community feel of the platform.
“What, in my opinion, really drove the traction has been the “Vine” vibe of the app (all the memes culture) that brought the users to remix videos, posting duets and participating to hashtag challenges,” he said.
While Bogliari has confidence in the platform, some still believe the threat of the Facebook-owned Instagram is too great for the Chinese startup.
Daresay client lead Thomas Grainer wrote a piece for B&T yesterday, suggesting Reels could seriously threaten TikTok.
He pointed to the fact Instagram has a readymade base of both users and advertisers, while TikTok still offers limited advertising capabilities.
Another factor that could harm the longevity of TikTok is its perceived ties to the Chinese government.
“There have been concerns raised about TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, around data security and privacy issues, which has resulted in a US national security investigation,” Grainer said.
“Brands should be mindful of how they participate on the platform in light of how this could expose them to reputational risk.”
TikTok co-founder Alex Zhu last week attempted to dispell these concerns, telling The New York Times he would defy Chinese President Xi Jinping if he demanded information.
“The data of TikTok is only being used by TikTok for TikTok users,” Zhu said in the interview.
When asked what he would do if Xi asked him to remove a video, Zhu responded: “I would turn him down”.