Is Instagram Reels like Batman?

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Is Instagram Reels like Batman?

Oct 21, 2020

Our first minisode of the fourth season of “The Creative Influencer” podcast is available today for download on iTunes, Spotify, and premier platforms everywhere.  In minisodes, we answer questions that our listeners have emailed Jon.  In this minisode, Jon talks about Instagram Reels and whether or not it is a true TikTok killer.


A transcript of the episode follows:

This week’s question comes from Taylor.

Hey Jon,
I’ve listened to your minisodes about TikTok and have seen this in the news recently as well. My question is what do you think about Instagram Reels? All my friends are saying it’s basically a TikTok rip-off, but not as good. I want to know what you think, since you’ve talked so much about this.

Thanks for listening and for the timely question, Taylor.

Facebook recently launched its “Reels” feature on Instagram. I’ve been reading about the feature being in a limited rollout to certain users and being in testing for the last year. I think it was a combination of both good timing and luck that the new feature is launching, right when TikTok is getting so much attention for its privacy problems.

So, yes Taylor, Reels is very similar to TikTok in terms of basic functionality. Both Reels and TikTok let you create short video loops with special effects or set to copywritten music made available to use for free in your videos made with the app.

The blatant similarity between TikTok and Reels is not surprising. This is the normal M.O. for Facebook: in just the same way that Instagram Stories was created in response to Snapchat, Reels is a response to TikTok. And imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

Now to your friend’s assessment that Reels is not as good as TikTok, I can understand why they would think that. Reels is really hard to use!

First, even getting to Reels inside of Instagram is confusing. To open the feature, you tap the Explore button (the magnifying glass) and open someone else’s reel before hitting the camera button to start creating your own reel. You can also create a reel by swiping right in Instagram to enter the camera and then selecting Reels, a button next to Story. It’s just not intuitive.

Then, once you finally get to Reels, it becomes even more difficult to use. TikTok has features that automatically clips videos to match your music (or even to suggest music that goes with the video) enabled through AI. Reels has none of this, so a video that might take just a minute or so to make in TikTok can easily take 15 minutes or longer to make in Reels.

And lastly, features aside, we have to remind ourselves of the privacy problems with TikTok that got us here in the first place. As we’ve discussed in our previous episodes on the subject, TikTok is basically spyware. But you can say the same thing about Instagram in many ways. Given how Facebook handles user data, I don’t feel that much better about what data is being collected about me as I use Instagram versus TikTok. I can’t tell you how many emails I get from listeners about how Instagram listens to them or tracks what they like.

So, is Reels like Batman? Perhaps it’s not the social media tool we wanted, but it is the one we deserve. Hard to use, but American owned.

The Creative Influencer is a bi-weekly podcast where we discuss all things creative with an emphasis on Influencers. It is hosted by Jon Pfeiffer, an entertainment attorney in Santa Monica, California.  Jon interviews influencers, creatives and the professionals who work with them.

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