Must Instagrammers become more and more like TikTok?—— Frustration and repetition in reform

Instagram is one of the oldest social media platforms that is moving towards “TikTokization” in a big or bigger way. When you open one of these apps, you’re immediately greeted by a matrix of short videos with similar interfaces across the board. But too big a step can also mean a fall – being questioned by users about “forgetting the original intent”, being publicly opposed by popular celebrities, being questioned by advertisers about the effectiveness of their placements, and being “corroborated” by a large amount of data that shows a growing distance between TikTok and …… This is not a smooth road. It’s not going well.
For Zuckerberg’s Meta, and more Instagram is gradually “TikTokization”, short video and like TikTok, is it a necessary step? And what are the setbacks in the reform process doing for them? This article interviewed advertisers, Meta stakeholders, and short-form video creators, who have their own answers. meta’s CEO, Zuckerberg, is now betting the social media giant’s immediate future on Instagram’s short-form video feature, Reels, and labeling it the company’s answer to TikTok. And according to Meta’s internal research, they have a lot of work to do.
According to a document summarizing Meta’s internal research, Instagram users spend a cumulative 17.6 million hours a day watching short videos on Instagram Reels – numerically, that’s less than a tenth of the 197.8 million hours a day that TikTok users spend watching. The document, called Creators x Reels State of the Union 2022, was released internally in August. The document notes that engagement with Reels has been declining 13.6 percent over the past four weeks, and that “the majority of Reels users are not engaging at all”. One reason for this is that Instagram has struggled to recruit users to create content. The document says that about 11 million creators in the U.S. use the platform, but only about 2.3 million of them, or 20.7 percent, post content on the platform each month.
In response to the circulating document, Devi Narasimhan, a Meta spokeswoman, said the data on browsing hours is outdated and not global, but she declined to disclose other data. Reels engagement on a monthly basis is currently up, she said. We still have work to do,” she said. But creators and businesses are seeing good results, and our commercialization is growing faster than expected because more users are watching, creating and connecting with each other through Reels than ever before.”
Meta’s shift to short-form video-enabled Reels has taken on urgency after a rough year, and in July, Meta reported the company’s first-ever revenue decline, attributed in part to Apple’s privacy tweaks to the iPhone operating system, which put Meta in a serious position to deliver personalized ads.
At the same time, the company is having trouble retaining teenage users attracted to competitors like TikTok, whose market capitalization peaked more than a year ago but had fallen by more than $620 billion as of Friday.
Meta said that since the launch of Reels in the U.S. in August 2020, users have spent one-fifth of their time using Instagram on Reels. In the second quarter, the amount of time users spent with Reels on Instagram and Facebook rose more than 30 percent.
Justin Osofsky, Instagram’s chief operating officer, said in an interview: “We’ve seen good buzz and good acceptance of Reels. But that said, we understand there’s still a lot of work to be done.” He said that short video content accounts for more than half of the private messages that Instagram users share with each other. He also said that users can easily share Reels with friends, thus differentiating the service compared to others.
Internal documents show that nearly a third of the videos were created on other platforms, often from TikTok, as evidenced by watermarks or borders in the videos, and Meta says the platform “downgraded” the videos by pushing them to a smaller audience to minimize incentives for publishers. However, these videos are still proliferating. So for Reels users, the videos they often see are “lifted” from another, more popular platform, says Osofsky. “People are telling us that they want original, high-quality content.”
Landen Purifoy, 22, a creator from Plano, Texas, makes videos for platforms such as TikTok, most of which feature funny sounds and music he makes using a device called a talk box. Many of his videos have gotten more than a million views on TikTok. This spring, Purifoy posted the same video on TikTok, Instagram Reels, and various other short-form video platforms. The video garnered millions of views on each platform, except Instagram – which had less than 100,000 views. The content producer said, “No one is going to make original short-form video content for Instagram, it just doesn’t make any sense.”

To encourage users like him to post more content, Meta announced last year that it was launching a fund that would pay out a total of $1 billion to creators by the end of the year. So far, $120 million has been paid out by Instagram Reels, the internal document says. The document also reads, “Meta’s commercialized product is homogeneous with competing products, but its product is limited in size, has few paying creators, and has a low payout ratio.” A spokesperson for Meta said the payment data was not updated and did not include the fund’s separate payment program for Facebook creators.
In August 2020, TikTok announced the creation of a creator fund and said it would pay out $1 billion over the next three years. meta’s advertising business remains large, with individual users generating far more revenue than TikTok. a Bernstein Research report in August estimated that in 2021, Facebook and An August report by Bernstein Research estimated that in 2021, Facebook and Instagram will generate $32 billion and more than $21 billion in U.S. revenue, respectively, compared to $3 billion for TikTok. But Meta’s advertising business is facing headwinds, particularly with Apple’s changes to its privacy-related policies last year, and Meta previously said it expects to see $10 billion in revenue hit this year as a result of those changes.
Meta is also continuing to address negative user perceptions, the documents show. Meta has long surveyed users about their opinions of its business and converted their answers into percentage scores. For Instagram users, the number who think the company “cares” about them fell from nearly 70 percent in 2019 to about 20 percent earlier this summer. For the question of whether the product is “good for the world,” the score dropped from more than 60 percent in 2019 to just over 45 percent, which a Meta spokesperson said did not reflect the company’s internal data, but declined to elaborate.
The company also polled users on a separate question that in many ways went to the heart of the tech giant’s current predicament. “Do you think Meta’s heyday was before or after this?” The company declined to disclose how users answered the question.
Some of the questions that will affect Meta reflect at least a broader shift in how people view social media, and platforms such as TikTok have also raised concerns about unhealthy content and its impact on younger users. Other social media companies have seen their business models disrupted. Late last month, Snap Inc., the maker of the popular app Snapchat, said it was laying off 20 percent of its workforce, as well as halting several projects and reorganizing its business.
Meta has been resilient over the years and has successfully responded to changes in the competitive landscape by executing several strategic shifts. Since Zuckerberg developed Facebook in his Harvard dorm room in 2004, Meta has been a pioneer in social media and has long been a no-holds-barred juggernaut in the industry. Over the years, Meta has been resilient and successfully responded to changes in the competitive landscape by executing several strategic shifts, and in 2012, Zuckerberg made a mobile-focused product a priority for Facebook, even though it was originally built to serve desktop users. A few years later, the company began to introduce “burn-as-you-go” functionality with Instagram Stories, which was criticized for replicating Snapchat’s functionality. Both of these moves ultimately proved to be prescient – although it wasn’t until some time later that Stories grew in popularity. It also helped the company maintain its dominance in the social media world for nearly two decades, and its market capitalization briefly touched over $1 trillion.
Meta faced a huge challenge in rolling out Reels, as the service was central to reshaping the way the company operated. While the explosion of short-form video platforms has posed a huge challenge, when TikTok officially launched in the U.S. less than five years ago, much of the criticism of the platform didn’t stop it from becoming a hit. According to a Bernstein report released in August, the amount of time spent on Tiktok per user per day in the U.S. grew 67 percent annually from 2018 to 2021, far outpacing its competitors. During that time, the average annual growth in time spent on Facebook and Instagram was 9% and 11%, respectively. As TikTok grew, so did the popularity of short videos, with analysts at Bernstein Research writing, “The 2020s are the decade of short videos.”
After TikTok experienced a spike in popularity during the New Crown epidemic in the early 2020s, both Meta and Google’s YouTube launched their own short-form video offerings. Zuckerberg trumpeted Reels as the company’s fastest-growing content product, but TikTok has maintained its lead, and Meta’s internal documents state that “creators continue to see TikTok as synonymous with short-form video and prioritize it as the platform that will drive them broad-based traffic.”
Meta’s product has been successful by pushing content to users from friends, family, and others they know and choose to follow. TikTok, on the other hand, succeeds by showing users content recommended by algorithms. meta faced a huge challenge in rolling out Reels, as the service is central to reshaping the way the company operates. meta’s products – the top app is Facebook, followed by Instagram –Meta’s products – the top apps are Facebook, followed by Instagram – have been successful by pushing content to users from friends, family, and other people they know and choose to follow. that pushes the types of videos they want to watch. This approach pushes personalized content based on people’s interests and helps users discover new things they never wanted to see or would enjoy.
This summer, Instagram internally accelerated the launch of Panavision, a service more akin to TikTok, and like TikTok, the app provides users with content, including pushing out tons of reels from unfollowed accounts.
The move sparked immediate backlash from users, drawing criticism from celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, who retweeted a card on Instagram Story that read, “Make Instagram Instagram again (don’t try to be Tiktok, I just want to be Instagram). Tiktok, I just want to see cute pics of my friends) dropped by: everyone.”
Instagram has said in the days since that it will push less content to users from unfollowed accounts, at least for the time being – but Zuckerberg and Instagram head Adam Mosseri have made it clear that this is the direction the company is going.
In late August, Mosseri said via a video posted to Instagram, “We’ve poured way too much energy into video over the past few months. But we still believe that video is an important long-term trend.” But one big question is whether Instagram users, and especially creators, will jump on the bandwagon. 36-year-old New York-based creator Danny Freeman runs an account called @DannyLovesPasta that creates culinary content for a million TikTok fans. He considers TikTok to be his main platform, but he also posts content on Instagram Reels and thinks the two complement each other.
He says he’s noticed that more visually appealing content performs better on Instagram Reels, while videos of him talking to the camera about a certain topic work better on TikTok. He said, “I do think different content performs well on Instagram.” He explains that he reposts about 30 percent of his TikTok videos to Instagram Reels, but sometimes re-edits and fine-tunes them a bit before reposting them.In July, he posted a recipe video to TikTok that got about 440,000 views. He posted the same video on Instagram Reels, which got 1 million views. He said, “I think because that was a more recipe-oriented video and more visual, it was maybe better for Instagram or the audience.”
According to research firm Insider Intelligence, more than 70 percent of Instagram’s audience is 25 years old or older, compared to just 56 percent for TikTok. This suggests that Instagram users typically have more disposable income, which makes them more attractive to advertisers.Mark Shmulik, an analyst at Bernstein, argues that Meta charges more for its ads, in part because ads on the platform incentivize many users to take actions such as clicking on a link and making a purchase. TikTok’s ads, on the other hand, are more similar to YouTube’s and usually just promote brands. These advertisers pay simply to reach as many viewers as possible, just like TV ads. More than 70% of Instagram’s audience is aged 25 or older, compared to only 56% for TikTok. This suggests that Instagram users typically have more disposable income, making them more attractive to advertisers.
For years, Brooklyn-based jewelry company Alexis Bittar has been advertising necklaces, bracelets and earrings on Instagram. Naowna Simon, the company’s chief revenue officer, says she knows these ads bring in new customers and build lasting relationships with them. She says, “In addition to the actual return on sales, we’ve seen that with paid ads, customers sign up for our email list or are more likely to continue to interact with us informally even if they don’t actually click to follow.” She said the company’s effectiveness in posting static images has declined as Instagram is focusing on promoting Reels.
The jewelry company doesn’t advertise on TikTok, but has an account on the app. She said, “We’re still in the initial stages of experimenting with TikTok because we’re not sure if it will be the best place to gather brand resources. It was just a fun platform.”


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