With TikTok rapidly gaining popularity, Facebook tasked its teams at Instagram for an opportunity to capitalize on this new social medium. This week, they formally rolled out a new feature called Reels, a highly anticipated launch that has been in development for over a year. This blog post is part one of three that will dive into Reels and TikTok and the recent developments between these two platforms. 

Purported to be the long-awaited TikTok killer, Instagram Reels mimics the feel of TikTok posts in both its experience and creation. Short-form videos playing in a loop can be interacted with, allowing users to comment, like, and even follow an account on the same screen, similar to TikTok. The Reels are shown similarly to TikTok’s For You page algorithmically matching users to content based on the pages followed and content engaged on. When creating a Reel, a user can add music, stickers, and effects previously available only with IG Stories, and the additional abilities to use timers and control the video speed.

The key differentiators? Instagrams’ reach and experience.

  • Scale. Reels is an add-on to the current IG platform and benefits from its existing 1 billion+ audience worldwide. Tiktok has 800 million users globally. Tiktok holds the edge in the number of countries available, operating in 155 countries compared with Reels being active in just over 50.
  • Music. The primary reason why Reels is available in just one-third of the countries of TikTok is music licensing. Instagram utilizes a licensed catalog of popular music and can only launch where it has rights. While TikTok does have some licensing deals with independent music labels, it has faced scrutiny for its unregulated use of music. Details on the agreements with major music labels have not been public knowledge. Most popular songs used on TikTok are uploaded by creators who do not have the rights to the content.
  • Video length. While TikTok allows up to 60 seconds, Reels is stringently short form, capping creators at 15 seconds. Though this does allow users to flow through more videos, it may limit creators. 

Drawing parallels to when IG launched Stories, its answer to Snapchat, early doubts, and hiccups are something Facebook’s leadership team will for sure have to come up against.. While there has yet to be any advertising release for Reels, Vishal Shah, Instagram’s VP of product announced they are already testing monetization options for creators.


Although the Explore feed seems crowded now, Reels provides an opportunity for brands to differentiate themselves. If you have questions about how to tackle building your first Instagram Reels post, please reach out to marketing@directagents.com.  


— Jenna Levy, Senior Yield Analyst at Direct Agents