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Instagram: Reels helps Instagram cash in on TikTok ban in India

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Instagram has rolled back some new app features following global user backlash this week, including criticism from one of its most popular users Kylie Jenner, that Meta’s photo and video sharing platform is trying to mimic TikTok.

However, Instagram’s attempts to replace TikTok seemed to have paid off in India two years after the Chinese app was banned here as Instagram was the most downloaded viral short video social media app on both App store and Google Play in the country since January, as per data shared by Sensor Tower with ET.

Instagram clocked 118,700,000 downloads in the country between January and June while Facebook clocked 86,600,000 downloads and popular homegrown short video apps clocked downloads ranging from 24,200,000 to 40,800,000, Sensor Tower data showed.

Instagram was quick to capitalise on its short video format Reels following the TikTok ban. Two months after launching Reels in India through a ‘broad test’ after the TikTok ban, Facebook’s photo sharing app Instagram had launched a separate tab for Reels only for Indian users in September 2020.

A Meta spokesperson said India is one of the leading markets for Reels for Meta.

“Trends on Reels transcend borders,” the person said. “Some global trends come into India, and acquire a meaning of their own, and then some from India go global, like the ‘Kacha badam’ which was sung by a peanut seller in Birbhum district in West Bengal and had creators outside of India making Reels with it.”

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The spokesperson added that brands including L’Oréal and Maybelline have used Reels ads to increase their recall among young users.

On the new changes and the discussions around it, the spokesperson said to help make Instagram a “great” place for people to discover entertaining content, it is always working on showing users the “right” balance of posts from friends and family, and people users don’t follow, as well as the right balance of photos and videos based on what users think they’d like to see. “We are focused on making sure each post is relevant, and we give people control to shape their experience. Feedback from our community is crucial to getting this right, and we will continue to iterate and explore new options based on what we’re hearing,” the person added.

Since its launch in 2020, Reels has evolved with a range of features – from 30-60-90 seconds reels, the Reels tab, Remix, Reels visual replies, and audio features such as save sounds and audio browser.

Industry watchers said advertisers are pushing for a lot more content on Reels, which has also led to increased influencer earnings.

Aditya Gurwara, cofounder of influencer marketing platform Qoruz, said when it was operational in India, TikTok brought about a behavioural change in the way people used and consumed content.

“They proved that the short video format was here to stay,” he said. “Instagram capitalised on that with the TikTok ban. Today, Reels is one of the most popular ways of consuming content. 90% of the influencer marketing is on Reels. Unlike other apps, Instagram already had a user base, so they didn’t have to start from scratch. They also have years of experience with the algorithms.”

Prashant Puri, CEO of digital marketing firm AdLift, said digital advertisers across the board are adopting Reels. “It is now a must do on the social media calendar for brands,” he said. “Earlier, they would ask for a story and a post and now Reels is a very important part of the mix. The traction they get through Reels is massive, and that is because of the way the algorithm is structured. Reels are pushed harder from an algorithm point of view. Hence, the time spent and engagement on the app is more.”

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