They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I wouldn’t say that’s the case for Instagram Reels.
It’s a completely realistic business strategy to in a product offering similar to your competition and you know, it’s worked well for Instagram in the past with their Stories, DMs and Disappearing Image messages. We slowly saw people get quite annoyed with what Snapchat was and a shift was seen. With the high traffic and user base, TikTok saw it was about time Instagram releases their new offering and this was everyone’s reaction, summed up:
It’s like Instagram was too lazy to come up with anything else, even though they had been working on this product for a year! I mean, you could say that there was still work to be done on this, but with the recent rumours about the TikTok ban — Facebook did not want to lose any time — especially after the hilarious failure of “Lasso” (yeah I hadn’t heard about it much either.)
But as much as Instagram wants to be TikTok, it has shown, with their extremely basic offering, that the Chinese social media platform is highly superior to it.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous article TikTok’s winning ingredient was their algorithm. I know people who went from “TikTok has such cringe content” to “Oh my god, best app ever” — simply because the app predicted exactly what the user liked. It was simple for the user to let the app know, through one swipe, that they didn’t care for people crying into their camera but cared more about cute babies falling (who doesn’t laugh when kids fall). It’s beautiful how the app can actually capture such a vast audience with different personalities because of their AI.
Instagram not only, did not give us this swift action to dislike a Reel, it also gave us an awful algorithm along with this. With this comes the horror of constantly seeing weird dances on “She Got Hips” even though you’ve hidden many cringey videos. If the app wants to compete with TikTok they must understand — we do not want to see all content — it’s important, when you have a large amount of data, that you make use of this data to deliver what the user wants.
There are many errors in what Instagram Reels as a product is, but we can learn to live with it. We did the same for IGTV — they just put it in one corner (RIP) and it didn’t bother anyone. Which is why I’ve always respected Instagram’s UI/UX. It’s simple, clean and easy to use; mastering the main principle for great app design. With this being said you wonder why Reels, something that’s supposed to wipe out the competition, was designed within the story feature making it so difficult to find.
An app must be designed in such a way that it’s intuitive and understands what the user is looking for.
And you know, Instagram understood the fact that people may want a more dedicated Reels area and they understand how users behave and so introduced an update where they have replaced the most used page — Explore, with a page just for Reels. To get a better understanding of Instagram Reels, digital marketing training can help in strategies!
How does behaviour connect into this? A simple concept of muscle memory. My actions are predictable — to waste time, I will automatically now interact with the second button on the bottom bar because for 10 years it has opened up the explore page on Instagram that allows me to find more content that is suitable to me. Now, suddenly I have to see videos that I do not want to see. To be honest, this is just leading towards more hatred towards this new product.
It’s like your mom has forced you to start golf, even though you don’t like it and the more you’re forced to do it, you start to absolutely hate golf along with the person forcing you to do it. It’s not enough that they have not taken out the time to understand why TikTok was successful with their content, they’re now forcing us to use a feature that has not been properly thought through.
If you want to retain a user’s attention, at least give them a product worth wasting their time on.
They’re making it much more difficult for a user to access a page that offers content I like and has even removed a button that can allow you to go back to the top to get stuck in a mindless loop of scrolling. This further leads to a person not wanting to spend more time on the platform which is always a red flag as advertisers keep an eye out on how much time a user is engaging with content.
Instagram’s new UI is forcing users to unlearn something they were so used to in terms of navigation, content usage and engagement. It shocks me how this was not better designed by a company known for its sleek user experience. New York Times has literally said Instagram Reel is probably the worst Instagram feature.
Manager Extraordinaire Michael Scott says it himself “Business Rule Number 2 — Adapt, React, Readapt Apt”. It was obvious with the craze of TikTok and the possible ban of the Chinese social media platform — they had to introduce Instagram Reels to keep up, which actually led to positive investor sentiment. However, if for them, user satisfaction is just going to completely go out the door — it seems like Instagram is digging their own grave and we might see another feature on their list of useless product offerings.