When Meta recently announced it was changing the Facebook app to focus on Reels (forcing people to navigate to the networking page), it became just the latest app to try and cash in on the TikTok craze.
Snapchat introduced Spotlight in 2020, and during the pandemic, it became more popular than Stories. While Snapchat wants to stick with Stories, it’s also investing a lot in Spotlight’s success.
YouTube has Shorts, which get promoted on the home and subscription feed and the Shorts tab. And Instagram, well, that has Reels. Instagram recently tried to push through changes which added Reels from people they weren’t following to people’s Instagram home feeds, but it didn’t really work out.
The changes caused a significant backlash, with Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian coming out against them, telling the app to “Stop trying to be TikTok” and that they just wanted to see “cute photos” of their friends.
Instagram rolled back some changes. Its Head of Instagram then took to Twitter to explain the changes it kept, getting into a discussion with Chrissy Teigen, who responded with: “we don’t wanna make videos Adam lol”.
So, why do so many apps copy TikTok’s short video format? And is it the right thing to do for them?
Cashing in on the TikTok craze
Apps like Instagram see the massive popularity of TikTok and they want some of that for themselves.
The data probably shows people are lapping up the short video format (have you tried escaping a YouTube Shorts rabbit hole once you fall in? It’s virtually impossible!).
The ultimate goal of all of these apps is to keep people on the platform (and returning to it). Videos may be the format to do that.
Ask an Instagram user if they want a home feed full of random people’s videos, and most would probably say no way, but the truth is they’d more than likely still end up watching them.
Emotion plays a major role
Many of us use different social networks and apps for very specific purposes.
For example, we may use Facebook to keep in touch with family, Instagram and Snapchat to share pictures with friends and follow influencers, YouTube for long-form entertainment and educational content and TikTok for some short, snappy and mindless entertainment.
Instagram has become a visual depository of shared memories with friends. We may not want to see that turned into a stream of flashy video content from total strangers. We have TikTok for that.
What we’re seeing is that people crave connection and community. The rise of micro and niche communities are evidence that people are looking for relevance and relatability when it comes to their relationship with influencers and creators. They don’t want to be anonymous viewer number 892,099; they want to feel part of a community.
If apps like Instagram want to stay relevant to their users, they need to know what creates the emotional connection between users and their apps, finding a way to work with this rather than changing their core offering to meet the latest trend.