• Vivien Chew

Instagram Reels - How Mad Are We?

23 March 2021 was a day that Nuffies had long awaited. Just like any other ordinary Tuesdays except this one, was the launch day of Instagram Reels to Malaysia. Finally - it is here! We could finally indulge ourselves with aesthetically pleasing feeds, fleeting 15sec moments, and TikTok-style contents (yes, we recognize the irony of using the term TikTok for Instagram Reels) all within the same app. It was time to Instagram-binge!

Yet, there was a piece of us that could not truly settle because there were many unanswered questions as we began discovering our own Instagram Reels. In true (influencer) marketer fashion, we began reviewing Reel’s insights, comparing its performance with other formats available, and striving to understand the algorithm behind it. The excitement that Instagram Reels is here in Malaysia was fleeting as we soon realized, we wanted more.

“It ain't boostable!”

The statement says it all - Instagram Reels can’t be boosted, nor can it be promoted. Where boosted content is important for us, as marketers, is the opportunity to maximize the content created for a wider audience. This is especially important for growing content creators with a smaller follower base but with great content quality - it allows us to position these content creators better to meet both the demands of having entertaining content and maximum reach for brands.

However, the need to activate boosting on Instagram Reels content is low at the moment given the algorithm of the Reels’ feed. Within a week of its launch, we observed that influencers with just 1,000+ followers were able to garner an equal number of views on their Instagram Reels as the current ‘mandate’ for the Reels’ feed is to promote as much content as possible on it to capture more audience. This is a steep contrast with Instagram’s usual Feed where video content would usually get about 350 views on average and IGTV with 200 views for a similar follower base. If you are a brand, betcha’ can’t wait to jump on the Reels’ bandwagon - but wait, read our next point!

“We want more insights”

Perhaps it was because we could already foresee the litany of questions coming from brands on the use of Instagram Reels - questions seeking success metrics and justifications when it comes to using Instagram Reels. Yet, we discovered that Instagram Reels currently only supplies few engagement metrics: views, likes, comments & shares - which means we are only able to measure engagement rates coming out of Instagram Reels postings.

Yet, we are not super mad about it because we could emphatise with Facebook’s decision to keep metrics simple for now. Remember back when the days where influencer marketing was at its infancy and the most important (if not, the only) metric we looked into was engagement rate - it was a time where the audience’s enjoyment of using social media was at its peak. It only matters that the audience enjoyed using the platform and brands were few and rare in between. Perhaps, this is the direction Facebook was heading towards in limiting the performance metrics of Instagram Reels - to keep the contents on the Reels’ feed as organic as possible by keeping brands at bay through lack of justifiable metrics.

“We’re cheated off 30 seconds”

Let’s be real, when Instagram Reels was released globally, you had made reference to Instagram copying TikTok. With most Tiktok users, we are used to the 2 formats: 15seconds and 60seconds duration. The most obvious step for most brands on TikTok was to leverage on the 60seconds duration as it allowed them more time to maximize their brand exposure. With Instagram Reels, we discovered that durations were set for 15seconds and 30seconds. Naturally, we felt slightly cheated off 30seconds of content.

If we’re honest, we are not remotely mad about the 50% reduction in duration. This is because it challenges content creators (and brands) to really streamline the message that they want to deliver, resulting in more catchy content. On TikTok, brands have increasingly been ‘abusing’ the extra time by jam-packing more branded messages into the TikTok Video than content within the short 60seconds. This results in a feed where it dials down the enjoyment of a user and focuses more on the needs of a brand.

All in all, Instagram Reels is extremely new in the Malaysian market and it serves to say we have much to adapt to in terms of using it.