There are a million things you can say about TikTok and its effect on the social media landscape, but the one undeniable fact is the app’s massive presence in almost everyone’s life. Instagram and, by proxy, Meta now want a bigger slice of the vertical video pie, with Instagram testing a full-screen vertical scrolling feed, just like the one that keeps you on TikTok.
In an effort to grow the platform “in a world where photos and videos are mobile first”, Instagram manager Adam Mosseri has been very open that he thinks the media should be more busy. your screen and be more immersive. In this new feed, you’ll still use a bottom-mounted navigation bar with the discovery, reels, purchases, and profile page, but instead of having negative space between posts like you’re used to, scrolling down will take you directly into the next image or video.
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Obviously, Meta’s endgame is to create a platform that will rival TikTok and its infamously powerful recommendation algorithm. The new flow style is still in pre-testing and is only rolling out to users of the app’s beta program.
As it stands, Instagram hasn’t monetized Reels the same way it has Stories, which leaves plenty of room for ad review from a new style of Instagram feed. According to the company’s Q1 2022 earnings call by TechCrunch, monetizing Reels, Instagram’s current competitor on TikTok, will likely take a few years. In that same earnings call, the company revealed that Reels is growing rapidly, with 20% of time spent on Instagram now dedicated to Reels.
Analysis: The TikTokification of the Internet
The influence of TikTok is incredible. Following Vine’s unfortunate demise, ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, touted TikTok (formerly Music.ly) as a haven for short-video creators and promised a powerful algorithm for users to personalize their streams. TikTok quickly exploded in popularity, which caught social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube by surprise.
Shortly after, just as most platforms had already copied Snap’s dying stories feature, we saw the release of Snapchat’s Reels, Shorts, and Spotlight all trying to steal the thunder from TikTok, and with more or less success. Even Byte (Vine 2.0 for the uninitiated) couldn’t really take off after TikTok established itself as the go-to video platform.
You could write a million think pieces about TikTok’s dominance in video, its algorithms, and the psychological effects on young people due to screen addictions, and more. Many of them wouldn’t be too far from the base, but the formula produces data, and data makes good money. Even if you don’t use TikTok yourself, you’ve probably seen a lot of short videos. It’s no wonder Meta, perhaps the infamous king of personal data scandals, wants to have TikTok’s cake and eat it too.
The only way Meta/Instagram could reasonably compete with TikTok is with its planned monetization and with a more stable creator economy. A plethora of creators on TikTok often complain about random account strikes, shadowbans, temporary post bans, and more. without support or information on disciplinary action from TikTok staff. Top creators also talk about how little money they make from the so-called “creator fund”. Among his detractors is everyone’s favorite scientist (after Bill Nye), Hank Green. Green did an in-depth analysis of the platform and its monetization compared to other platforms. His main thoughts on this are “When TikTok does more, creators do less.”
If Instagram wants to steal creators from the giant, it will have to pay in a number of ways.