Internal Meta Study Shows Reels Struggling Against TikToks

Instagram seems to be having a hard time gaining traction against TikTok, whose users collectively spend 197.8 million hours daily on the platform, compared to the 17.6 million hours a day Instagram users spend viewing Reels, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal sourcing Meta Platforms internal research. The August report, “Creators x Reels State of the Union 2022,” indicates that Reels engagement was down 13.6 percent “over the previous four weeks — and that ‘most Reels users have no engagement whatsoever.’” Of about 11 million U.S. creators on Instagram, only 2.3 million, or 20.7 percent, post Reels monthly.

“The shift to Reels has taken on urgency following a tough year for the social-media company,” The Wall Street Journal writes of Meta, noting that in July it “reported its first ever decline in revenue, in part because changes made by Apple Inc. to the iPhone’s operating system put a major dent in Meta’s ability to deliver personalized ads,” and says “as of Friday, Meta’s market value had declined by more than $620 billion since peaking more than a year ago.”

Meta says Reels, launched in August 2020 in the U.S., “accounts for a fifth of the time people spend on Instagram, and that the time users spent engaging with Reels on Instagram and Facebook had risen more than 30 percent during the second quarter,” per WSJ, which quotes Instagram COO Justin Osofsky saying the format shows “good promise” but adds “we know we also have work to do.”

Part of the problem is that “nearly one-third of Reels videos are created on another platform, usually TikTok, and include a watermark or border identifying them as such,” WSJ reports. “Meta said it ‘downranks’ these videos, meaning it shows them to smaller audiences to reduce the incentives for those that post them, but they continue to proliferate,” resulting in Reels users being shown “videos recycled from another, more popular platform.”

To incentivize creators to make Reels content for Instagram and Facebook, Meta designated $1 billion to a 2022 creator fund, of which WSJ says $20 million has been paid to Instagram Reels creators thus far. Meta spokesperson Devi Narasimhan tells The Verge that the “Creators x Reels” comparison of time spent watching Reels versus TikToks is outdated, not global, and represents a “moment-in-time snapshot.”

Nonetheless, The Verge writes that “whether users like it or not, Meta will continue with the TikTok-ification of Instagram and Facebook,” noting “the company is all in on Reels, and users will see more and more recommended content from accounts they don’t follow.” This despite the fact that “users have revolted,” regarding the shift.

“There’s been growing discontent from longtime Instagram creators like photographers and advocates, who’ve expressed frustration at the hard pivot to Reels,” The Verge reports, citing a statistic that indicates “the percentage of Instagram users who believe the company ‘cares about’ them nosedived in recent years, from 70 percent in 2019 to around 20 percent earlier this summer.”

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