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Facebook Takes Aim at TikTok with Instagram ‘Reels’

Facebook vs TikTok

You’ve probably heard something about TikTok by now. Either you are one of the millions who have downloaded the app and spent hours scrolling through the countless creative short-form videos, or you’re just aware of all the youngsters doing quirky dances in front of their phones. In case you haven’t, TikTok is a social media platform that has exploded in popularity. Users can create short video clips and edit them with a suite of different tools to give them a creative twist. 


Sounds pretty cool right? Well, there’s one small problem. Okay, it’s not really that small. It turns out that TikTok is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance, headquartered in Beijing, China. We’re not going to go into the intricacies of the relationship between the Chinese government and the country’s private sector, that’s for a different blog. However, from a marketing perspective, it’s notable that the US is looking at banning the app outright.

What does this mean for social media marketers?


Facebook fills the gap with ‘Reels’ 

Some governments have already made the decision that the US is deliberating. India recently banned TikTok, along with several other Chinese-based applications.

What’s interesting is that Facebook quickly seized the opportunity by launching ‘Reels’ in India and other countries where TikTok has been banned via its subsidiary Instagram. Reels are not necessarily new, starting in Brazil last year, but have seen rapid expansion as TikTok is targeted by world governments. 

Image credit: Instagram

Regardless of what the US government decides to do, it seems that Reels will be making its way to the US. A Facebook spokesperson recently said at an event: “We’re excited to bring Reels to more countries, including the U.S., in early August”. So with the knowledge that Reels are coming to the US in August, how can brands that currently leverage social media properly react to this new capability? We do think that this presents an opportunity for businesses to engage with their audience in a relatively new, creative way without having to rebuild that audience within a new social media platform. Simply put, your customers are already following you on Instagram, and in August 2020 you will have a fresh, new way to reach them. 

TikTok Goes for Facebook’s Ad Dollars

While Facebook has been going after the eyeballs of millennials left unattended by TikTok’s banning, TikTok’s ad team has been up to some tricks of their own.


Image: TikTok for business


It seems that users of Facebook’s advertising platform are being targeted with ads encouraging them to abandon the service and migrate to TikTok. This is in-line with TikTok’s recent launch of the self-service platform TikTok for Business where advertisers can leverage several ad units within the app along with creating branded organic content.

TikTok for Business poises itself as “where you can unleash your brand’s creative side. A fully immersive no judgment world where there’s an audience for every voice.” This poses an interesting question to marketers: what kind of brands belong on TikTok, and what kind of content should they be making? I think that such an environment is going to give businesses of all sizes a chance to connect with their audience in a much less sterilized, more genuine way. Is it worth it, though? With the US weighing the idea of banning the app, is it worth it for companies to invest the time and resources necessary to be successful on yet another social media platform, or is it a better move to just wait for Instagram to come along?


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