Instagram Trails TikTok in Short-Video Market

September 20, 2022

Over the years, Instagram has attracted hundreds of millions of daily users by providing a platform for people to share pictures and videos of their family and friends. Starting in 2020, though, the social network launched Instagram Reels, a short-video feature made to rival TikTok. Although Instagram’s parent company Meta has staked much of its future on Reels, internal company documents show that the feature is not very popular with users both large and small. 

For example, Instagram users as a whole spend about 17.6 million hours a day watching Reels. This amounts to less than one-tenth of the 197.8 million hours spent by users on TikTok every day. What’s more, Reels has faced backlash from high profile users like Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, who posted an image to her feed that instructed Instagram to “stop trying to be TikTok i just want to see cute photos of my friends.” This has been a common criticism of Reels, which fills users’ feeds with content from strangers rather than their followed accounts. Another frequent complaint is that the feature is clogged with videos from other platforms. In fact, nearly one-third of all the videos on Reels include watermarks from sites like TikTok.

This content is “downranked” by Instagram, meaning that a video that goes viral on TikTok could receive only a fraction of this attention on Reels. That was the case for 22-year-old content creator Landen Purifoy, who earlier this year uploaded the same music video across TikTok, YouTube Shorts, Snapchat Spotlight, and Instagram Reels. While the video received millions of views across the former platforms, he only got 100,000 hits on Instagram. “Nobody’s going to make original content for Instagram,” said Purifoy. “It just doesn’t make any sense.” To encourage more creators to use Reels, Meta launched a creator fund in 2021 that will pay out more than $1 billion by the end of the year. The platform also earns far more advertising revenue than its rival, generating $21 billion in revenue last year compared to $3 billion for TikTok. 


  1. Why has Instagram faced criticism from users and creators for its Reels feature?
  2. Do you think Instagram should continue to promote Reels to users? Why or why not?

Source: Salvador Rodriguez, Meghan Bobrowsky and Jeff Horwitz, “Instagram Stumbles in Push to Mimic TikTok, Internal Documents Show,” The Wall Street Journal, September 12, 2022.