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It was only a matter of time. Following TikTok’s meteoric rise to popularity, Instagram is taking the social network on head-on with its own short videos called Instagram Reels. 

While the Facebook-owned platform has supported video content for years, Reels shares several key features that made TikTok a hit, including the ability to include licensed or original music.

Specifically Instagram Reels features:

  • Users can create and share 15-second videos.
  • Can include audio including songs from a catalog of licensed music.
  • Users can upload their own audio or grab audio from other videos to use in their own videos. 
  • Instagram will also be creating a dedicated section in the Explore tab of the app, where users can find “Featured Reels”.

How To Create Reels

Creating a Reel is similar to taking a photo or creating any video on Instagram. Just open the in-app camera and slide the menu at the bottom to “Reels”.

Once selected, you’ll find a number of tools including a few specific to Reels:

  • Audio: Find a song in the Instagram music library or record your own audio.
  • AR Effects: Include visual effects from Instagram’s gallery.
  • Align: Line up objects from your previous clip before starting your latest video.
  • Speed: Speed up the audio or video you’ve selected.

Once you’ve gotten your song selected and set up any effects you want to use, just press and hold the capture button. 

You can also combine a series of short clips into a single Reel.

Once you’ve finished recording and editing, you’ll be taken to a sharing screen. By default, Reels will be added to a dedicated tab on your profile. You can also choose to share the clip to your Feed ensuring all your friends will see it. 

Why This Matters

Over the past couple years, TikTok has gone from an up-and-coming platform for kids to be goofy on to a bonafide part of online culture. 

Still, many are hesitant to add another social network to their life by signing up for TikTok. With Instagram Reels, they can get in on some of the fun without creating a new account for another platform.

There is also the issue of TikTok’s recent place in world news. The Chinese-owned social network has been accused of gathering immense amounts of user data and sharing it with the Chinese government. 

Over the weekend, these accusations escalated when President Trump threatened to ban the platform from the U.S. unless parent company ByteDance sells TikTok’s US operation to Microsoft. In an unprecedented move, the President also demanded the U.S. government receive a cut for approving any such sale.

It is unclear how banning the platform would work and the Chinese government has strongly condemned the threats from President Trump. 

With all this in mind, though, there is plenty of reason to keep an eye on Instagram Reels as a potential successor.

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Instagram is breaking away from the model it helped pioneer by extending videos from the standard 15-second length to a full 60 seconds. The company made its name by taking advantage of the trend for micro-length videos similar to Vine’s 7-second length, but it is now stretching its legs with longer videos.

Instagram says it is making the change in order to “bring you fun, flexible and creative ways to create and watch video on Instagram.”

Of course, the new video length limits won’t be turning Instagram into YouTube all of a sudden. The extended limit simply allows people to latch onto longer and more diverse stories.

The longer clips will hopefully spur increased engagement for the company who is currently seeing record low levels of user engagement. Despite this drop in engagement, Instagram says the amount of time spent watching videos on the platform has increased over 40% over the past 6 months.

Along with the change to video lengths, Instagram also announced that iOS users are once again able to create videos out of multiple clips from the camera roll. Both new features have already begun rolling out for users and will be available for everyone in the coming months.

Of course, along with longer videos comes longer ads on Instagram, which should make marketers and businesses who use the platform happy. Longer ads translate into more opportunities to tell engaging stories and catch the attention of your audience.