Meta’s big bet on Instagram Reels seems to be panning out so far. The short-form video tool is where Instagram users are getting the most likes, comments and shares, and Reels accounted for more than half of Facebook’s most-viewed posts in the last quarter of 2021. But there’s a catch: Some of the most popular Reels were on TikTok first. There's also no way to put this politely, but some of the other highly viewed Reels just aren’t that good.
About three-fourths of the most viewed Reels from last quarter were posted by anonymous accounts, and more than 80% came from accounts that just aggregate other people’s content, according to an analysis by the Integrity Institute that was originally provided to Recode. That includes reposts from TikTok, showing how even the viral content Meta craves to attract young people is still being created on the platform of one of its biggest competitors.
Meta wants creators to be able to make a living off Reels, and it’s pouring $1 billion into the effort. But it likely doesn't want to just give that money to spammy accounts that, while keeping people engaged, are hardly making Reels a fun place to hang out and discover new things. And if authentic creators aren't able to get the same kind of engagement as those anonymous or aggregator profiles, there's less of an incentive for them to focus on Instagram as primary platform for short-form video.
“If you’re a creator, obviously you don’t want unoriginal content on the platform because it’s people stealing your content,” Jeff Allen, a former Facebook data scientist who co-founded the Integrity Institute, told Recode.
There's even less drive to post original videos on Instagram for creators who have already found fame on TikTok. Creator Kris Collins, who has over 40 million followers on TikTok, told Protocol earlier this week that she prefers to use Instagram to post photos of her life, not Reels. She wouldn't create an original Reel, but she would repost one of her TikToks if it performed particularly well, showing how posting on — let alone natively using — Reels is still an afterthought for short-form video creators.
Perhaps in an effort to ameliorate these issues, Meta announced changes last month to entice creators to start making original Reels. The company said it will start deprioritizing videos stamped with TikTok’s logo; Meta is also starting a trial to share over half of ad revenue with creators. Maybe it just needs a bit more time to prove Reels will work. And hey, that $1 billion in cash for creators couldn't hurt.