Instagram’s Attempt At Reviving Reels

Christian Brown
3 min readFeb 10, 2021

Remember back in August when Instagram had the marvelous idea of coming up with an app feature that allowed users to post videos with music and dances? It was their new release of ‘Reels’. To no one’s liking, they also stuck it right in the middle of the in-app feature bar. We almost wonder if someone at Instagram brought up this idea in a board meeting and claimed it was like something we’ve never seen before. Hopefully not, because everyone quickly identified this as a copy and paste replication of TikTok.

Months later, the Instagram Reels feed has seen tremendous growth in user activity, but with one slight disadvantage: the TikTok watermark on over half of the posts. Users of all size from the average ‘Instagrammer’ to Mega-Level influencers saw this as an opportunity to easily repurpose content from TikTok onto their Instagram channels. If content does good on one social, why wouldn’t it do good on another? With the name of the game being to maximize reach and impressions, why not just double down and post everything from TikTok on Reels?

Though this is a perfect idea and it worked for thousands of users, Instagram is finally putting their foot down. They quickly realized that over 65% of content uploaded onto Reels was content meant for publication elsewhere (such as TikTok, YouTube, etc) and that isn’t reeling in any excitement to the algorithm.

Reels Limitation — what will get deleted:

  • Content that is blurry due to low resolution uploads
  • Videos with a border around any portion of the frame
  • Any video that is primarily filled with text
  • Anything containing a watermark or logo from other apps

The newest guideline from the Facebook giant has stated that they have made strong changes to the Instagram Reels algorithm. Through the use of AI, the algorithm is now going to be able to identify content that is repurposed and remove it from Reels, as well as prohibit repurposed content from uploading to the Reels Feed. This means all of the videos with the flashing TikTok watermarks will be off of Reels for good. This is Instagram’s first attempt at reviving the failed project that didn’t reel in much positive attention.

In order to turn Reels into something unique, cool, and trendy; Instagram is trying to show users how to be cool on Reels. They are suggesting that users “start a trend” that others can participate in, “create a new dance” for others to follow, and do “entertaining activities”. Sounds a lot like what a user might find interesting about content on TikTok, no?

It’s interesting to see that Instagram spent all this time and effort creating a competitor giant to TikTok, just for every user to repost their TikTok content on Reels. What happened next? Millions of Instagram users are being exposed to the brilliantly placed TikTok watermark on each video, serving as free promotion to millions via Instagram. A fascinating case study in the world of non-paid, organic advertising here.

We have seen many influencers jump on Reels as a new way to share content. Yes, much of it is repurposed and recycled content from other socials. But, it’s another way to get more of your social portfolio out there. Pretty rarely do we hear “let’s include a Reel in our social media campaign” from a brand, but maybe that will change as we get further into 2021. The shift in effort on the side of the creator will be interesting to study as this new AI is implemented from Instagram.



Christian Brown

Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Glewee. Working day in and day out to re-invent Influencer Marketing at speed & ease — learn more @ !