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Reels: Why Instagram can’t compete with TikTok… yet?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) The future for Instagram Reels is uncertain, since even Instagram has acknowledge that TikTok is far ahead of them, but what does it mean for their future?

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Phone camera on stand in foreground with two women filming for TikTok or Instagram reels in the background

If you’re a TikTok user, chances are you’ve scoffed at Instagram’s attempt to compete with the hype. Yes, I’m referring to the Reels feature.

In an attempt to step in and absorb all the TikTok user run-off in August, when Trump announced the TikTok ban, Instagram launched Reels. Short, catchy and sharable clips, Reels are almost exactly like TikTok videos – but are they catching on?

In an interview with The Verge’s “Decoder” podcast, Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri says that he isn’t yet happy with Reels, stating that TikTok is still “way ahead”. While Reels is growing in terms of shared content and consumed content, it’s not nearly where Instagram hoped it would be by this point. Perhaps this is because TikTok is still alive and well. Or perhaps there’s something else to it.

It’s interesting to note that some of the most popular Reels on Instagram are simply reposted TikToks. This poses the question: Is Instagram’s Reels simply a channel where the ‘cream of the crop’ TikTok videos can get posted in a second location and exposed to a new audience, or is it actually a platform for creators?

Mosseri also hints at some sort of consolidation across Instagram’s video features (i.e., IGTV, in-post videos, Reels). Without being entirely sure what that will look like, I’m already skeptical – is this all just another example of Facebook (via Instagram) trying to hold a monopoly on the social media sphere?

My opinion? As long as TikTok is still in operation, it will reign supreme. While the two apps have a ton of overlap, they are simply different cultural spaces. TikTok is a trend-heavy, meta-humor creative space that relies on engagement between users through effect, duets, and other TikTok-exclusive features.

Adversely, Reels is a space for Instagramming millennials and Gen Xers who might be choosing to opt out of TikTok (which has sort of become the cultural epicenter for the younger Gen Zers). The feature might also be used by Insta influencers and creators of all ages who toggle between the two apps (i.e., reposting your viral TikTok on Instagram to gain more traction).

Whatever the reason is for engaging in Reels, I’m fully certain the feature will never amount to the success of TikTok – but I guess we’ll have to wait to see what Instagram has in store for us next.

Anaïs DerSimonian is a writer, filmmaker, and educator interested in media, culture and the arts. She is Clark University Alumni with a degree in Culture Studies and Screen Studies. She has produced various documentary and narrative projects, including a profile on an NGO in Yerevan, Armenia that provides micro-loans to cottage industries and entrepreneurs based in rural regions to help create jobs, self-sufficiency, and to stimulate the post-Soviet economy. She is currently based in Boston. Besides filmmaking, Anaïs enjoys reading good fiction and watching sketch and stand-up comedy.

Social Media

TikTok takes aim at Cameo while helping creators monetize content

(SOCIAL MEDIA) TikTok has a new feature that takes a swipe at Cameo, but also helps content creators to monetize their efforts more meaningfully.

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tiktok shoutouts

Not too long ago, an app called Cameo launched with the sole intention of connecting “normal” people with celebrities via chats and personalized videos.

These days, TikTok is adopting Cameo’s philosophy with “Shoutouts,” a feature that will allow users to request content from their favorite creators.

The allure of Cameo lies in its simplicity: One need only fill out a request form and spend several hundred to several thousand dollars to receive a custom video from a celebrity of their choosing (should said celebrity accept the request) within a week.

However, Cameo – a relatively new, relatively untested app–possesses a bit of a disadvantage that TikTok doesn’t have: It didn’t have a built-in, pre-existing audience prior to launching its core premise.

TikTok’s Shoutouts feature looks to capitalize on existing users as well as in-app currency, making it much more convenient than its spiritual predecessor.

As with Cameo, the way Shoutouts works is fairly straightforward. Users will be able to select a creator, request a certain style of video from them–the devil is very much in the details here–and then wait for “up to 3 days” to see if the creator accepts the request. Payment will be submitted at this time.

Should the request be accepted, the creator will create the video and pass it off to TikTok for review, a process that–according to the feature’s page–should take around a week to complete. The user who requested the video will then be able to view it in their DMs.

If the creator decides to reject the video, the user will receive a refund. This is a feature that Cameo uses as well, so–in theory–TikTok should be able to leverage the same ideology.

There are a couple of minor benefits to TikTok’s implementation of this feature. Firstly, while some TikTok stars may have celebrity status, it’s reasonable to assume that the majority of creators will be able to use the Shoutouts feature; this means that the aforementioned “normal” people will be able to monetize their platform, something that wasn’t possible on Cameo.

Secondly, the use of in-app currency–something that has traditionally been used for gifting livestreamers–makes the process of hiring a creator a bit more convenient. That convenience will most likely translate directly to the success of Shoutouts as it develops.

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Twitter experiments with “dislike” button in the lamest way possible

(MEDIA) Not that we would expect innovation from the halls of Twitter, but their dislike button is even less interesting than we could have predicted.

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twitter dislike button

For as long as there have been “Like” buttons on social media, the idea of a “Dislike” button has existed – if only as a concept. Recently, however, Twitter is toying with bringing the fabled “Dislike” button out of the metaphysical realm and into reality, though not for the reasons one might expect.

Twitter will be adding an “I don’t like” button to content in the coming months – but the number of dislikes something receives won’t be publicized as likes are.

In fact, Twitter maintains that the presence of this button is less of a social experience and more of a way to tailor your experience on the app to see what you want to see. This will feasibly help Twitter “??understand the type of responses that you consider relevant in a conversation, in order to work on showing you more of those types of responses.”

The button will reportedly take one of two forms: either a thumbs-down icon (next to a thumbs-up icon for likes) or a downward-facing arrow a la Reddit.

The “I don’t like” feature is currently limited to iOS users, and certainly not all of them–as an avid Twitter user, I have yet to receive the option to voice my dissent outside of the usual reporting channels. As with experiments like Fleets, voice tweets, and increased character limits, Twitter seems to be rolling out this option in small increments.

Interestingly, Twitter already has a similar feature that is available to all users, though it requires a small amount of menu digging. The “Not interested in this Tweet/Ad” option can be used to prevent tweets either from certain creators or on certain topics from appearing as frequently in your feed.

The option to block users or report tweets also still exists in case anyone needed to be reminded of that.

As long as the option to dislike tweets remains private and for optimization only, many of the concerns commonly associated with a dislike button – cyberbullying, declination of mental health, all-out civil war – are relatively moot; but, so it seems is the feature itself, given that the “Not interested” option also exists.

It wouldn’t be surprising in the slightest to see this feature eventually become public after its successful implementation.

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Social Media

India’s government still pushing social media platforms to nix COVID posts

(EDITORIAL) Whomsoever controls the information controls the people, and India is proving that censorship is a dangerous path.

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Let’s take a walk through recent history, shall we? The timing is late April and the world is still attempting to control the spread of the COVID-19 Virus. Certain countries have succeeded in administering vaccines and keeping down the spread. Other’s have not. People are dying. Families are being stripped of their securities. What’s the saving grace for the majority of these people? Social media.

Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have turned into the news distributors and social lifelines. Our generation has gotten used to things like cable news outlets being entirely one sided with their distributed factoids. It’s easier to trust people than a news monolith, even though they are typically just as biased.

Personally, I believe that we are more accepting of a person being biased because they are supposed to be, whereas companies that report news, we feel should be unbiased and when they aren’t, it’s less forgivable. However, I digress.

Social media has become the new source of news for the younger generations. We go out and take in information either from real life or from other sources and send it out into our own little virtual worlds. Every piece of this information should be taken with a grain of salt and double checked, of course. At least if the person actually wants to spread real news. They then interact and disperse news through instant communication online.

Which leads us to India, 2021.

From the standpoint of this generation, what’s been happening there is deplorable. The Government of India demanded that both Twitter and Facebook begin removing COVID-related posts. Their reasoning? These posts are “deemed posed potential to incite panic among the public.” They are restricting the freest form of communication that has ever existed in to the human race.

Now this could be something that’s innocuous, or a genuine care for the country’s people. I’m sure there are posts out there that may have incited panic. However, some of the previous actions taken by the Indian government tend to make me think otherwise. Pointedly, requests for the blocking of Twitter accounts which criticized the countries policies have gone out. They’ve even threatened jail time for employees and users in this case.

They keep claiming the country’s good but if they are only silencing dissenting voices, they’re actually just protecting their right to govern. Leading to a darker place in mind for any future actions. There are certain facts which stand however.

The Indian government has failed in a number of ways this year. The culmination of which is their unprecedented collapse of their nation’s health infrastructure. One of the only ways that some people are getting their health supplies is through social media as people communicate locations that have supplies available so they can save their lives.

The restrictions that the government is putting forth isn’t helping people. It has the potential to kill them.

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