Mumbai: The ban imposed by the Indian Government on the supremely popular short-form video creator application TikTok, was not well accepted by most Tik-Tokers. Most of these Tik-Tokers became influencers and like other influencers made a career out of the same. The ban of TikTok was like a sudden layoff for them.
On 9th July, 2020 at 7:00 PM IST Instagram in India launched a 15-second video creating feature known as Reels; with Tik-Tok like features that enables a user to create short videos. One need not download another application, Reels is in-built in Instagram.
While it’s just been a few hours, and most of us are still trying this feature out! Medianews4u has already reached out to a few experts for their take on how this added feature by Zuckerberg owned Instagram may impact the digital marketing mix.
“Facebook has timed it beautifully!” said mcgarrybowen India’s National Creative Director, Aalap Desai.
Continuing Desai said, “Since the app ban, TikTok’s entire user base has been looking for an alternative.The biggest challenge Indian apps have is that the audience that TikTok had lost, most probably had Instagram installed already, but they did not have a Chingari or a ShareChat installed. They were already familiar with Instagram and its massive reach.”
Co-Founder and CEO, Mirum India, Sanjay Mehta, feels that the followers of TikTok content now have another content destination. Mehta said, “Lots of TikTok influencers have also been present on Instagram, although perhaps TikTok was their preferred platform. In the absence of TikTok, and to ensure that their content continues to get published, their followers continue to have something to cheer about; they definitely need an alternate platform.”
How Tik-Tok enabled young people in smaller towns to express themselves, Karthik Nagarajan, Chief Content Officer, Wavemaker India said, “The ban on Tik-Tok was very recent, and ever since then it has been raining ‘next Tik-Toks’ with a promise of more to come. Beyond the platform story, there was huge human story to Tik-Tok. Young people in smaller towns found a platform to express themselves and become famous. From funny and slapstick to being queer, there was a huge democratisation of creativity. It did not happen immediately for Tik-Tok. It took 2-3 years for the ecosystem to set in.”
Continuing Nagarajan said “New platforms need to wait for that to take shape as there is no short cut to getting there. And not to forget, banning Tik-Tok was not an industry decision but a political decision given the climate between two countries. And climates changes”
“Content junkies are a reality and the shutting out of TikTok has left a huge void.” said Robert Godinho, Managing Director, MediaMonks, India
Continuing Godinho said, “I know for a fact that TikTok users are constantly reaching out for their phones pretty much aimlessly. These people are looking for a platform to express themselves. But to say will the audience and creator base would move to Reels is not a fair assumption. The loss of TikTok also means a loss of your fan base and your subscribed TikTokers. To build that all over again means a lot of loss in revenues etc for established influencers may take time for Reels to build such a suppository of content and users before it gets to that scale.”
Lauding the step of adding features to an already established social media platform Manika Juneja, VP – Operations (West & South) at WATConsult said, “Adding features to an already established and matured social media platform seems to be a good step. It enables the platform to have everything under one umbrella, from a short video creation & sharing feature to chatting options to regular photo sharing. Therefore, this factor would also work in its favour.”
Siddharth Devnani, Co-Founder & Partner – SoCheers said,“Strategically, it looks like Instagram pulled up the launch. It’s released at the perfect timing. It’s also one of the firsts, where a new feature has been launched in the Indian market first. I am very eager to see how it will co-exist with Stories, with both consisting of 15 second video clips. Instagram is hinging on it being ‘fun’ – so really looking forward to it!”
Sudish Balan, Chief Business Officer, Tonic Worldwide said, “TikTok served the purpose of reach for brands and marketeers. When TikTok went down in India, nobody made a ‘song and dance about it’ (Pun intended) because the reasons were valid. But not just Tiktok creators, marketeers have been waiting in anticipation for an app that can fill the gap as well.”
Continuing, Balan said “Instagram has launched ‘Reels’ in India, right on time to fill this gap. This will facilitate the mass exodus from banned video entertainment apps like TikTok and Helo.”
More competition for Indian alternatives
Aalap Desai suggested that a way for our home-grown alternatives to counter them is through influencers. He said, “When Vine shut shop, Bhuvan Bam shifted to YouTube and his follower base followed him. He grew it even more, and the rest is history. Besides him being smart enough to adapt, one thing we shouldn’t forget is that people like influencers and that’s why they follow them. They will follow them anywhere.”
Content is king! Aalap Desai added, “As long as the influencer keeps creating content they love, the platform rarely matters. They will move because they miss their TikTok idols. The platforms should invest and rally as many of these influencers, and a dedicated user base will follow and soon grow. And with these two, marketing strategy and marketing spend will also come knocking.”
On the way forward for Indian Alternatives, Sanjay Mehta said, “If these Indian players can find that niche/differentiation for the users, and are able to bring it out clearly, and also if they continue to innovate for the benefit of the community concerned, they should be in a position to challenge Instagram.”
Continuing Mehta said, “Especially in the world of apps, it is about constant innovation, understanding your users well – both creators and viewers, about ensuring that the servers are able to take the load and don’t falter, etc. If these are taken care of, the growth, especially in a viral way, can happen. The ban of Tiktok has certainly created an opportunity for these Indian alternatives to create a space for themselves and try and find their mega success.”
Being optimistic Sudish Balan of Tonic said, “Roposo, Chingari and Sharechat have a long way to go. They have benefitted from the Tiktok debacle but their growth will stun if they don’t improve user experience and rectify the constant glitches in their apps. They also need to woo Tiktok creators who will play the role of Pied Piper and get loyal followers to these apps.”
A major user acquisition challenge! Feels Siddharth Devnani of SoCheers. He said, “Indian alternatives are going to have a major user acquisition challenge, whereas that’s been cut out for Instagram Reels. For user acquisition, localising their platform and growth strategy for creators and users may provide room to gain some ground.”
Suggesting a few selling points for Indian apps Manika Juneja of WATConsult said, “One of the major reasons behind TikTok’s humungous polarity was its functionality. The ability to easily shoot, edit and create a video, starring oneself, was one of the vital aspects of the platform. Thus, the users might look for easy functionality in whatever platform they choose next. So, these apps can market themselves on those lines.”
Excited about the steady content stream that’s coming our way, Robert Godinho of MediaMonks, India said, “I don’t think Roposo or Chingari or Sharechat need to take over the TikTok market. I would say they are more aggressively going to go after the Helo market. Each App has a target audience and I don’t think their need is to be a TikTok slayer. Having said that, what TikTok did really well was its content mapping and soon enough you get a steady content stream of like-minded content coming your way.”
Marketeer spoilt for choice?
Neena Dasgupta, CEO & Director at Zirca Digital Solutions feels that brands should immediately get to work (from home) by creating super creative and fine content. She said, “It doesn’t take long to woo Instagram users. First ones will benefit basis first impressions, and ofcourse on the quality of content.”
Recommending Brands to use Instagram Reel, Dasgupta said, “Brands should definitely use Reels to make creative content, with influencers as well. Audiences won’t be fragmented. They were fragmented before when there was no Instagram Reel. Initially marketers had to reach out to TikTokers for a different audience and Instagram for a different audience based on content choices. Now it’s all on a one platform, with TikTok being banned, Reels will garner huge benefit.”
“I think there is certainly an excitement in the air. ‘Fragmented social media’ is a reality that brands need to get used to, for the next decade.” said Karthik Nagarajan of Wavemaker India.
Sighting the opportunity for brands, Nagarajan said, “But for now, there is certainly an opportunity for brands to partake in this excitement. With new platforms, there are new segments of creators who will emerge and hence greater opportunities for brands. Also the need for more data and visibility. We are certainly looking at an exciting 12 months ahead!”
Play the waiting game! Feels Sudish Balan of Tonic Worldwide. He said, “Marketeers need to bench it out and wait till either one or couple of these apps emerge victorious in the active users volume game. Marketing mix will miss a Tiktok for now but with available platforms like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube there isn’t an urgency to get a substitute for Tiktok.”
“I am not quite sure if marketeers had managed to crack TikTok for content!” argued Robert Godinho of MediaMonks, India. Adding he said, “UGC is an interactive space and needs to have a scope of virality. Which basically means it cannot be staged or choreographed. Buying a bunch of influencers and then getting them to do a dance step to a brand song along with a brand call out at the end does not make this viral content.These are something’s that didn’t work that well on TikTok and i don’t see them working on any other such platform either.”
Favouring Instagram, Siddharth Devnani of SoCheers said, “The fact that Instagram has the most significant user base, it will continue to dominate marketer’s top choice for advertising right now. They should also leverage Reels as Instagram is likely to push the reach of the new feature. The rest of the apps can form a part of the strategy as well – but for validation of a match with the brand’s target audience, we’ll have to wait and watch as they grow.”
Going the Insta route Manika Juneja of WATConsult said, “Instagram specifically targets the new set of audiences flocking in from TikTok, the brands can utilise the newly launched feature to create authentic content that’s creative as well as expressive. Brands might also benefit in leveraging their data transparent attributes, as that is the issue that took down TikTok.”
Hitting the bulls-eye, Sanjay Mehta of Mirum India said, “Marketers go where they can find their target audience, and where they can engage the best with them. Depending on the category and TG that a brand is trying to reach, marketers will find a balance across few of the popular platforms, like Instagram and YouTube, and will perhaps, experiment a little with the newer ones coming in.”
Sandeep Sreekumar, Managing Director, Media Moments added, “We feel it will be interesting to see whether brands continue marking their presence on the Indian apps or shift towards Instagram reels. Having said that, we are quite excited to include this feature into our strategic approach and create exciting campaigns for the platform.”
Highlighting the challenge for TikTokers, Sanjay Mehta said, “The challenge is bigger for the Tiktokers who have built follower bases running into millions, and who need to start afresh on other platforms. Considering the follower base as a new “currency” of sorts, it is the equivalent of having your bank balance wiped out suddenly, and having to start from zero, all over again!”