Uncertainty and perplexity dominate TikTok’s future after an explosive growth in the Indian market. It is amongst the 59 Chinese apps banned by the Indian government a few weeks back and will likely be banned too in the US beginning September 15, unless it’s bought over. The ban has created an immediate vacuum of a channel that connected with the Gen-Z audience and has forced both the businesses and content creators to look for substitutes.
Interestingly, Influencer Marketing Outlook Report 2020 that was released just days after the announcement of the ban highlighted that TikTok was the top new platform explored by 1 of every 2 influencers during the lockdown. TikTok’s rise has a lot to do with the short-video format of the platform and the fact that unlike other social platforms, aesthetics didn’t matter. The community craved for fun and challenges. One could be a success on TikTok even if the content wasn’t picture perfect and one didn’t look like a regular content creator.
The ban on TikTok has witnessed a surge in content creators and viewers looking for substitutes in global players like Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts and home-based competitors like Chingari, Roposo and Hotshot. They are all trying to capitalize on TikTok’s lost potential by on-boarding TikTok users, beginning with the top influencers. A large number of content creators used to earn their bread and butter by creating content on TikTok so the rivals are rolling out rewards and cash payment to attract them. While these influencers know that it will take time to build up an audience in any new platform they are hedging their bets by exploring multiple platforms but they are more biased towards Instagram.
Instagram was already a leading player even before the arrival of TikTok but once it came, this easy-to-use short-video sharing platform captured a diverse set of users, more young and regional in nature. However, if the ban continues, Instagram might just become the next best alternative or ‘digital home’ for influencers and content creators who were earlier on TikTok. After the ban was made public, many of the content creators on TikTok were seen interacting with their followers and requesting them to join them on their Instagram profiles. The top layer of TikTok influencers was smart enough to diversify to the more established and mature platform of Instagram much before the ban, though their influence isn’t as big as it was on TikTok. Riyaz Ali, one of the most followed content creators on TikTok has over 43 million followers on TikTok and only 8.9 million followers on Instagram.
Facebook, the owner of Instagram, got the best understanding of how dedicated the user base of TikTok was when it launched Lasso, a short video sharing app aimed at teenagers, two years ago that failed to make a mark. Facebook shut Lasso right after TikTok was banned in India and has put all its weight and learnings behind Instagram Reels. One can expect them to follow the same playbook they did when they converted many Snap users to Instagram stories. The ban on TikTok in India has just made the ask sweeter.
In comparison to the nascent rivals, Instagram as a platform already has a hold on the older audience who use it for their daily content consumption. The fun features introduced via Reels will not only attract the Gen-Z TikTok audience to Instagram but will also give the existing audience a chance to experience content that’s different from existing picture-perfect content style. This will be a big shot in the arm for TikTok content creators joining Instagram as opposed to new players.
This shift of content creators to Instagram Reels will also bring along a disruption in the market with the need for brands to now rethink their rural and regional marketing strategies. Reels not only has a ready-made audience that brands can tap into, but Instagram also has shop-able options that can make it the brand’s best bet. YAAP’s influencer report also indicated that Instagram stories and videos are seen as the most impactful format for driving sales/app downloads as per 75.9% and 73.2% of the 750+ influencers respectively from across 22 states.
As with any new platform, marketers and content creators need to fully understand the pros and cons and map their objectives accordingly. They need to keep a close eye on the developments and remain flexible while Instagram Reels stands out as the winner of 1st Round.