While the government, and now maybe Microsoft, decides the fate of TikTok in the US, major creators on the platform are opening up about what a ban would mean for their bank accounts. Meanwhile, Facebook officially launched its TikTok-like feature Instagram Reels in over 50 countries, lending it the power to potentially lure away frenzied TikTok users.
TikTok stars are worried if the Trump administration bans the app, they’ll lose out on money and the freedom to express themselves. For example, 24-year-old singer and TikTok creator Jaci Butler, who has 4 million followers on TikTok, told the Los Angeles Times that through brand deals, which comprise the majority of her income, she makes $4,000 to $8,000 a month. In the past, Butler has partnered with brands such as MTV, the Ad Council, HP and Cepacol Lozenges.
18-year-old Bryce Xavier, a resident of the Vault, a mansion that’s home to 12 influencers who create TikTok content together, says he can earn a whopping $20,000 to $30,000 per month through branded TikTok partnerships. A singer-songwriter, Xavier has been able to reach more people with his music on TikTok than on iTunes, he told the LA Times.
Some TikTok creators have already moved away from TikTok. And the trend could continue given the recent launch of Instagram Reels, a feature equivalent to TikTok’s “For You Page,” where people can find new followers and where videos go viral. Dubbed a TikTok clone for its ability to produce bite-size videos with augmented reality (AR) effects, Reels has entered the US, the UK, India and Australia, to name a few.
“We’re going big with entertainment and [making Explore] the permanent place for you to go lean back, relax, and be inspired every day. It’s our hope that with this format we have a new chapter of entertainment on Instagram,” Instagram product director Robby Stein told The Verge.
The difference between TikTok and Reels is that unlike with TikTok, Reels enables users to seamlessly incorporate 15-second videos into their overall Instagram experience via their feed and direct messages to friends. In addition, users can customize Reels with AR filters and tools specific to Instagram.
“I had an opportunity to check out Reels earlier this week and absolutely loved its features and ease of use. Based on how far Instagram stories and IGTV have both come since their launch, I’m confident that Reels will become really popular among the creator community,” chief visionary officer and co-founder of Influencer, Caspar Lee, who was granted early access to Reels, told The Drum.
When you consider TikTok’s intensely perceptive algorithm, however, comparing Reels and TikTok would be like comparing apples and oranges. Unlike Reel, TikTok’s “For You Page” and its algorithm aren’t dependent on knowing anyone or following anyone on the platform, thereby quickly understanding and pumping out new palatable content. Whereas Instagram is reliant on a follower graph to serve most content consumption.
As Eugene Wei, former head of product at companies like Amazon and Flipboard, put it on his blog Remains of the Day:
“[Bytedance’s short video algorithm] is a rapid, hyper-efficient matchmaker. Merely by watching some videos, and without having to follow or friend anyone, you can quickly train TikTok on what you like. In the two-sided entertainment network that is TikTok, the algorithm acts as a rapid, efficient market maker, connecting videos with the audiences they’re destined to delight. The algorithm allows this to happen without an explicit follower graph.”
While TikTok’s future gets sorted, it might be wise for advertisers to familiarize themselves with Reels as a way to enhance existing and future influencer campaigns. Given Reels’ nascence, influencers and brands that utilize Reels now could potentially reach a new kind of audience without fear over it shutting down due to national security concerns.