Instagram Experiments with New ‘Add Topics’ Option for Reels Upload

Some users are now allowed to add topics to their Reels uploads, which will help better categorize their video, as Instagram tries out yet another technique to improve its Reels suggestions.

After users complained about the first Reels deluge, it has more or less cut back this. But even so, Instagram is eager to show users more Reels material, based increasingly on AI recommendations, in order to optimize engagement and fight off competition for attention from TikTok, given that Reels already make up 20% of all time spent in the app and are only expected to increase.

But as Instagram’s CEO Adam Mosseri points out, the company hasn’t yet perfected its suggestions engine:

“There should be a high standard when you find something in your feed that you didn’t follow before; you should be thrilled to see it. And I don’t believe that’s happening enough right now.”

‘Delighted’ is a worthy goal, particularly for an app like Instagram that has, up until now, required explicit user input to create its home feed. Instagram is currently attempting to follow TikTok’s example, but whether it will succeed depends on two crucial issues:

Can Instagram truly develop an algorithmic recommendations system on par with TikTok, which is getting better at identifying user interests and real-time rearranging its “For You” sections to reflect them?

Are Instagram users really interested in that?

How well IG can recognize the different objects and aspects in each movie and then match them to user interests will determine the first. Entity identification is where TikTok’s algorithm really excels, and it’s what makes the app so successful.

The second, however, presents a greater difficulty because, while viewers may end up spending more time viewing Reels as a result of Instagram’s shoving them into every opening and empty area in the app, that doesn’t always indicate they’re enjoying them.

There are probably two groups here; the first would be those that prefer Reels over TikTok because, in their opinion, it offers a new, quick perspective on current video trends. The second group would be those who use TikTok and are generally against Instagram’s trend toward becoming more and more similar to the short-form video app.

I mean, it has scaled this back a little bit, after users got annoyed by its initial Reels flood. But even so, with Reels already taking up 20% of all time spent in the app, and rising, Instagram is very keen to show users more Reels content, based increasingly on AI recommendations, as a means to maximize engagement and fend off competition for attention from TikTok.

Instagram’s success will probably be determined by the Venn diagram of these groups, but it does make sense that, if it can get its recommendations right, that might help enable more Reels adoption.

To improve its recommendation algorithms and make Reels the most attractive TikTok alternative possible, it is searching for additional markers, indicators, and signals.

At the same time, you can bet that Meta’s army of lobbyists is pressing for tougher regulatory measures to be taken against the Chinese-owned app in Washington.

Overall, I don’t believe Instagram can catch TikTok in this regard; nevertheless, if TikTok were to suddenly disappear from the scene, Instagram might emerge as the greatest replacement.

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