7th August 2020

POV: Instagram Reels and Snapchat Licensed Music Feature


Facebook has launched Instagram Reels in 50+ countries and Snap has been testing a feature that will allow Snapchat users to add licensed music to the videos they share, with both services responding to the popularity of TikTok.

Details and Implications:

Instagram Reels: Instagram Reels is rolling out in 50+ countries including the USA, UK, Australia, India, Japan, Spain, France and Germany. The feature was initially tested in Brazil in November last year. Instagram describes Reels as: ‘15-second multi-clip videos with audio, effects and new creative tools.’ The feature is home to a new set of editing tools that include numerous AR effects, a countdown timer, a new editing tool to line up different takes and music.

Users will be able to share Reels with their followers in their Feeds or their Stories. If users share on their Stories the Reels will disappear after 24 hours like a regular Story. If users choose to share their Reels to their Feeds, it will live on a separate Reels tab on their profile. Users with public accounts will also have the option to share their reels to the Explore section and if they use certain songs, hashtags or effects their Reels may appear on dedicated pages for those songs, hashtags or effects.

Facebook previously created a short-form video app similar to Reels in 2018 called Lasso but it was shut down after a year. By integrating the new video features into the already-popular Instagram app, Facebook hopes to engage its existing 1 billion users to capture some of the short-form video market and appeal to a Gen Z audience that makes up a lot of the TikTok user base.

Reels will not have any paid advertising opportunities on launch, although these may follow later. In the meantime, brands have an opportunity to build out organically on the platform and reach new audiences, as creators on Instagram Reels in their own right or by partnering with Instagram creators.

Snapchat licensed music feature: Snap announced plans to let users add licensed music to videos they share. Snap has been testing the feature in Australia and New Zealand with plans to launch in other English-speaking markets this year.

Users will be able to add music to their videos pre or post capture. When users play Snaps with added licensed music, they will be able to swipe up to view the album artwork and click through to a Linkfire (a smart link to music platforms) allowing them to play the full song on their chosen streaming service. This approach differentiates the feature from TikTok as it connects users with the music rather than other videos using the same songs. The Snapchat app is also focused on ephemeral content that disappears after 24 hours. Whilst users can add Snaps to their profiles now, there seems less scope for a feed-type approach with this feature to see other videos featuring the same song, meaning there may be less opportunity for viral trends to develop like on TikTok. Snapchat hopes that this new feature will boost user engagement. If so, it will make it easier for advertisers to reach Snapchat’s audience, which is made up largely of 18-24-year olds.


Snap and Facebook are both trying to hold on to their share of the short-form video market as TikTok’s popularity increases. The quick development of similar services across social platforms is a well-worn route – with popular features added to platforms as they appear. At the same time, TikTok is facing challenges in the US with an executive order signed by President Trump making any transaction with TikTok owner ByteDance illegal after September 20th - part of a wider China / US geopolitical situation.

Further Reading:

Tech Crunch – Instagram | Facebook | Tech Crunch – Snapchat | Mobile Marketer

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