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  • Meerelle Cruz

Facebook Reels is Now Available to US Users

Just days after TikTok revealed that it had hit a billion active users, Facebook has now made Reels on Facebook available to all Facebook users in the United States, bringing its short-form video competitor to a much larger audience. In all honesty, Facebook appears to be the most enthusiastic about the update.

Since March, Facebook has been testing Reels in its main app, beginning in India, where TikTok is banned, giving Facebook a better chance to profit from the format's popularity. And now it's offering it to its 250 million-plus US audience. Music, audio, effects, and more can be included in Facebook reels. You can find them on your News Feed or in Groups, and you can quickly follow the creator directly from the video, like and comment on it, or share it with friends when viewing a reel on Facebook.

The most intriguing feature is the addition of groups – as seen in the above video clip, in addition to being able to share your Reels to your News Feed, you'll also be able to post them directly to groups that you're a member of, with Facebook also launching a new 'Single Theme' group setting "that makes it easy to prompt members to share their Reels."

As seen in this example, you might use themed Reels to encourage group members to, for example, share films of themselves blowing on their dogs' ears to watch how they react, which could start a new engagement trend in your group and encourage more involvement.

It's a smart move by Facebook, especially because Facebook groups are utilized by more than 1.8 billion people every month. And, similar to its approach to audio social, which is also fed through groups, Facebook is hoping to capitalize on its edge in hosting these devoted communities to optimize Reels usage and grow the trend through more focused engagement. However, Facebook recognizes that a big part of TikTok's appeal is its reach and possibility for internet stardom, and it's quick to note that Reels on Facebook can also deliver that.

Reels may be seen by anybody, not just your current followers, allowing the most innovative, humorous, and inspiring people to shine. People may find reels based on their interests and what's trending at the top of News Feed alongside Stories and Rooms, as well as in a new News Feed area.

Facebook is also expanding its test of suggesting Instagram Reels on Facebook, adding additional Reels material and giving Instagram creators a broader cross-app reach. Facebook has an advantage over TikTok in terms of reach across both platforms, as well as a much more stable revenue mechanism and significantly more resources to throw at rewarding Reels production.

This is what Facebook is hoping to do with a new bonus program:

They are launching a new incentive program to help creators earn money when people watch their reels as part of their promise to invest over $1 billion in them through 2022. The ‘Reels Play' incentive will be available on both Facebook and Instagram and will pay qualifying creators based on the performance of their reels. Following the success of the Instagram Reels Summer bonus, they hope that this new incentive will enable more creators to profit from their work.”

As Snapchat discovered with its Spotlight creator funding, which has steadily caused increasing unhappiness within its creative community as payments have dried up, incentive-based systems like these have some drawbacks. It makes great sense as a concept – effective monetization of short-form content is tough because you can't put advertising in the middle or before a 15-30 second clip. This is prompting each app to think more creatively, focusing on branded content partnerships and dedicated reward programs, both of which may operate as a significant draw (Snapchat's Spotlight swiftly grew to 125 million users thanks to its payments system). They can, however, backfire if the same revenue stream becomes a source of reliance, and the app is unable to replace it with a more sustainable cash flow.

Nonetheless, Facebook will be aiming to attract more producers, with the added incentive of being able to reach Facebook's audience. The ‘Reels Play' initiative will reward qualifying Facebook creators with a bonus if their Reels receive at least 1000 views on Facebook in 30 days. The bonus program for Reels Play on Facebook is now invitation-only. Invited creators will be notified via the Facebook App and Creator Studio, and can sign up for further information here.

Will the addition of Facebook to Reels make it a more appealing and engaging choice, preventing more people from turning to TikTok?

It appears improbable. As you can see from this graph, TikTok's growth pace is extraordinary, and its allure has only been heightened by the pandemic's global lockdowns. TikTok's appeal to younger viewers is particularly strong, and it's this aspect that has worried Facebook, with the ghost of MySpace still calling from the past, warning of imminent obsolescence if the platform fails to secure the youth vote.

Facebook had planned to force TikTok out of the market with improved monetization options, snatching top creators in the process. However, with TikTok developing new business options that are aligned with its creator tools, that approach has become less effective over time, and with Facebook also frequently in the news for the wrong reasons, it appears that TikTok has weathered the storm and will now be able to better establish itself as a key challenger in the space.

That doesn't imply Facebook is on its path to become the next MySpace - it still has 2.9 billion active members and is expanding into new markets daily. However, Facebook is no longer the hip kid on the block; it is instead a utility, a service that has a place but may lose steam as younger users spend more time on other, more engaging sites. Of course, this is why Facebook continues to struggle and battle for user attention in any way it can. However, as has been the case for some years, Facebook is no longer the innovator, and it is no longer leading the way, which allows new, fresh competitors to enter the market.

Facebook, on the other hand, is currently focusing on the next level, to eventually become a Metaverse firm. Maybe that's where Facebook can reclaim the lead and acquire a competitive advantage – or maybe it just needs to shift its focus and focus on its utility features to maintain its position. In many ways, it's difficult to envision TikTok ever meeting that same need, but as it grows, it might become an even bigger thorn on Facebook's side in the years to come.

In any case, Reels is now available on Facebook, allowing older viewers to participate in the short video craze. As a result, expect a certain amount of cringe.

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