The great imitation game: Everyone wants to be TikTok

If you’ve ever wanted proof that there’s no such thing as a new idea, social media channel design is a great places to start. From early Instagram being heavily inspired by Flickr, to Twitter’s short lived story feature (RIP, Fleets), social platforms love to copy each other when a user feature becomes popular. And it’s not always a bad thing (though, have you actually watched a LinkedIn Live?), these features are often duplicated as they are seen as useful to users, which will keep us on the apps more, which will sell more adverts. But is that what users really want? More of the same?

The question has been recently addressed for Instagram. In June, the company began user testing a new interface with reels at the centre of the design. It looked an awful lot like TikTok; with a full screen design and abandonment of the classic Instagram square that has been native to the app since it’s creation.

Of course; Instagram user tests new features all the time, but this one sank like a lead balloon. Professional creators Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner were quick to point out that the platform was ‘trying to be TikTok’ which led to Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, posting a mea culpa in the same week, an unusual move in our industry where direct user feedback is typically overlooked. But, history tells us that demands from the ‘special K’ corner of the internet do need to be heeded, as we all learnt when Snapchat’s share price dropped in 2018 after Kylie Jenner declared it to be over. (Side point – is anyone actually still using Snap?)

Instagram continues to be adamant that video is still the future of its platform, with the added caveat that they’ll still continue to celebrate photographic content from creators too. The new interface has been officially abandoned, and they’re back to the drawing board. But, the platform may still look to other social platforms for inspiration.

So, what’s that lurking on the social media horizon? Is it a selfie but with both cameras? Yes. It’s BeReal. An original concept, this app gives a daily notification that encourages users to share a photo of themselves and their immediate surroundings (the double selfie using both cameras) given a randomly selected two-minute window every day. Here’s one I took just now, in the interest of #transparency.

The perk of BeReal is to share content with your friends that ‘catches’ exactly what you’re doing, where you’re doing it and what it looks like. There’s no luxury filter, no hiding your real life. Hence the name, ‘BeReal’. It’s the ultimate competitor for Instagram. Everything the platform isn’t, BeReal is. But, that might not stop Instagram from throwing into the ring something that works in a similar way, either through notification and simultaneous posting, or the ‘double selfie’ feature either. Eagle eyed users have seen the app starting to test this dual camera feature earlier this month. Coupled with organic engagement falling off a cliff, new competitor apps, and the advent of video, could the clock finally be ticking on that ‘Instagrammable’ lifestyle we’ve all been pretending to live?

Let me know what you think on LinkedIn @lucycallaghan.