Born On Instagram – Instagram’s strategy to compete with TikTok in India

Born On Instagram shows the company's focus on the regional market is a rational strategy but it is also giving a stiff fight to the popularity of TikTok in India.

26-year-old Awez Darbar is a well known Indian dancer, choreographer, and an Internet star. Son of music composer Ismail Darbar is immensely popular on TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. However, if you go by numbers he is a bigger star on TikTok. On(5/11/2019) TikTok he had 18M+, Instagram 3M+ and on YouTube 1.7M+ followers.

From an engagement point TikTok is at the top. His recent collaboration with Bollywood actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui for the promotion of his latest movie on TikTok(3.1M) had more views than Instagram(713K). Additionally, if you scroll through Awez’s feed on TikTok and Instagram, he is creating more content for TikTok – the app that young India is hooked on.

The looping short-form video app owned by Chinese company ByteDance would obviously love it but it is a sign of worry for Facebook-owned Instagram. The app that quickly became the world’s largest social network in the U.S. is battling knockoffs, acquisitions and censorship threats, according to The New York Times.

Popular with young Americans and Indians, TikTok has been a concern for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. According to a transcript of a meeting published by the Verge, Mark acknowledged that TikTok had been doing quite well. “It’s a very interesting phenomenon. So we have a number of approaches that we’re going to take towards this.”

Instagram Experience(IGX) 

Instagram Experience(IGX), the company’s flagship event to celebrate, discover and showcase creators and communities is one of the strategies to compete with TikTok in India. With a focus on local creators, Instagram launched the “Born on Instagram” initiative, where 250 Indian creators will lead, mentor and offer collaboration opportunities to other users. According to YourStory, the initiative is being launched in 15 cities with the help of Bollywood, online and regional celebrities.

In addition to this, Instagram is also rolling out Unlabel content series which is going to challenge stereotypes and address issues like mental health, gender discrimination, etc. To discourage the behavior of bullying, Instagram will make its Restrict list feature available in India.

Instagram’s ongoing strategy in India, the second-biggest market after Brazil is to enable content creation, consumption, and commerce within the app itself. This way it grows users, revenues and keeps TikTok at bay.

TikTok’s #EduTok

Regional is the way forward for content creators and brands in India. According to the KPMG M&E 2019 report – the digital consumer in 2030 will be a Non-English speaking, mobile phone user and increasingly willing to pay for content online. Realising this majority of mediums – traditional and digital have started to cater to the interests of this local consumer. (Read: How regional is defining India’s digital future)

Both Instagram and TikTok are aware that the next growth will happen from Tier-2 and 3 cities. TikTok is already witnessing the massive growth in India from non-metro cities. To continue the growth and keep the Indian government happy by supporting Skill India, TikTok recently launched #EduTok offline by forging collaboration with leading social enterprises such as Josh Talks and The/Nudge Foundation. The program is aimed at supporting first-time Internet users to gain knowledge by giving them access to high-quality educational content created by creators and organizations. (Read: Why is TikTok investing in #EduTok program in India)

Over the next six months starting from October 2019, Josh Talks will organize 25  workshops and The/Nudge Foundation will create tailor-made content for individuals so that they are future-ready. These workshops will be held in six states(Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, and Jammu) working with regional TikTok creators.

Prior to going offline, #EduTok had been a successful online initiative. Influencers created content on various education topics and the audience lapped it up. TikTok is doing the same on offline with a key focus on PM Modi’s Skill India Program.

TikTok’s growth in India hasn’t been a smooth one, the app had been blocked in the past for pornographic content and later there were data related issues raising the concerns of national security. #EduTok is TikTok’s strategy in India to keep users and the government happy.

Instagram’s sudden interest to discover regional creators with the help of influencers and the Unlabel content series breathe the same strategy that TikTok is already executing in India. Instagram wants to go local and at the same time it wants you to feel safe and free of bullies.”Much like Indian culture, passions pursued by Instagrammers here are the most diverse and represent urban and regional trends,” said Vishal Shah, VP (product) at Instagram in an interview with Mint.

Influencing shopping on Instagram

Instagram wants to be your discovery platform, leading to influencing buying decisions on the platform. Initially, Instagram was the platform for creators who showcased their work and enabled commerce via other means. Over the years Instagram has made the shopping experience seamless and integrated into the app. A recent report stated:

More than 75% of the shoppers have had a satisfactory experience while shopping from Instagram and a majority of them are likely to shop in the future as well.

These findings are from Regon’s (market research division of WAT Consult) Instagram in India report.”More than 50% of consumers have shopped using Instagram. Close to 75% of the users from small metros and small towns have shopped using Instagram.”

Indians on Instagram

This is encouraging for Instagram in India. Shopping on Instagram right now is available in two forms – shopping tags and shopping ads. While these two ways are available in India, direct purchases the third form isn’t yet live in India. Instagram is testing in the US and it’s in a very small beta for people to check out and buy directly on Instagram. “The reason we are rolling that out very slowly is because of consumer trust. So, if people have a bad experience with even one brand, when they buy directly on Instagram, they’re not going to buy from any other brand,” said Vishal.

Instagram’s IGTV, the stand-alone long format video app to compete with YouTube has also evolved into a buying platform. Banking on the 50% of users that engage on the Explore page, Instagram revamped the Explore tab. Revamped earlier in 2019, the Explore page now includes a navigation bar featuring shortcuts to IGTV and Shop, as well as channels tailored to individual interests like food and travel. The Explore grid also features Instagram Stories.

Born on Instagram is a cute name for Branded Content Ads – a feature the company launched earlier in 2019. And it wants business and advertisers to reach out to the audience better by promoting content on Instagram Feed, Stories and Shopping.

TikTok is also influencing the shopping experience

TikTok is also testing the shopping waters in the U.S. by creating opportunities for brands to experiment with its ad offerings. Reported by Adweek, Hollister, America’s lifestyle brand owned by Abercrombie & Fitch is running in-feed video ads encouraging users to shop while browsing the app. Tapping on the “shop now” button pushes users to a microsite experience where they can browse and shop while still in the TikTok app.

Currently, TikTok offers brands in-feed video ads that show up between user-generated content along with branded hashtag challenges, in which brands or creators encourage users to make their own videos using a promoted hashtag, and brand takeover ads, where a full-page ad appears when a TikTok user first opens the app.

In India, brands such as Snapdeal, Bewakoof, Subway, Daniel Wellington, etc. have already shown interested in Shoppable advertisements. The shopping experience is nascent in India but the popularity of TikTok will excite brands to reach out to the regional audience.

Regional is the key to India. TikTok has gained momentum even if Instagram has been a dominant player for some time. Instagram’s focus on the regional market is a rational strategy for the Facebook-owned app but it is also giving a stiff fight to the popularity of TikTok.

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