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In the world of social media, trends, features, and even platforms can seemingly become a phenomenon overnight. One night, you go to bed after scrolling your Instagram feed, and the next morning you wake up to a brand new, intriguing yet unfamiliar app called TikTok. It doesn't take long for this app to surpass all others as the most downloaded app of all time with over 1 billion active users across the world. 

Flash forward to the present day where Instagram - and almost every other popular social platform, for that matter - are scrambling to keep up with this new app. So, what makes TikTok so attractive, and can Instagram compete with their look-a-like competitive feature, IG Reels? Well, let’s dive in! 

 

Why is short-form video so popular all of the sudden? 

Before we talk about Reels and TikTok, let’s first address why the short-form video nature of both platforms caught on so quickly. For a long while, social media marketers have strategized their content around the fact that the attention span of our followers is short- and we mean short. According to Facebook, marketers only have 0.25 seconds to capture a user’s attention before they keep scrolling. 

With that in mind, snackable video content became the name of the game for brands and content creators and opened the door to a scrappier style of content - especially for brands who had typically seen video content as an expensive, high-production-value ordeal. 

The lower production value required for a high-performing Reels or TikTok video was key for brands. That, paired with the fact that these platforms became widely popular during a pandemic when creative teams were developing content out of their own homes. Additionally, it opened up a new door for brands and content creators to turn out quick-hit, entertaining content. 

 

What’s the difference between Reels and TikTok? 

Now that we’ve covered why short-form video content is so popular across both Reels and TikTok, let’s discuss the key differences between these platforms that have affected how they’ve been adopted by social users. 

 

Reels

TikTok

The Takeaway

The User Experience

To navigate to Reels, users must first open the Instagram app, where they will be shown their regular feed from accounts they follow. Then, they will select the Reels icon from the bottom menu to start viewing Reels in a TikTok-esque feed of content that’s been curated for the user by Instagram’s algorithm. 

When a user opens the TikTok app, they are immediately shown a curated feed of TikToks the platform’s algorithm has chosen - AKA the “FYP” (for you page). The full screen and vertical swipe feed create a frictionless user experience that makes it as easy as possible to enjoy the app. 

TikTok’s unique user experience puts short-form video content curated just for you at the center stage, creating a seamless and simple way to enjoy content. On the other hand, Reels is only a feature of Instagram among many others. 

Music & Video Editing Tools

Due to copyright concerns, Instagram business accounts only have access to Reels’ library of royalty-free tracks, while content creators have access to a larger library full of popular copyrighted music. While Reels does offer video editing tools, they can be tricky to navigate and their filters and effects are not very extensive. 

Music and sound are the cornerstones of a TikTok video, and the app has nailed this feature with its extensive library of music and user-generated sounds available to content creators and brands alike. On top of that, TikTok’s video editing features are user-friendly, and they offer a wide variety of filters and video effects. 

TikTok is the clear winner when it comes to music and video editing tools given their extensive music and sound library and editing capabilities. 

Platform Purpose  

Instagram, home of Reels, is a network-oriented app, where users are used to seeing content from people they are familiar with and have chosen to follow. However, in the Reels section of the app, it takes on a content-oriented approach, serving users content from people they don’t know. 

At its core, TikTok is a content-oriented app. It normalized the experience of seeing content from people you don’t know in your feed based on your usage history and learned preference. 

While both platforms' short-form video features are content-oriented, Instagram is known for being a network-oriented app. Instagram has offered a similar user experience through their “Explore” page since 2012, so this balance between content and network orientation is something they’ve been teetering for a while. 

The Algorithm 

Instagram has been less transparent about the Reels algorithm, however, it has provided a few best practices for success. For example, Instagram recommends that Reels content is entertaining, fun, and inspiring, uses the app’s creative editing tools, and leverages the music or sounds provided. Instagram has also shared that content that is visibly recycled from other apps (e.g. contains a TikTok watermark) will also be deprioritized by the algorithm. 

Beyond all of the features listed above, TikTok’s arguably largest advantage is its algorithm. The platform’s parent company, ByteDance, has been very transparent about the large investment they made to design the app’s algorithm that picks up on users' personalized interests in record time, contributing to the effortless and enjoyable nature of consuming content on the app. 

Overall, TikTok’s algorithm is the first of its kind and unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the social space, which ultimately contributes to its success. We don’t know as much about Instagram’s Reels algorithm, but we can assume it attempts to mimic the TikTok experience while staying true to the app and attempting to keep Reels content unique.  

 

How Brands Can Be Successful on Reels and TikTok

To be successful on Reels and TikTok, brand content shouldn’t feel like brand content. Brands need to get scrappy and creative to grab user’s attention and not stand out like a sore thumb among the style of content shared by individual creators. With that in mind, both Reels and TikTok require a unique content strategy within the brand’s larger social strategy. However, that inevitably requires extra time and effort. To decide which of these platforms to begin focusing your efforts on, ask yourself these two questions: 

  • Which platform is your audience on currently? 
  • Which one can you commit to doing consistently? 

While there are many benefits of TikTok as discussed above in our comparison of the two platforms, many brands have already established themselves and have grown a following on Instagram, and therefore beginning to utilize Reels has a low barrier to entry. While cross-posting between the two platforms is an option we’ve seen numerous brands take, a carefully thought out strategy for each channel your brand has a presence on is more important than simply having content out there. When it comes to a brand’s social presence, quality is always preferred over quantity. 

The social world is ever-evolving - and at the end of the day, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to which platform is best - the answer is unique to your brand’s priorities and your team’s bandwidth to thoughtfully manage the channels on which your brand appears.  

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Cinco de Mayo is a day most Americans associate with two-for-one margaritas and bottomless salsa or maybe even with Mexican Independence. In reality, it’s the anniversary of a David vs. Goliath-esque battle that took place between Mexico and France in the 1860s. More than a century later, it was co-opted by alcohol marketers to sell booze to Spanish-speaking Americans. Quite the tenuous thread, considering that outside the state of Puebla–where the battle took place–it isn’t widely celebrated in Mexico. But this post isn’t intended to cancel Cinco de Mayo revelry; quite the opposite. With an Avocados from Mexico poll revealing that only 22% of Americans know what they’re actually raising their cervezas to every 5th of May, consider this a brief primer on how to celebrate a day of Mexican heritage, resilience, and pride respectfully, without the appropriation of a sombrero. As marketers ourselves, it’s the least we can do.    Picture it: Mexico, 1862.  What started as a naval invasion to secure debts owed by Mexico to European governments turned into a sly attempt by France to take over the country. Emperor Napoleon III–nephew of his namesake Napoleon Bonaparte–set his sights on claiming a French-backed stronghold in North America. But before his troops could invade Mexico City, they were remarkably defeated by Mexican general Ignacio Zaragoza and his men in Puebla de Los Ángeles. Though Napoleon ultimately occupied the country until 1867, this battle remains a symbolic and historic moment of Mexican resilience and sovereignty with as few as 2,000 Mexican soldiers fighting off three times as many French ones. Against the backdrop of the American Civil War, Mexicans living in California–wary of France’s Confederate support–regaled their underdog countrymen’s victory over foreign powers with the first Cinco de Mayo celebrations stateside. Today, the largest Cinco de Mayo celebrations take place in Los Angeles, California.    From cultural pride to corporate gains   In the 20th century, Chicano activists embraced the holiday as an occasion to celebrate their broader Mexican heritage and fight for their civil rights. President Franklin D. Roosevelt is also said to have had a hand in raising its popularity through US-Latin American policy. But, as happens with most holidays, Cinco de Mayo’s origins were usurped by commercial interests. In the 1980s, beverage brands saw it as a prime opportunity to sell more beer and launched marketing campaigns to Spanish-speaking Americans. As Paste magazine put it, “An ethnically-themed holiday falling on a relatively blank calendar space between St. Patrick’s Day and Memorial Day, just as the weather is starting to warm up? Nothing could be more perfect.” The rest, they say, is history. Or rather, historical ambiguity?    Celebrating responsibly  Of course, supporting your favorite local Mexican restaurant or bar on Cinco de Mayo is a wonderful thing. But without the sobering context and history of a day that is typically anything but sober, it’s easy for Cinco de Mayo to simply be an excuse to throw back too many tequila shots at a chain restaurant wearing a stick-on mustache when it could be an opportunity to authentically immerse yourself in the culture. So, without further adieu, here are a few ways we recommend celebrating and a few that should be absolutely stricken from the itinerary. By now it should be obvious, but for those not of Mexican descent who may be unclear: trust your instincts and forgo dressing as a caricature of Mexican attire. That means no sombreros, no ponchos (called serape and jorongo in Spanish), and absolutely no fake mustaches. Embrace the culture without making a mockery of it. In this same vein–for marketers and everyday folks–don’t give English words a Spanish flair in an effort to rhyme or be cute. It’s not Cinco de Drinko.   Go ahead and sip on a freshly muddled margarita, an ice-cold tequila, or even a smoky mezcal, but refrain from getting sloppy at best or offensive at worst. Better still, talk to your bartender and ask to try a cocktail you haven’t had before like a paloma, michelada, or horchata. Beyond enjoying Mexican spirits or beers, it’s the perfect opportunity to eat delicious, authentic food. Seek out family-owned Mexican restaurants, food trucks, or ingredients you haven’t tried before, and avoid chains if you can. Take a Mexican cooking class taught by a Mexican or Mexican-American chef and learn how to make traditional recipes at home like mole poblano, a traditional sauce of Puebla. Read a book by a Mexican or Mexican-American author, watch a Mexican show on your streaming service of choice, or sing along to a playlist of Mexican musicians. Attend a Cinco de Mayo festival in your area to experience traditional music, dancing and dress, and activities for the whole family.  Tell your friends what you learned in this blog post! Or better yet, continue reading about the intersectionality of Mexican and American history.     AMP and Advantage Employees Weigh in on Cinco de Mayo  “In my family, Cinco de Mayo is usually combined with Mother’s Day and boxing fights. It’s a weekend of bonding, delicious food, and good times. However, I did grow up seeing it celebrated inappropriately by my peers. As an adult, I notice that there is more of an effort to explain what the day actually commemorates and how to celebrate appropriately. The comradery of this makes me more proud to be Mexican-American and even encourages me to celebrate my culture more with my family.”  - Destiny Velazquez, Engagement Strategist at AMP “Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that in Mexico we don't really celebrate. As Mexicans or Mexican-Americans in America, we cringe about [it] due to the insensitive depiction of our heritage and culture and seeing it narrowed down to maracas, sombreros, and culturally appropriated Americanized dishes that fail to represent the rich gastronomy that Mexico has to offer. As a result, as an ERG, we originally chose to bypass Cinco de Mayo as an occasion to celebrate or even acknowledge. But the more we thought about it, the more we thought about the need for us to be part of the solution. Cinco de Mayo will not go away, and we do not want it to go away. We want more people to embrace it and celebrate it appropriately. It is an opportunity to share our culture, tradition, and history, and it’s an opportunity to bring our communities closer together.”  - Gerado Orta, Co-Chair HOLA (Advantage’s LatinX ERG) and VP Strategic Planning at InMarketing Services    "Yo soy (I am) Peruana. In the town I grew up in [in] New Jersey, Cinco de Mayo was not something I saw celebrated or acknowledged; most of my friends were from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, or from South America. And because I am Peruvian, Cinco de Mayo was not part of my cultural upbringing. It wasn’t until I began working professionally in corporate America, that I was introduced to Cinco de Mayo. Frankly, it never felt right the way the holiday was presented, associated with tacos, margaritas, and sombreros. I have friends who are Mexican and saw the holiday as perpetuating stereotypes about Mexican culture. I did my research and learned more about the origins and significance of the holiday – something, unfortunately, missed when talking about Cinco de Mayo. If you want to celebrate or partake in another communities’ cultural traditions or celebrations, learn about [them] first. Sometimes people confuse dressing in a certain way or imitating another cultures’ traditions as appreciation, [when] what they are doing is appropriating another culture. This can be off-putting or seen as disrespectful by individuals in the other community.  Even if the intent was meant to be positive, “I was just trying to celebrate x culture,”  what’s important to remember is the impact it can have on another community. The best advice I can give [is] showing appreciation for another culture starts with educating yourself first on what’s acceptable and what’s not before taking any action. And if you make a mistake, which is bound to happen (I mean we are human), acknowledge it, learn from it, and don’t do it again." - Giannina Seaman, Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Advantage Solutions

If you’ve ever watched an ad or TV show and felt fond memories of simpler times rushing back to you, then you’re familiar with nostalgia. Connecting with a brand’s positive concepts or ideas from the past is referred to as nostalgic marketing. The goal is to create campaigns that trigger fond memories of comfort and security causing consumers to have positive associates with the brand. The emotions that viewers experience with specific brands serve as an escape from reality. While the concept is not new, it’s become more popular in recent times and is used by companies of all sizes across all industries, from Coca-Cola to the Walt Disney Company and that’s because it works.  There are plenty of brands that have created notable “throwback” campaigns over the past few years targeted at millennials, GenX, and GenZ. From reboots of beloved television shows, limited runs of signature throwback packaging, or collaborations of new and #TBT music remixes, these all successfully promote sentimentality. If Stranger Things doesn’t scream “the ‘80s”, then I don’t know what does. The Netflix original series lays the nostalgia factor on thick, complete with Eleven’s vibrant and geometrically fabricated outfits to Steve Harrington and Billy Hargrove’s hairstyles. The creators of the show have perfected the balance of fond memories and futuristic innovation to keep viewers hooked with the heartwarming storyline and CGI that brings the Demogorgons to life from the popular game Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). Fast-forwarding to the ’90s, the hit HBO Max show, Euphoria, has brought back glitter and Barbie’s baby blue eyeshadow.  In season two, the cast adorned their lids with bold flicks of blue leading fans to take to Instagram and TikTok to show their best takes on the show’s top makeup moments, according to Instyle. With Y2K taking over, vibrant colors are back and brighter than ever.  Nostalgic marketing is an effective way to inspire brand affinity and encourage consumers to romanticize memories of the past. Here are 5 ways to implement nostalgic marketing: 1. Tune into Social Media: With the resurgence of the Y2K aesthetic powered by social media creators and influencers, gaucho pants and platform sandals have found their way back to our timelines and into our hearts. Social media is a melting pot of nostalgia where you can reminisce and feel connected to a larger community of people with shared interests. Social platforms are full of conversations and content about what consumers miss from the past, the memories that bring them back to their childhood, and what brands left a mark along the way. Scrolling on TikTok or Instagram allows consumers to find out what’s trending from the past. It is important to keep your ear to the ground regarding trends to know what to do when injecting nostalgia into a future campaign. Think about a brand and how it could’ve improved from back then to now. 2. Focus on the audience:  The best nostalgia marketing effort resonates with multiple audiences. Brands need to understand their audience and keep in mind that the generation that first experienced the product or service will immediately be drawn to the campaign because of the nostalgia factor. In the beauty realm, Colourpop has been nailing this with their recent throwback collabs with Lizzie McGuire, and Malibu Barbie. As history repeats itself, nostalgia is now and TikTok is where Gen Z sets trends for what’s in and what will fly off the shelves.  3. Supply and demand: Consumer preferences and shopping trends are always changing, which is why brands frequently discontinue and launch products. With social listening, brands can take into account the backlash they are receiving for taking away beloved products. If the conversation is large enough, the brand might consider bringing the product back to the customers' delight.  4. Pull on those heartstrings: What story can be told? Is there a fan of the brand who has been following the company’s moves for a while? Make the brand feel human and embrace the 5 senses that dig deep into the brain’s memories. Recently, the Harry Potter crew had a reunion (Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts) on HBO Max. The special took place at Warner Bros. Studio which is home to the beloved sets of the Harry Potter movies. As many people streamed the reunion, a flood of emotions filled the cast and viewers when reliving the films. 5. Don’t rush it: You are working with human emotions so your approach must be strategic and full of effort. A quick turnaround campaign will feel rushed and a money-grabbing stunt. Make your audience want more while also feeling satisfied with what you have given them.   Keep listening to your customers to figure out what makes your audience nostalgic. Allow your brand to bring comfort to many during these unpredictable times by connecting and embracing the familiar.  Best-in-class brands listen to the voice of the customer to make strategic decisions to ensure their campaigns create warm feelings for their customers while also shedding a positive light on the brand. Time to shake up your Magic Eight Ball and bring memories to fruition!