Instagram's doling out the big bucks for creators choosing Reels over TikTok

Maybe this would be more successful with a lot more transparency. And, you know, if Instagram wasn't generally bad for one's mental health.

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Instagram’s TikTok envy has reached entirely new heights. The Meta-owned brand is now offering creators up to $10,000 to post Reels as part of a new contest called Reels Surprise.

The Reels Surprise bonuses will be awarded to up to 150 creators in the United States per week, with each creator receiving up to $10,000 for a single reel. There’s no actual entry to the contest; users are just encouraged to post their best reels over the next few weeks in the hope that they’ll win. Instagram suggests uploading “inspiring” or “entertaining and fun” content for the contest.

Reels Surprise is a contest program, so creators can’t really set out to win one of the prizes in the way more standard monetization can be pursued. Instagram is upping the ante for its existing Reels Play bonus program— part of Facebook’s larger $1 billion investment to influencers — TechCrunch reports. But Instagram isn’t exactly being forthcoming with details about how much creators can earn with those bonuses, either. Maybe you should tell people how much they can earn if you want to coax them to your programs. Just an idea.

The whole thing’s a bit… vague — Instagram’s endgame here is in-your-face obvious: to tempt TikTok creators to move their content to Instagram’s TikTok clone instead. In this effort, you might think Instagram would motivate creators by illuminating just how much they might make by switching.

Nope. Reels creators say the guidelines for bonuses aren’t made clear at all. Some creators, for example, told TechCruch they’ve seen others being offered more cash for similar view counts and follower numbers. And these numbers seem to have no pattern, really. Some people are offered $1,000 for their reels; others are offered $600 for the same goals. One user reported being offered $35,000 for their reels.

The new Reels Surprise contest is similarly opaque. Besides a requirement that creators have at least one existing reel with 1,000+ views, any reel about anything at all can theoretically win a $10,000 prize. Up to $10,000, which, you know, could mean someone wins $20 while another wins $2,000. So yeah. Just post something “fun” or “inspiring” and cross your fingers, I suppose.

They wanna be TikTok sooo bad — Back in the day (just a few years ago), Instagram was up-and-coming, a cooler alternative to Facebook, the youth’s social network of choice. TikTok’s rapid growth has presented an existential threat to Instagram. More than a billion people now use TikTok every month, just three years after its launch.

Instagram still has a thriving influencer contingent, to be sure. But if creators — especially younger ones — want to make short-form videos, they’re heading to TikTok. Reels, as a newer product with a much smaller user base, struggles to capture the TikTok crowd’s attention.

Instagram is exploring every possible avenue for stealing TikTok’s business. Most of those attempts are just straight-up TikTok clones, like Reels, and Instagram has even toyed with the idea of changing its entire app to act more like TikTok.

Cash bonuses are generally a good motivator, so Instagram is on the right track there — though more transparency would do a lot of heavy lifting. More broadly, Instagram might find more success in luring new creators to Reels if it focused on fixing its many problems and doing less damage to kids’ mental health.