Instagram Expands Access to Reels-focused Tipping Feature, Gifts • AapkaDost

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Instagram announced today that it is expanding access to a new monetization feature called Gifts to more creators in the US. The feature, which was first tested last year, allows fans to offer a favorite creator direct financial support in the form of virtual themed gifts. The gifts are purchased in the Instagram app using the Stars virtual currency and can range from just 10 stars to several hundred stars.

While sending stars was already available in live and on-demand videos, including Reels, the addition of Gifts allows Instagram to better compete with rivals like TikTok, where virtual gifts are already available. It also provides the company with a revenue stream other than advertising, as Instagram creators must share a portion of the revenue they earn from Instagram.

Creators in the US can check in the settings if they are now eligible to receive gifts through their professional dashboard. If so, they can enable the option if they wish.

On the web, stars are sold in packs starting at $0.99 and going up from there. But Instagram clarifies that those stars are for Facebook only. For Instagram Gifts, Stars can only be purchased directly in the Instagram app as in-app purchases. Users can purchase 45 stars for $0.99, 140 stars for $2.99, or 300 for $5.99.

Image Credits: Instagram

In this morning’s announcement, Instagram noted that the Reels tipping feature was first publicly introduced in November. However, it had been noticed long before that. Last fall, the company confirmed to AapkaDost that it had developed an internal prototype of Gifts, originally called “content appreciation.” It followed the development of other tipping features in the app, including the ability to send stars to creators and the launch of badges in 2020, which added a heart icon next to your name in the comments. But Badges only focused on live videos, while Gifts focused on Reels from its debut.

Instagram confirmed to AapkaDost that Gifts will remain Reels-only for now.

When available, you’ll see the “Send Gift” option above the creator’s username on a reel, as seen with early tester Hamilton & Olivia.

Image Credits: @hammyandolivia (Opens in a new window)

The virtual tipping program’s focus on Reels may also lead more creators to delve into the format, which is still a priority for Instagram as it battles TikTok. While the company recently admitted that it may have pushed too many videos to its user last year, it continues to view Reels as a means of driving growth. During Q1 2022 earnings earlier this month, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, said Reels video playback on Facebook and Instagram more than doubled by 2022, and the number of people sharing Reels with friends on both apps in the past had more than doubled in six months.

Image Credits: Instagram

But while Reels are growing in popularity among users, they pose more of a monetization challenge. Zuckerberg pointed out that Reels’ monetization efficiency is much lower than the Feed’s, meaning that as it grows, it takes time to use a more profitable part of the app and the company loses money. Meta predicted that it wouldn’t be until the end of the year or next year for Reels to grow profitably while keeping up with consumer demand for the format.

Given the situation, it’s easy to see why Instagram would want to hook up another monetization lever to the Reels system, as it is now doing with Gifts.

The company says it aims to make the feature available to more creators over time.

Update: 2/8/23, 12 noon and to clarify that Instagram stars must be purchased in the app.

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