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Instagram New Features November 2021

Instagram is once again adding more TikTok-inspired features into its app, with the addition of a new ‘Text to Speech’ option in Reels clips, which provides an artificial voice to read any text overlays you add to your clips, and new voice changer options to alter your vocal tones.

First off, on text-to-speech - as you can see in the example screens below, the new option will give Reels creators two voice options to choose from, with the auto voice then reading out any text that you’ve added to your clip.

Which is already hugely popular on TikTok. These days, it seems like every other clip has that same, oddly upbeat female voice narrating a key element of the action, so much so that it’s actually a little annoying to hear. TikTok has added alternative voice options (after a legal battle with the original voice actor for the feature), which provides some relief – but regardless, it’s clearly a popular feature, so it makes sense for Instagram to add the same.

Instagram’s actual auto voices sound a little more generic, which could be a good thing, though the male voice is clearly not as ‘manly’ as TikTok’s variation. If that matters at all.

To add the new text to speech option, once you’ve added text to your clip, you’ll need to tap on the text bubble at the bottom of the composer screen, then select ‘Text-to-speech’ from the three dots menu (which is very small, so good luck if you’ve got larger fingers).

Instagram’s also added new ‘Voice Effects’, which provides another option to add a different creative element to your Reels clips.

As you can see here, you can now change your recorded voice to make it sound like you’ve been sucking on helium, or you’re a robot, or a giant, among various others, which could be an interesting way to change up your clips.

Which, of course, TikTok has as well – so again, Instagram’s still working to keep up with TikTok, with none of the new Reels features being original, as such, but more still bringing the option into line with TikTok’s offerings.

Which, as I’ve noted before, is probably not the most effective way for Instagram to try and win back the youth, which Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently noted is a key focus for the company. After research showed that Meta is losing ground among younger audiences, Zuckerberg said that it will look to put more emphasis on winning over these key usage groups – but the problem is that TikTok is now the leader for this cohort, in many respects, and as such, playing catch-up has Meta constantly on the back foot, even if it does need to maintain a level of parity to match up with the competition.

If Instagram is always copying, then it’s inevitably always a step behind, which means it’s never going to be the trend leader, and the cool place to engage for younger audiences. Users know that it’s simply copying TikTok, which really just further solidifies TikTok’s leadership. If Meta really wants to win over these groups. It’ll need to come out with more new, original ideas for its tools – which, as we’ve seen over the past decade, Meta is not exactly great at.

Replication, sure, Meta has done that over and over again, but what original ideas has Facebook or Instagram added that really caught on and became a leading trend in their own right?

I can’t think of any – all of Instagram’s innovations have been inspired by Snapchat, TikTok, Houseparty and others. IGTV was probably the closest to an original idea, but that ended up not working out, and was really inspired by YouTube. Saved Stories on user profiles, maybe?

If Meta wants to win, it needs to take the lead back, which will require new, original functions that will bring more people back to the app.

Can Meta do it? Does it have the capacity to come up with new ideas that will catch on? Recent history would suggest probably not, but it clearly has the capacity, and potential.

But, in essence, replication like this is just clinging to the latest trends, which is not enough at this stage.

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