Instagram has cut the amount it pays makers of short videos as the Meta-owned business adapts its strategy towards so-called influencers while facing fierce competition from TikTok.

The invite-only scheme, which is available to some Instagram users in the US, pays a rate based on the views received on clips called “Reels”.

Instagram introduced the programme last year, partly in response to the popularity of TikTok, the short-form video app that Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has blamed for stealing attention from its social media apps including Facebook.

Under the Reels system, influencers are given personalised payouts with specific targets for views, with money capped at a maximum fee per month.

Several creators told the Financial Times that payments for Reels have been down for the past few weeks by as much as 70 per cent per view, and the threshold for getting paid is more than 10 times higher. One user who could be paid a maximum of $35,000 said their personal target for views jumped from 58mn to 359mn.

Influencers have not been given reasons for the revised payouts, and the move comes despite the company publicly saying it was increasingly focused on video.

“Video is driving an immense amount of growth online for all the major platforms right now, and it’s one that I think we need to lean into more,” said Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, in June last year. “We are no longer a photo-sharing app.”

Ed East, chief executive of creative agency Billion Dollar Boy, which makes advertising for brands on social media, said that Instagram had tended to pay more than TikTok.

“Creators have had mixed experiences with these programmes, and there’s uncertainty around potential earnings due to a lack of transparency and information regarding payout calculations,” he added.

Creators also said they had seen engagement — the number of views, likes, shares and comments — on Reels drop on Instagram in the past month, with its algorithm favouring Carousels, a series of still images in one post.

“We’re currently testing Reels Play on Instagram and Facebook, which means bonus payouts may fluctuate as we refine our pricing models,” said Meta. “Our goal is to ensure that the best Reels content gets rewarded on our platforms.”

After TikTok became the world’s fastest-growing social media app in 2020, rival social media companies rushed to launch short-form clips and revenue-generating tools to lure and secure content creators, in a battle for influencer talent.

Meta lost more than $220bn from its market valuation in February after it warned that users were spending increasing time on TikTok, the biggest one-day decline in a company’s market value on record.

In August last year, YouTube introduced a $100mn Shorts Fund, which pays creators individual payouts of between $100 and $10,000 based on engagement with short-form videos.

Snap also paid more than $250mn last year to thousands of creators who used Spotlight, its short-form offering. Initially, it paid out more than $1mn a day to contributors on the platform but had to reduce payment amounts as it encouraged too much “copycat content”, chief executive Evan Spiegel said at a Goldman Sachs conference last September.

Some social media companies have also had to introduce technology to detect when videos had been edited using TikTok’s tools to prevent creators from posting the same content across channels.

“The initial momentum behind Reels has gone away,” said Binny Shah-Patel, a food and travel blogger who makes content on both Instagram and TikTok. “Creating a Reel on Instagram can be fiddly and crashes, on TikTok you have better features and your audience is wider.”

Additional reporting by Hannah Murphy in San Francisco

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