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Written by Ana Gotter

Last modified March 31, 2020 at 10:44 am

What Instagram Reels Mean (and Don’t Mean) for Social Media Managers


Look out, TikTok. Instagram Reels is ready to one-up you. But should the rest of us care?

Sharing photos, plus liking and commenting on friends’ photos, was just about all you could do on Instagram in the early days. But Instagram has come a very long way since then, partially by checking out what the competition does well, “stealing” those features or strategies, and even improving them.

A prime example of this was Instagram’s SInstories feature, which it took straight from Snapchat.

Instagram Stories usage has skyrocketed past Snapchat’s, and the feature has become so popular that it’s been adopted by Facebook and even YouTube (though it is currently in beta).

Now, Instagram has done it again, recently releasing its Reels for Stories, snagging a use case from the increasingly popular platform TikTok.

Reels allows users to create engaging, fun, and short videos using a catalog of music and user-generated Reels media on Instagram. 

In this post, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about Reels, including what they are, whether they really matter for your brand, and how to use them. Let’s dive right in! 

In This Corner, There’s TikTok

TikTok is a vertical video platform in the vein of the popular but now-defunct app Vine. It features short, 15-second videos meant to be fun, funny, and a little quirky. 

TikTok has quickly risen in popularity with Gen Z, in particular. It boasts 800 million monthly active users, which is made up an audience that has about 50% of users under age 34 and 26% in the age group of 18-24.

TikTok is a rapidly-growing social media platform. It’s entertaining and engaging, and when utilized well, it can help your business grow exponentially. 

Users who participate in a specific hashtag challenge create their own variations on videos with the same song or audio. The end result is the platform-wide creation of video memes and creative marketing content. 

After scrolling through TikTok and watching the variety of entertaining and engaging content, no wonder why Instagram wanted to get in on the action.

And in This Corner, We Have Reels

Reels are Instagram’s latest feature for Stories. The primary purpose of Reels, outside of being a direct competitor with TikTok, is to entertain—with the possibility of going viral in its dedicated Explore section. 

Reels takes its cues directly from TikTok, allowing users to make 15-second videos using music or audio from other users’ videos. Users can create fun, short video versions of their favorite online jokes or memes by tapping Reels’s extensive music catalog. 

Reels is not available to all Instagram users just yet. Instead, it’s rolling out slowly over time. Users in Brazil were the first to get access to the feature. It’s currently unclear what the rollout of this feature is going to look like in the near future. 

This video offers a preview of Instagram users can expect as it rolls out:

Why Reels Matter for Business 

Reels open Instagram up to a surge of interest, new users, and new business. This popular feature is what launched TikTok’s astronomical success, so why not provide the option to create and enjoy similar content on Instagram? 

After all, Reels is more than just a cool sticker you can use to embellish your Instagram Story.

Reels could give you the chance to get your face and channel featured in the Explore section under the upcoming “Top Reels” tab. The Explore section is used to discover new brands and content, which they’re eager to do on Instagram, with more than 70% of users following at least one brand on the platform. 

Users are engaged and interested in following businesses, so this can work to your advantage. Start now by growing through posting to the regular feed and to Stories, keeping in mind that Stories are incredibly important for brands. find out why teams love managing their social with agorapulse

Why Reels Aren’t a Mega Game Changer 

Reels will be a great asset to Instagram as they roll out. However, remember that this is only one new feature among many. The best Instagram features for your brand will really come down to your brand voice and tone.

Remember: You can leverage many tools on Instagram, even if Reels isn’t right for you.

For example, you could share user-generated content (UGC), photos and videos, and even create polls to interact directly with your audience: 

Some brands will struggle to incorporate music content into their Stories strategy, especially silly or amusing content. That’s totally understandable … If something isn’t true to your brand voice, skip it. It’s not worth compromising your brand experience to hop on the latest bandwagon. 

So, if Reels isn’t for you, take a deep breath and don’t worry. You have other ways to show up in the Explore tab.

Make sure you’re doing the following: 

Again, don’t stress if Reels isn’t right for you. Choose from one of the other many tools on Instagram. You’ll be able to enjoy and fully express your brand voice either way. 

How to Create Reels 

It’s easy to create your own Reels in Stories.

Follow these basic steps: 

  1. Record your video. You can choose to record it with or without audio.
  2. If you record without audio, choose a popular song or borrow the audio off someone else’s video. (Certain pieces of popular audio will also have their own pages, where you can explore other content made with the same audio.) 
  3. If you’re using a popular song, you can choose that from the massive collection of mainstream and indie-label music. 
  4. Use the piece of audio you prefer, then fill in the visuals. You can use video clips or images.
  5. Edit your video using Instagram’s built-in editing tools, such as time-synced captions and transition overlays.
  6. Share to your Stories! 

At this point, Reels still isn’t quite as powerful as TikTok in terms of tools and edits. But those improvements are in the works.

What Reels May Mean for Marketers in the Future

Already, Instagram Stories have marked a major shift in the way we create, share, and interact with social media content. This content style is fun, casual, and rapid-fire … and it’s being rolled out at a massive scale. 

Fun, interesting content has managed to gain priority on a platform once known mainly for its aesthetically pleasing images. Oddly enough, that’s reflective of social media as a whole. 

Social media platforms are shifting toward funnier, more entertaining, quirkier content these days. Focus on being your authentic self rather than trying to appear perfect all the time. 

Thought leader Rachel Hollis snapped a quick photo of herself keeping it real behind-the-scenes while filming episodes of her upcoming show. She shared it on Stories, but you can only imagine the potential of how well it would perform on Reels.

Reels presents a fantastic opportunity to increase your brand authenticity and transparency. You’ll be able to connect with users in new ways—an incredibly effective way to grow your brand’s following. Reels is just one more positive step in this direction, and serves a similar purpose as Stories did when they first rolled out. 

Whenever possible, it’s crucial for marketers and businesses to adapt. Platforms are ever-changing in today’s world. Social media managers and marketers must be flexible and willing to be learning continually. 

In Conclusion

Reels presents a unique opportunity for Instagram to compete with TikTok—and for Instagram users who prefer the platform to keep more of their content marketing efforts centralized there. 

Most likely, Reels won’t disrupt your overall strategy, and it likely won’t be a major game-changer, but it’s going to be fun along the way.

Once Insta Reels rolls out to your area, take advantage of the feature and see whether it fits into your content marketing strategy for your own brand.

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Want more helpful, actionable content like this? Subscribe to the Agorapulse newsletter, and get the most recent blog posts and news about the social media channels you use most.

Ana Gotter

Ana Gotter is a freelance writer and marketing consultant specializing in social media and content marketing, though she writes on a variety of other niches and subjects. She can be contacted at

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