Instagram Reels keep garnering more attention all the time. But how should social media managers approach this unfurling feature of Instagram?
Sharing photos, liking, and commenting on 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—”borrowing” those features or strategies, and even improving them.
A prime example of this was Instagram’s Stories feature, which it took straight from Snapchat. Likewise, Instagram Stories usage has skyrocketed past Snapchat’s. The feature has become so popular that it has been adopted by Facebook and even YouTube.
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.
What Are Instagram Reels?
Early in 2020, Instagram released its Reels for Stories, snagging a use case from the increasingly popular platform TikTok.
Instagram Reels allows users to create engaging, fun, and short videos using a catalog of music and user-generated Reels media on Instagram.
Reels are 15-second, multi-clip videos that can have sound, effects, and music added to them. (So pretty much exactly what you can do on TikTok.) Instagram Reels has an extensive music catalog that you know and love from Instagram Stories already, including modern top hits and established artists.
These videos are meant to be fun and creative, which does work with the more casual or quirky style that Stories sometimes have (especially since they were originally inspired by Snapchat).
The primary purpose of Reels, outside of being a direct competitor with TikTok, is to entertain. Instagram knows that this is a popular feature on another platform, so they wanted to integrate it here.
Why Instagram 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 do have outstanding visibility. The top video on many “explore” feeds is currently almost always Reels content, which is displayed much larger than the rest of the posts on the page.
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.
Instagram has also just announced that they’ll be creating a dedicated “Reels” tab. This won’t simply be a tab addition to the Explore section, as had previously been theorized.
Instead, Instagram Reels will actually have a clickable button on the new Instagram homepage. Some users already have this, but it may be rolling out for some users.
You can see it in the picture below from Instagram, with the reels icon in the very center of the bottom navigation bar on the home screen:
Think how visible and central to usage Stories are now, and even how IGTV has strong, heavy integrations through the app.
They’re trying to do the same thing for Reels, especially since they’re trying to get users to spend more time with them than on TikTok. They’re well aware that offering an all-in-one platform can help with that.
We can expect that there will be a big push to promote and encourage the usage of Reels moving forward, and users will likely participate on some level. That means that you can connect with some of your target audience here.
Fun and personable
Instagram Reels are a fun great addition to Instagram.
However, remember that this is only part of the platform. (Stories may be more impactful in regards to connecting with your audience.)
Some brands will struggle to incorporate music content, especially silly or entertaining, into their Stories strategy. 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.
Stories are more significant to the platform overall.
Remember, too, that if a significant number of your audience members are on TikTok, using Reels exclusively isn’t going to get you any closer to connecting with them. While it may fade into obscurity like many other platforms that came before it, it certainly won’t be doing so anytime in the immediate future.
If you want to reach more users with TikTok style content, by all means, create Reels, but go ahead and get on TikTok, too. In many cases, users are reposting TikTok videos on Instagram, including in Reels.
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, including with Stories, IGTV videos, and in-feed content. Adding relevant hashtags to your posts can also help boost visibility, as can working on UGC and influencer campaigns.
Though the Reels feature isn’t necessarily offering anything new to the Instagram platform overall, the good news is that it will hold its own.
Instagram has just announced that Shopping features will be coming to Reels. It will be converting the entire Instagram app into one dynamic, shoppable product catalog if you choose to use it as such.
The reason this is most significant at the moment is that they’ve beaten TikTok, which is currently working with Shopify to set up an integration to offer something similar. Though TikTok can still put you in front of new audience members, this does give Reels a nice advantage for brands.
How to Create Instagram Reels
You’ll create Reels from your Story creation screen.
Go to create a Story, and then select “Reels” (as opposed to “live” or “story”).
Create with Reels
You’ll then record a 15-second video. Note that if you pause the video before 15 seconds, you’ll restart to shoot another clip to fill in the remaining time.
Recording an Instagram Reel
Once the video is shot, you can edit it, similar to how you’ll edit a Story. You can trim the different video clips during the creation process. You can also add emojis, draw directly onto the video, and add stickers.
To add a custom voiceover, click on the microphone icon.
You can add your voiceover in real-time, ensuring that it syncs up with the video.
You can also add music, mixing the audio to create that iconic TikTok-styled (or, ahem, excuse us, “Reels-styled”) content.
Mix audio in Instagram Reels
Consider adding in transition overlays and any graphic details that could make your Reels content more engaging. Add a caption to your video, and then choose to publish it either to Stories or Reels.
Add caption in Instagram reels.
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.
It’s easy to create your own Reels in Stories.
Quick overview of steps
Follow these basic steps:
- Record your video. You can choose to record it with or without audio.
- 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.)
- If you’re using a popular song, you can choose that from the massive collection of mainstream and indie-label music.
- Use the piece of audio you prefer, then fill in the visuals. You can use video clips or images.
- Edit your video using Instagram’s built-in editing tools, such as time-synced captions and transition overlays.
- Share to your Stories!
At this point, Instagram Reels still isn’t quite as powerful as TikTok in terms of tools and edits. But those improvements are in the works.
Best Practices for Creating Instagram Reels
Ready to get started rocking those reels? (Sorry, we can’t help a great alliteration.)
While it’s still a relatively new-to-Instagram feature, there are a few best practices that you can use to make the biggest impact with this content.
These include the following:
Consider creating super-short tutorials & resources
Lightning-fast tutorial videos paired with a relevant soundtrack (aka 15 seconds of a song) can go over extremely well on Reels. You can show people how to make a great cheese board like the example below, or even “answer” a single question like “how to get a business credit card.”
Remember that you can tackle legitimate content; just pair it up with some fun music.
Get the audio mix right
Are you creating a voiceover central to the video?
You don’t want the background music drowning it out. Use the “mix” feature to choose the audio levels for the background narration and your music.
Start with a strong lede to capture your audience’s interest, and put in plenty of relevant hashtags to increase your potential visibility.
Remember that only the first few words will be displayed on Reels without users clicking on the “show more” tab, so choose wisely.
Have a sense of humor
Right now, humor can take you a long way on Reels, especially since it’s the most common approach to content creation. You don’t need to go over the top, but try out some relatable funny anecdotes and see how it works for you if it aligns with your brand voice.
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.
For many brands, Reels is a fun tool, but not necessarily one that has been disruptive or significantly impactful the way that Stories or Shoppable posts have been.
We recommend testing it out and trying to incorporate Reels into your content at least once a week to see how well it works for you and your audience.
Track engagement on the Reels videos, but also keep an eye on your reach and impressions to see if it’s making an impact.
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