Instagram Reels is a content format that allows you to create 15 second videos in a new dedicated feed on the Explore page and share them with others. It's Facebook's attempt to compete with TikTok, which also targets short-form video creation and is particularly popular with Gen Z.
Instagram Reels were first launched in Brazil in late 2019 and are now available for over 50 other countries including the US, UK, Canada, Australia and Japan, for both iOS and Android.
Although Instagram Reels has been criticized as "TikTok copycats", it has received positive responses from influencers and brands. Many developers said they wanted to experiment with reels while maintaining their presence on TikTok. Brands like Sephora, Walmart and Beardbrand are already using rollers.
What is Instagram Reels? How does it work? As a brand, how can you use it in your marketing strategy? We have the answers to all of your questions below.
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What is Instagram Reels?
Similar to TikTok, Instagram Reels has a number of creative tools that you can use to create fun, engaging short videos on Instagram. Record 15 second video with multiple clips and edit them with audio, text, special effects and stickers. Then share them with your followers.
If TikTok has a "For You" page, Instagram Reels gives Reels a special landing spot at the top of the Explore page. Just tap the first role at the top and you'll be able to access the role feed. From here you can see roles of popular and trending accounts on Instagram.
Instagram Reels vs. TikTok
Since Instagram Reels is TikTok's rival, it's worth discussing how similar and / or different they are.
The essence of Instagram Reels and TikTok is the same: they provide users with a creative space to create short videos and share them with others. They have creative options to help users create their best clips possible.
However, they also have significant differences, as shown below:
|Instagram roles||Tick tock|
|A new feature in the overall Instagram ecosystem||One platform|
|Users can only create a 15 second video||Video time limit up to 1 minute|
|Roles approved for stories disappear after 24 hours||All videos stay on TikTok|
|Uploading duets and local files is currently not supported||Users can "duet" each other and upload songs directly to the app system|
Instagram Reels vs. Instagram Stories?
Don't confuse between Instagram roles and Instagram stories. While they sound very similar, they have a few key differences:
- Reels offers a variety of editing tools including AR effects, speed controls, and the option to align multiple clips for cleaner transitions.
- Roles can be shared for Explore and Stories. When you upload a role, you can also publish it to your feed. Any roles you have created will also appear in a dedicated area of your profile, similar to IGTV posts.
- When you insert original audio (sounds you end up recording in video), your audio is assigned to you and other users can use it to create new roles.
Now that you understand what Instagram roles are, let's move on to using them in real life.
How to use Instagram Reels
If you are familiar with Instagram and / or TikTok, you can easily create videos using Reels.
How to log into Reels
To access Reels, simply open the Instagram Stories camera and select REELS.
Use this button to create a role.
How to create a role
Instagram Reels gives you two ways to create a reel: (1) press and hold the record button to record footage, or (2) upload video from your camera roll. Rolls can be recorded in a series of clips (individually) or all at the same time.
Follow these six steps to create your first role:
Step 1: Scroll to REELS at the bottom of the screen and tap on it.
Step 2: use tools to prepare your recording. Tap Audio (1) to select audio from the library and add it to your video. You can even add just your favorite part.
Tap Speed (2) to change the speed of your video, tap Effects (3) to apply special effects, and tap Timer (4) to determine how long your video will last.
Step 3: When you're done, tap and hold the record button to record a clip. If you set a timer early, a countdown will start before the recording starts.
While recording, you can tap the record button to end a clip and then tap it again to start a new clip. You will then see the Align button (5), which you can use to align objects from the previous clip before recording the next. This is useful for creating seamless transitions for moments like changing outfits, adding new music, or adding new friends to your role.
If you want to view, trim or delete the previously recorded clip, you can tap the clip (6) and edit it.
Step 4: Once you have finished recording, you can add stickers, drawings and text to edit your roll.
Done! They know how to make a video using Instagram Reels. Let's move on to find out how to share it with your followers.
How to share a role
When you are happy with your clip you can tap the "Next" button (7) to access the "Share" page. Then tap Cover (8) to edit the cover photo with a video thumbnail, or add a cover from your camera roll. You can also write a caption. If you don't want to publish the clip right away, you can save it as a draft.
With Instagram Reels you can:
- Share your role in a specific location on Explore or post it to the Roles tab in your feed if your account is public. If you share roles with certain songs, hashtags, or effects, your role may also appear on certain pages when someone clicks on that song, hashtag, or effect.
- Only share your roles with your followers if you have a personal account. In this case, Reels will follow your privacy settings on Instagram. Your followers cannot use original audio from your roles and share it with others who do not follow you.
When you're done sharing, you'll see your role as follows:
How to find a role to watch
There are four ways to find roles to watch on Instagram:
1. Use your feed
You can search your feed to see roles created by people you follow. A reel symbol is displayed as a small flap in the lower left corner of all reels. It is used to distinguish roles from other Instagram videos.
2. Use the Explore tab
Go to the Explore page and you will see a scroll at the top of the screen. Tap the video to watch it, then scroll down to see more roles. Some reels have a recommended label indicating that it was selected by Instagram.
Note: You will receive a notification if your role is included in Explore.
3. Look for roles that use specific audio or hashtags
Tap the audio name or hashtag at the bottom of the reel you're watching. This will bring up a page with different roles using the same audio or hashtags.
If you like the audio, you can click Use Audio to record a new role with that audio.
4. Find roles by searching for hashtags
Enter a specific hashtag in the search bar and you will likely find roles that use that hashtag:
5 ways to use Instagram reels for businesses
When Instagram Stories was first published in 2016, it was called a Snapchat clone. But Instagram Stories quickly outperformed Snapchat with everyday users and has become an effective channel for brands to build their audience.
With that in mind, brands should take the opportunity to be the first developers on Instagram Reels and reach a new type of audience – people who prefer content that is quick and easy to digest. Brands can also partner with new creative talent to experiment with the Reels content they create.
One more thing: Roles are on the Explore page – a place more than 50% of Instagram accounts use every month. If your role is featured on this page, you have a great chance of getting your brand out to new followers.
If big names like Maybelline, Sephora or Louis Vuitton have been using Reels from day one and you already use Instagram for your business, give Reels a try.
Convinced? Then there are five ways you can use Instagram Reels in your social media marketing strategy:
Reuse videos from Tik Tok
Once you've published content on TikTok, you should reuse it for roles. Take ColourPop Cosmetics as an example. This brand did an excellent job of posting their TikTok videos on Reels.
By reusing TikTok videos, you can either bring a new type of content to your followers who haven't used TikTok or make your content accessible to a new audience.
Share educational content
Creating educational content is a great way to get started with roles. Top 5 skin care recipes, a secret to making delicious pancakes in 10 minutes, or 5 tips for styling a skirt – there are so many things to share with your followers to learn a new skill.
Rena Awada, owner of Healthy Fitness Meals (@healthyfitnessmeals), used Reels to share delicious, healthy, family-friendly recipes with real food.
Their video was short, simple, and easy to follow, which explains why it became so popular. It also had some relevant hashtags like #healthy, #snack, and #lowcarb.
I've said it before, but I want to repeat it again: the reels are on the Explore page. This means that Instagram users who don't follow you will see your content – that's gold!
However, since it is not yet clear how the Instagram Reels algorithm works, consider using hashtags, text overlays, or descriptive captions to let Instagram know what you are talking about.
Below is a great example from @elfcosmetics. Notice how the brand focused on the benefits of their Luminous Putty Primer and used emojis to show them clearly.
Another example comes from Deborah Ruiz. She used her personal Instagram account to post a role demonstrating wearing lashes from her small business @deborahcosmestics.
Plus, you can work with Instagram influencers to promote your product like FLOWER Beauty and Revlon did:
Share behind the scenes content
Behind the scenes content helps your Instagram followers understand who you are and why you are selling these products. It is personable, gains trust, and builds relationships.
Take a look at two examples below. Fast and Food shared a moment when their staff were preparing food for guests during Covid-19, and Benefit Cosmetics US created a scroll to show what a day in their graphic designer's life was like.
Some behind the scenes ideas to try:
- Share how you choose materials for your product
- Share the process of making products
- Share your team's everyday life
- Share your brand story – how you came up with your business idea and what you went through.
Announce your sales
How about using reels to announce your sales and exclusive offers? IT Cosmetics US and Tarte Cosmetics have successfully applied this tip as they have received a lot of engagement from Instagram users.
Stay real and don't turn your videos into overt advertising!
Think this way: Many brands have succeeded at TikTok because they show their human side and give up on always being perfect. This is exactly what TikTok users want to see.
So try to keep the same authenticity of your roles. Focus on originality and fun rather than the quality of your videos. It could be highlighting the individuality of the employees or bringing an ordinary aspect of your brand to life through music and movement. This results in high engagement for your Reels videos.
Are you ready to try Instagram Reels?
It may be too early to say that Instagram Reels will be successful as Predecessor Stories. One thing is for sure, though: you are getting a new way to create more compelling content, better understand your followers, and increase your reach on Instagram. Try it out.
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