Welcome to Instagram Reels — the TikTok lookalike that made its sneaky appearance amidst TikTok’s shut down rumors. Despite the up-in-the-air future of TikTok, Instagram Reels is most probably here to stay. If you’re confused and feeling overwhelmed with Instagram’s latest feature, do not worry. I’m here to break down everything you need to know about Instagram Reels! In this post, I’ll go over what Instagram Reels is, the difference between Reels and TikTok, and how you can start utilizing it to increase your engagement and grow your following.
What is Instagram Reels?
Instagram Reels is a new way for creators and influencers to produce fun, engaging, and viral video content. Influencers can record and edit Reels directly on the app or through pre-recorded videos. Music, text, and filters can be added to Reels, offering all the bells and whistles that are also available on TikTok. Essentially, Instagram is taking what TikTok has created and adding it to their own app. Instagram Reels is the platform’s latest opportunity to bring in more followers, increase engagement, and share short-form video content with your audience. In other words, it is now TikTok’s biggest competitor.
Instagram Reels VS. TikTok
Although Instagram Reels is pegged to be TikTok’s major rival, there are still some differences between them. For instance, Instagram Reels only allow for a total of 15 seconds of video per Reel, whereas TikTok allows up to 1 minute. The other big question on everyone’s mind is: does Instagram Reels have the same virality factor as TikTok?
Instagram is doing a great job at pushing out Reels, and lots of creators are seeing more than double the views on their Reels compared to their regular content and IGTV. However, TikTok still takes the cake when it comes to virality. It is generally easier for your content to be seen on TikTok, even if you don’t have thousands of followers on the platform. This makes TikTok the better platform to grow a brand new audience.
Another major difference is the lack of trends on Instagram Reels. A lot of viral content on TikTok is based on trends that are up and coming. Be it dances, a popular sound (or song), even a challenge… these TikTok trends give creators a great opportunity to catch on to a viral wave. Whereas Instagram Reels doesn’t have trends for creators to participate in.
TikTok definitely beats Instagram Reels when compared side-by-side. However, a major consideration as to why Instagram Reels is superior is that there are no current plans for it to disappear in the next month or so. Additionally, creating Reels directly on Instagram will keep your existing audience in the loop right on the platform, so you won’t have to send them to the link in your bio.
Why You Should Start Posting Reels As Soon As Possible
While I admit that TikTok offers a lot more when it comes to going viral and growing your audience, you definitely should not be snoozing on Instagram Reels. In fact, Instagram rewards early adopters by pushing out Reels-based content. Remember how creators are seeing more than double the views on Reels than on their regular content? That’s the early adopter advantage.
While you may not see the same growth that you would on TikTok, producing more Reels early in the game will position you in a spot for potential growth. If you’re ready to get started, here’s everything you need to know in order to create binge-worthy Reels.
How to Create Instagram Reels
To create your first Instagram Reel, head into your Instagram Stories camera. On the bottom menu, you’ll see the option to create a Reel next to Story, and Live. Once you select Reels, you’ll have another menu pop up on the left hand side of the screen. This is where you’ll add your music or sound, choose the speed of your video, apply an effect or AR filter, and set a timer for the length of your clip.
Once you’ve customized your Reels’ settings, hold down the button to record, or wait for the countdown to start if you’re using the timer feature. Similar to TikTok, you can start and stop recording multiple times to get the right take.
If you’d prefer to upload a previously recorded video from your camera roll, you can do so by clicking the preview square on the bottom left corner of the screen (just as you would for Instagram Stories).
Editing Your Reel Before Hitting Publish
When you’re done recording, you can edit your video clip by adding text or stickers. You could also use the draw tool similar to how you would for an Instagram Story.
Pro-tip: Although Instagram Reels uses the same dimensions as Instagram Stories (9:16), your Reels will appear on your feed in 4:5. So if you’re planning on adding text throughout your video but want to avoid them being cut off, be sure to place them within the 4:5 frame.
Once you’re done, you can pick a cover from a still directly from the Reel, or upload one from your camera roll.
Next, write your caption, add in any related hashtags, and click “share to feed” if you want your Reel to appear in your regular grid.
Optimizing Your Instagram Reel
If you want to get the most out of your Instagram Reel, you need to come up with a strategy. Now that you know how to create and publish an Instagram Reel, here are some tips to keep in mind before you hit publish.
Stick to Your Niche
This goes without saying, especially when you’re utilizing this new feature and have an already established audience. Instagram Reels is an opportunity for you to deliver valuable content in a different format to the audience you already have. It is also a great way to attract your ideal audience and you can only do so if you stick within your zone of genius.
Unlike Instagram Stories, where you can share the behind-the-scenes look to your day, you don’t want to create Reels that do not relate to your niche. For instance, if you’re a fashion blogger, don’t suddenly create a Reel of a new recipe you tried recently. Not only will you attract the wrong kind of audience, but you’ll confuse your existing ones.
Always Provide Value Or Inspiration
Instagram Reels isn’t any different from your regular content, so don’t treat it any differently. Before you create a Reel, think about what value you want to provide. If you’re a travel blogger, you could create a Reel that provides any travel tips, hacks, or a quick destination guide. Whatever you do, delivering value or inspiration to your audience must always come first. Here are some great examples:
- How to Find Cheaper Flights Using a VPN
- 5 Couple Poses for Cute Pics (@ourtravelpassport)
- Tips for New Hikers (@reneeroaming)
Use Trending Sounds
This is a little trickier to do on Instagram because there isn’t a way to find out what sound is trending directly on the app. Instead, you can utilize TikTok to figure this out. However, it is important that you don’t blindly use trending sounds if they do not fit the Reel you’re creating. Make sure the sound you’re using fits within your niche and the type of content you’re creating. You want to make sure it’s relevant to both your current audience and the audience you want to attract.
Encourage Watch Time
Just like TikTok, the performance of your Reel boils down to the ability to retain your viewer’s attention. To simply put — the longer someone watches your Reel, the better it’ll perform. And the better your Reel performs, the more people it’ll reach. To encourage watch time, you want to grab your viewer’s attention immediately. Seeing as Instagram Reels only allows 15-seconds of view time, you want to start your Reel off by letting people know why they should watch until the end. You can do this by:
- Utilizing on-screen text
- Creating a tutorial or sharing a hack
- Sharing a round-up (i.e: best Airbnbs in the US)
- Writing an intriguing caption that encourages them to stick around
Utilizing hashtags is important for any and all types of Instagram posts. This is why you should spend time researching the best hashtags that suit your Reel. Not only will it direct your content in the right direction, but your Reel will also show up in the dedicated pages of those hashtags.
Pro-tip: Always opt for niche specific, low to medium competitive hashtags.
Add a Call to Action
It is good practice to add a compelling call to action at the end of your Reel. You can ask the viewer to “follow for more tips”, or ask them to share their thoughts in the comments. No matter what, do not leave your viewers hanging at the end — encourage them to interact and ask them to take action.
What Are You Waiting For?
Instagram Reels is currently in its infancy. Although it does pale in comparison to TikTok, there is no denying that it provides influencers with another creative outlet to communicate with and reach more audiences. Only time will tell how effective Instagram Reels will be. But right now, producing high-quality content on Reels is a great way to grow your current audience.
So, have you tried Instagram Reels yet? If not, what are you waiting for?