What Is Instagram Reels?

instagram reels
If you’ve been on Instagram recently, you’ve no doubt noticed the new little Reels icon—but what is that? Basically, it’s a new way to record 15-second clips set to music. If you’re thinking about TikTok right now, you’re not alone. But we’ll get to that later. 
Keep reading for some tips on how to incorporate Reels into your social media strategy

Instagram Reels: The Basics

Instagram’s Reels feature is now available in the United States, as well as 50 other countries. It allows IG users to record and edit together 15-second video clips set to music, and share them to their stories, Explore page, and the new Reels tab on their profile. 
It also comes with its own version of the For You page—i.e. the new Reels Explore Feed. That means you won’t just see Reels from the accounts you follow, but you’ll also see Reels from popular and trending accounts on Instagram. 
If you’re already worried about the Reels algorithm, we’re with you. As of now, it hasn’t been locked down yet. So far, it’s likely influenced by who you already follow, which contacts you interact with regularly, and where you’re located. 
You’ll notice quickly that some Reels have a “featured” label above their captions—according to Instagram, if your Reel is featured in Explore, you’ll receive a notification. Featured Reels (again, according to Instagram) are a selection of public Reels chosen by Instagram to help you discover original content that they hope will entertain and inspire you. 
Reels will allow you to select a song or audio clip, either from Instagram’s huge library or from your own music. There are also a number of handy video editing tools to explore! You can choose to film video clips on the spot, or upload them from your camera roll. You can draw and use text tools, stickers, GIFs, etc. just like in your regular stories. 

So, Why Do Instagram Reels Exist?

You’re thinking it, we’re thinking it, let’s just get it out in the open—isn’t Reels just a knockoff of TikTok? Kind of! 
Instagram Reels is widely considered to be a direct response to the growing popularity of TikTok. According to Adweek, TikTok generated the most downloads for any app ever in a quarter in Q1 2020. 
Once dominated by Gen-Z users, Millennials now make up a greater share of TikTok’s user base than ever before. What does that mean for you? It means that TikTok is becoming an increasingly attractive proposition for advertising! Instagram is making moves to replicate this platform’s most popular features—especially where TikTok hasn’t gained a huge following, like Brazil. 
Essentially, Instagram is filling in the gaps of its own platform. IGTV serves as series-based content, where audiences can tune into each episode (so to speak) with their favorite people and brands. What gap is Reels filling? The desire for high-quality, casual content that lasts longer than 24 hours. 
There are more than 1 billion active users on Instagram—Reels is just another way to showcase your brand! We have a feeling it’s here to stay (remember Vine?). 

How to Hop on This Trend

Thankfully, Instagram seems to have integrated Reels into the user experience pretty seamlessly. You’ll find Reels in the Instagram Stories camera menu, right next to the “Story” and “Live” options for filming. From there, you can select audio for your Reel, speed things up if you want, and decide how long you want your clips to be. You can set a timer, too, so a countdown pops up before the recording starts! 
After you’ve filmed, you can add effects and AR filters—and since Reels has been integrated into Stories, you can use any of the filters you already have saved. You can also upload video footage from your camera roll! Much like IGTV, once your video is done you’ll be able to select a cover photo/video thumbnail. You can share your Reel to your Stories, Explore feed, and the new Reels tab on your profile. 

Okay, Let’s Get Down to Business

If you’re a business (and if you’re reading this, you probably are), Reels is your new best friend. TikTok hasn’t looked promising for marketing (of course, that’s gradually changing) so Reels is a great opportunity to utilize the same sort of content, but reach your audience better. 
Think of them as little viral, creative snippets you can share with the following you already have on Instagram. It’s a win-win, really. 
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Keep Things Authentic
No one knew way back in 2016 just how popular Instagram stories would become. They presented an easy, casual way to share content with your audience. Stories were built for behind-the-scenes, day-in-the-life content that was completely different from the standard curated, static feed. 
Reels is perfect for similar content. Instagram has made yet another easy way to churn out great content that doesn’t have to be super staged. They’re designed to be fast and fun! 
Get Educational
This is a great opportunity to share quick tips with your audience: show them how to style a skirt five different ways! Show them your top five best-selling products! Show them quick clips of a simple recipe! Give people some bite-sized information in a casual, engaging way. 
Get Creative
As with anything social, look to others for inspiration. While Reels is relatively new, its similarity to TikTok gives creators a serious advantage. You can study the already-saturated platform for creative ideas. Take popular trends and put your own spin on them!

Social Media Changes Fast—We Can Help You Keep Up

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the constant algorithm shifts and new features, we get it. That’s why we have an entire team of social media experts who are ready to make you a custom strategy. Start a conversation with us today!