2023 Guide to Instagram Reels and how to use them
Reels are Instagram’s response to the popularity of the short-form video content available on TikTok. At a maximum of 90 seconds in length, Instagram Reels have become Instagram's fastest-growing feature worldwide due to their low-commitment watch times and their fast-paced style — perfect for serial scrolling and short attention spans
What are Instagram Reels?
Instagram Reels are short videos ranging from 15 to 90 seconds. Video content that is longer than 90 seconds does not qualify as a Reel and is simply referred to as an Instagram video post.
Users can access Reels from their feed, the Explore tab, or the Reels tab. Reels, much like TikToks, are scrollable, allowing users to swipe up to receive fresh content.
Reels are Instagram’s most popular content format as they are perfect for the low attention span of the average social media scroller and often provide highly entertaining content. Reels were even expanded to Facebook in 2021.
How to create Reels within the Instagram app
1. Open the Instagram mobile app and select the “+” icon in the center of the navigation page. Select “Reel” as your choice of content.
2. You can now hold down the center circle to begin recording immediately or you can change your Reel setting first by choosing your audio, adding effects, adding an “Add Yours” sticker, selecting the length, speed, and layout of your Reel, adding a timer, adding a dual screen, or enabling gesture control.
3. Your Reel can be recorded in sections by holding and letting go of the record button, or you can upload existing clips from your device to add to your Reel.
4. Once your footage is good to go, you can now edit your Reel by adding elements such as stickers, text, effects, etc.
5. Share your Reel on Instagram by selecting “Next” and then write your caption and select the cover photo for your Reel. If you wish, you can also tag people, add a location, and explore the advanced settings for more options.
Reels and the algorithm
Because Reels is one of Instagram’s newest content formats, Instagram has been very encouraging towards users when it comes to creating and publishing Reels by ranking this content higher in the feed and featuring Reels heavily in the Explore tab.
However, the Reels tab within Instagram (which is essentially a Reel-only feed) has its own algorithm where it dictates which Reels will perform better than others. The factors that affect how your Reel ranks in this tab are:
- Relationships: Your Reels will appear higher to those who often engage with you and your content.
- Relevance: Your Reel is more likely to be shown to those who have engaged and watched similar content of the same niche.
- Timeliness: The first 24 hours after your Reel has been published will be the most crucial as Reels will be shown to the most amount of people when the content is at its freshest. The engagement you get during this time period will determine the long-term success of your Reel.
- Popularity: If you’re a popular creator who often receives a fair amount of engagement on your content and Reels, then you’re more likely to rank higher as you’ve proven to Instagram that your content is generally well-liked.
Instagram Reels for business
It doesn’t matter what industry you belong to or what you’re selling, there’s plenty of opportunities to get involved with Instagram Reels. Short-form content is incredibly popular and presents a wonderful chance to be more creative and authentic and show a more human side to your brand. In fact, statistics indicate that Reels get 22% more interaction on Instagram than standard video posts, so if you’re hoping to expand the reach of your content and find new customers, then Instagram Reels could become your new best friend.
Furthermore, you can get more from one piece of content by repurposing your short-form content across other social media channels such as Facebook, TikTok, or as a YouTube Short, allowing you to get involved with short-form video across several platforms at once.
Further reading: The definitive guide to getting started with Instagram
Instagram Reels best practices
Keep it vertical
Reels should be filmed vertically as users will watch vertically via their mobile device. Anything filmed in landscape will either have to be posted with black around the edges, preventing the video from being full-screen, or will require users to turn their phone sideways to view the content. Vertical video will create the best viewing experience, which will help your content reach more viewers and perform better overall.
Text and captions
For years, statistics have indicated that only a small amount of viewers will turn the sound on when watching video content, which means that the addition of captions and on-screen text to your Instagram Reel is important — not only for accessibility reasons, but also to simply allow your content to be enjoyed by those who would rather watch in silence.
Perfect the first few seconds
The first few seconds of your Reel are instrumental in determining whether a viewer will keep watching your Reel or swipe away to something new. To keep your audience hooked, your Reel needs to get to the point as quickly as possible and open with something concise, interesting, or even just visually appealing. Try to make it immediately obvious what your Instagram Reel is about to keep your target audience engaged.
Consistency, consistency, consistency
Keeping up a steady stream of social media content will always help to grow your channel. Keeping Instagram Reels as a reoccurring content format in your social media strategy will allow you to stay on a growth path by continuing to create the content that your followers enjoy most. Consistent posting will also help you with social media algorithms, which reward those who post frequent and high-quality content.
Find your niche
As with any social media content, you should find your niche and stick to it. This will allow you to grow faster by attracting a specific social media audience who know what to expect from you and your content. Creating content exclusively around one or a few topics will result in your content receiving more consistent Instagram engagement as well as allowing your channel to grow more swiftly by attracting those with an interest in your chosen niche.
High quality always
The quality of your Instagram Reels is not something to be overlooked, as poor-quality Reels will not only be penalized by the algorithm but will also be unappealing to viewers who discover it — no matter what the subject matter. Instagram recommends that Reels have an aspect ratio between 1.9:1 and 9:16. Reels should also have a minimum frame rate of 30 frames per second, and a minimum resolution of 720 pixels.
Whether your call-to-action is verbal, written in the caption, or left as a comment on your Instagram Reel, including it is an effective and incredibly simple step you can take to achieve your social media goals. A CTA may be used to encourage your viewers to watch more of your content, follow your page, or click a link in your bio.
Further reading: 15 Instagram bio ideas and templates to launch today
Join in with trends
If you can spot an opportunity to engage with trends that are relevant to your niche and on-brand for your channel, then you should do your best to get involved. Trends are trending for a reason. Sharing your take on certain trends can be a great way to show your audience that you can be fun, current, and responsive to the ebb and flow of social media culture.
Collaborate with other creators
Other creators with a similar niche and audience can present a mutually beneficial opportunity to collaborate. Those with a similar audience don’t need to be seen as competition; as Instagram allows creators to publish Reels with two publishers, you can join forces to create a Reel that will grant you exposure to one another’s audiences.
Don’t be too sales-heavy
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when it comes to Instagram Reels is making them too promotional and sales-focused. When creating your Reel, your primary focus should be on creating content that your audience will enjoy, not content to satisfy your ulterior motives. When creating social media content, you should aim for no more than 30% of your content to be focused on your business and its products or services. However, for influencers who may be more reliant on their income from social media and have less control over when sponsored content is going live, the goal should simply be to put creativity first so that even your promotional content brings entertainment and value.
Ideas for Instagram Reels for Creators or Businesses
Behind the scenes
If you’re a business, showing the behind-the-scenes of how your business operates can give your audience (and customers) an authentic sneak peek at how your products come to be. This can help your audience to feel more connected to your business and more likely to support and make purchases from you in the future.
Further reading: Your guide to creating photo dumps on Instagram for your brand
A day in the life
Similarly, Instagram Reels that showcase “a day in the life” can be a great way for anyone, business or influencer, to let their audience get a more intimate look at what life is like for the person behind the Instagram account. Vlog-style content will always be popular, and Instagram Reels that provide a more concise version of a traditional vlog can be very enjoyable.
Get to know you
If you’ve recently seen an increase in your followers, then now is the perfect time to reintroduce yourself. Whether you’re the owner of a small business, or a social media influencer, an Instagram Reel covering the basics of who you are, where you’re from, what you care about, and what your life looks like can help to build a real connection between you and your followers.
As a business, you’ll want to avoid becoming too promotional in your content. However, people who are genuinely interested in your products or services will always appreciate the occasional product showcase to explain how best to use your product and get the most effective results.
If you’ve established yourself as a social media influencer, you’ll notice that people will begin looking to you for advice and guidance on a variety of topics. Putting together an Instagram Reel covering all of your favorite products, services, books, restaurants, etc. can be a great way to bring value to your audience and create some useful and sharable content.
If you find yourself flooded with DMs, then creating an Instagram Reel to answer all of your FAQs can save a lot of time, as well as give you a resource to send to those who have questions in the future. This doesn’t need to be a lengthy sit-down video. Don’t be afraid to be more creative in how you present this information and consider how you can use on-screen text and trending audio to keep things fun and engaging.
If you’re a business, customer stories can make a huge difference in persuading others of the value and effectiveness of your products. Use Instagram Reels as an opportunity to showcase customer success stories whether you feature before and after pictures, screenshots of positive DMs from customers, or even an interview with one of your top customers.
Instagram Reels have been steadily rising in popularity since their release in 2020 and they’re certainly here to stay. If you’re new to short-form video content then don’t be intimidated, Instagram’s built-in Reel editing features will assist you in creating an effective and engaging Reel that you can proudly share with your audience.