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August 20, 2020 Last updated on December 3rd, 2020
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Move aside TikTok, there’s a new kid in town…

That’s right! Facebook’s taking on the popular video-sharing network with its very own version: Instagram Reels.

The short-form 15-second video format has already launched in India, Brazil, France and Germany, and is expected to roll out across the rest of the world any day now.

And with President Trump threatening to ban TikTok in the US, this presents Instagram with a potentially huge opportunity to capture the attention of TikTok creators and users.

You know what that means? 😱

It’s a good idea for brands and businesses to get the competitive advantage and become Instagram Reels early adopters.

While it’s too early to know exactly how brands can make the most of Instagram Reels, we can certainly look to TikTok for inspiration.

It’s likely that there will be a lot of similarities between the two, so it’s worth considering potential best practices now to get ahead of the curve and succeed with the format.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to create an Instagram Reel, examples of brands succeeding on TikTok to inspire your Reels strategy, and our top Instagram Reels content tips.

Let’s dive into the article!👇

What is Instagram Reels and Why Should You Be an Early Adopter?

How to make an Instagram Reel

First things first, how will you actually be able to create an Instagram Reel?

Here’s a quick overview.

Psst! 👉 For a more in-depth tutorial, don’t forget to head over to our step-by-step Instagram Reels guide after this.

Step 1.

The Reels option will be available when you open up the camera (as if you were going to go Live or share a Story).

Step 2.

Click on Reels and select audio from the Instagram music library. Facebook has partnered with big-name music labels to provide a vast collection of songs so you can lip-sync to music or record your original voice.

Step 3.

Add AR effects and use functions like Timer and Speed to edit videos as required before sharing.

Step 4.

Once you’ve recorded your Instagram Reel, you’ll be able to share it via DM, on your Instagram Stories, and on the Explore page for everyone to see. Instagram Reels with the most engagement will appear here. Reels you’ve created can also be added to the Reels tab on your profile.

So that’s the step-by-step of how to actually create an Instagram Reel.

But why should you even share Reels in the first place?

4 reasons why you should start thinking about Instagram Reels for your brand

1. The users will be very active

If the US moves ahead with its ban on TikTok, there’s a good chance that lots of creators will flock to Instagram Reels instead.

Just one week after the TikTok ban in India, Instagram saw its daily downloads surpass the daily numbers of May and June.

There’s no denying that the recent launch of Reels had a part to play in that growth.

And for brands and businesses around the world, this shows that there will likely be a very active user base primed and ready to start engaging with Reels content.

2. Instagram will be encouraging mass adoption

As with any new features or updates, Instagram will be pushing for mass adoption.

This bodes well for creators and businesses that start considering their Instagram Reels strategy now.

Why?

Because Instagram wants as many people to start using and engaging with Instagram Reels as possible.

Especially as it’s competing directly with TikTok.

If you’re one of the early adopters creating Instagram Reels, you stand a greater chance of achieving big reach and increased engagement.

3. Opportunity for creativity

Instagram Reels is a great chance to try something new.

While I don’t suggest you start sharing on Reels for the sake of it – this is the quickest way to give up/stop sharing consistently – definitely consider this as a strategy if you’re already in a good rhythm with your Instagram main-feed content and Stories.

Scroll down to top tip #2 to find out more about how to use Instagram Reels to bring out your brand’s playful side.

4. More discoverability and virality

If you’re wondering what the difference is between Reels and Stories, one of the big differences is the opportunity for discoverability.

Whereas Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours, Instagram Reels have a much longer life span.

You could share an Instagram Reel today and continue to rack up views, likes and comments days (and potentially weeks) from now.

If increasing brand awareness is a goal for you right now, Instagram Reels could be a fantastic way to achieve this.

How to create a successful Instagram Reel strategy

Based on the success of brands on TikTok, here are our predictions for how you can create a successful Instagram Reels strategy.

1. Get a feel for Reels’ unique style

Instagram has always been a place that fosters creativity – particularly for brands and businesses that otherwise might not consider themselves “creative”.

You only have to check out businesses like @ge or @hubspot to see this in action.

And up until now, brands and content creators have had the option of Instagram Live, Stories and IGTV to create content for.

Each format offers something different:

  • Stories is a lightweight way to boost engagement with your brand
  • IGTV is great for high-quality longer-form content that’s permanently accessible
  • Live offers brands the chance to connect directly to their followers

What’s the difference between IGTV and Reels?

While Reels is great for an action-packed 15-second video, IGTV is the place for longer-form informative content. There’s only so much information you can get across in 15 seconds, so use IGTV as an opportunity to expand on topics and share more value. Five minutes in length is the sweet spot for an engaging IGTV video.

If Instagram Reels is anything like TikTok, this will be the platform for fun and playfulness.

You could say that Stories has facilitated this until now with the use of interactive stickers, filters and features like Boomerang and Superzoom.

However, Reels is going to take playfulness to a whole new level.

It will give brands an opportunity to bring out their playful side and to experiment with trends and challenges in a unique way.

If you take a look at how the Washington Post or ESPN show up on TikTok, this gives you an indication of what’s possible on Instagram Reels.

2. Think about the playful elements of your brand

If playfulness is the name of the game on Instagram Reels, it would be a good idea to start thinking about which elements of your brand would be best suited to the platform.

As you’ve seen with the examples shared, big brands are using TikTok to engage younger audiences by sharing funny videos and taking part in trending challenges.

If Reels does follow TikTok’s lead, then brands and content creators will need to be truly creative to get attention from their audience.

The generation loving TikTok content is the generation that doesn’t follow rules.

So, if you want to do well on Reels, you’ll need to combine information and fun.

Repurposing content like-for-like from IGTV, for example, won’t cut it.

Neither will classic ads or video content we’re used to seeing elsewhere on Instagram.

The good news is, this is a great opportunity to step outside of conventional marketing and create light-hearted short-form video content that connects to your audience like never before.

This quick and simple Instagram Reel from Refinery 29 taps into that all too familiar habit of having a million computer tabs open.

The brand knows its audience well, and knows what will make them laugh and engage.

View this post on Instagram

Me and all my 200 open tabs on my computer rn 👀💻 @marawa #hulahoop #reels #summer2020

A post shared by Refinery29 (@refinery29) on

3. Consider creating educational content

TikTok recently announced its plans to commission hundreds of experts and institutions to create short-form educational content for the platform.

Its investing £13 million into the launch of #LearnOnTikTok, a programme partnership that will curate educational videos on the platform across Europe.

This is a major signal to the priorities of TikTok and the kind of content it considers valuable.

For that reason, brands and businesses keen to be early adopters of Instagram Reels should think about how they could present valuable, educational content in 15-second clips.

Take a look at @mamadoctorjones as a great example. She shares a variety of educational TikTok content about sexual health, periods and pregnancy.

In one of her recent videos she walks her viewers through a pap smear test, demystifying the process and helping to remove the fear that surrounds this important check-up.

This is one of her more popular videos, with more than 700k views.

@mamadoctorjones

What happens at a Pap smear visit? ##edutok ##tiktokwellness

♬ Buttercup – Jack Stauber

A great example of a short-and-sweet educational Instagram Reel is this one from Tyler J. McCall.

In this screen recording, he walks the viewer through the elements of his Instagram bio and why they make good business sense.

4. Create a Tutorial

One way of drumming up engagement on Instagram Reels will likely be tutorials, which have performed very well on TikTok to date.

While Instagram Reels are still just 15 seconds, brands will need to be creative with what advice/tips/tricks they pack into a mini training or tutorial.

Speedy cooking tutorials are popular on TikTok and there are plenty of creators that cross-promote their YouTube channel, where they offer recipes in more depth.

Fitness is another category that would work very well for Instagram Reels, as would fashion, interiors and beauty.

For example, Good Home Magazine created the simple but engaging Reels “How to style a corner of your house” and “How to care for a Monstera Plant”.

However, there’s also an opportunity for less obvious businesses and brands to share tutorials.

For example, business strategist Shannan Monson shares a tutorial about how to get more eyes on your content.

Whatever your niche, find a way to bring value to your audience with a short, engaging tutorial.

Product demos, mindset lessons, business strategy tips, styling tricks… there’s lots of options to choose from.

5. Encourage audience participation with a challenge

A big trend on TikTok is challenges. If Instagram Reels follows suit, you’ll want to keep an eye on what Reels challenges are trending in your niche.

This could be an effective way to increase your reach and ride the wave of a particularly popular trend.

For example, if there’s a trend in your niche about how to stop procrastinating, share your own. Your unique brand story and personality will differentiate you from your competitors.

You could also consider creating your own challenge.

Take a look at upcoming national days/weeks (like Afternoon Tea Week or Vlogging Day) and think about whether you could launch a challenge off the back of them.

On National Avocado Day 2019, Chipotle launched the #GuacDance hashtag challenge on TikTok.

Avocado devotees were challenged to share a dance inspired by their favourite song to the tune of the Guacamole Song, tagging the video with #GuacDance. Simple, but hugely effective.

There were 250k submissions, proving the power of guacamole AND a fun, light-hearted dance challenge.

If and when you’re planning your next Instagram Reels challenge, consider the following tips:

  1. Keep it fun. What’s one thing people love about your brand. Dig into customer research and insights to focus on the parts of your brand that unite your fans. This is more likely to result in a successful challenge.
  2. Keep it easy. Choose a challenge that’s easy to complete, with a song that’s memorable.
  3. Have an objective. Whether it’s brand awareness or more orders, make sure you have an objective in mind so that you can measure the impact.

Did you know: Instagram is poaching TikTok influencers?

According to The Wall Street Journal, Instagram is offering big-name TikTok creators large payments to leave TikTok and join Reels. These payments are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the most money would go to influencers who post content exclusively to Reels.

If Instagram’s plans succeed, Reels will launch with lots of exclusive content from high profile creators. Keep your eyes peeled for that. 👀

6. Consider how Instagram Reels could factor into your influencer strategy

If you’ve been using influencers as part of your marketing – or are considering doing so – Reels could be a great format to include in your strategy.

Of course, the bigger the influencer the higher the fee, but depending on your goals there will likely be a variety of influencers (nano, micro, macro and mega influencers) that you can choose from.

Keep a close eye on the rising stars of Instagram Reels to see who would be a best fit to partner with your brand.

Similarly to TikTok influencers, here are some ways brands could work with Instagram Reels influencers:

  • Account takeover: Allow an Instagram Reels creator to post content directly from your account.
  • Hashtag challenge: Collaborate with influencers to promote your brand’s hashtag challenge to their audience.
  • Endorsements: Get influencers to promote your brand or product on their own channel as part of a campaign or a product review.

Over on TikTok, beauty brand TooFaced partnered with influencer Kristen Hancher for an ongoing campaign.

Using the hashtag #toofacedpartner, Hancher’s video featured her “before” make-up free face before transitioning to her “after” transformed look and a look at the products she used.

Her video garnered 1.9 million views, 169K likes, 1700+ comments, and 2300+ shares.

@kristenhancher

DAMN my lashes look THICK! Wearing the @toofaced DAMN GIRL mascara ##TooFacedPartner ##TFDamnGirl ##sponsored

♬ When I Get Going – Kallico

7. Be consistent

As with all content on Instagram, consistency is key.

To avoid falling into the trap of jumping on the Reels bandwagon only to fall off again soon after, plan your Reels content ahead of time.

One tip to help with your planning is to get intimate with your Instagram insights.

Understanding the topics and themes that already resonate with your audience will help give you ideas for Reels.

This will allow you to repurpose the stuff that’s working and make the most of the content you’re already spending a heap of time creating.

Especially if that content is video content you’ve invested time and energy into planning, shooting and editing.

For example, in Archit’s Reel caption, he links viewers to the link in his bio to check out the full blog post so people.

Getting into a good rhythm of planning and creating Instagram Reels ahead of time will enable you to maintain consistency and keep your audience engaged.

Bonus tip! As well as repurposing high performing content for Reels, keep an eye on your Reels analytics, too. For now, the only analytics available for Instagram Reels specifically are view count, likes and comments. However, these will likely expand in the future.

Some bonus ideas for Instagram Reels

Still wondering what you could share on Instagram Reels?

Here are some additional ideas to get your creative juices flowing!

View this post on Instagram

How I go about styling a photo #bts #food

A post shared by Tieghan Gerard (@halfbakedharvest) on

  • Behind the scenes (take a look at the example above from @halfbakedharvest which combines “how to” content with behind-the-scenes: How I style a photo)
  • Short stories
  • Travel diary
  • DIY
  • Workout videos
  • Day in the life
  • 3 tips to achieve…
  • Fun product demo (for example, the Instagram Reels below from eyewear brand EyeBuyDirect)
  • Tutorial

A great example of a travel diary comes from @naimabegum, who takes us with her to Dubai. In 15 seconds we go on an action-packed adventure through the city, the desert and into the ocean. It’s a great way of immersing her audience in her content.

Conclusion

I’m excited to see how brands and businesses will use Instagram Reels to combine creative, playful content with information about their products and services.

As with any new feature on Instagram, time will tell as to just how popular Reels will be.

Stories launched on Instagram with a bang, while IGTV has been slower to pick up over the last couple of years.

However, the timing could be just right for Instagram Reels to really take off…

So, are you ready to be an Instagram Reels early adopter?

About the author
Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell is a door obsessive and Instagram educator, teaching small businesses, solopreneurs and content creators how to build engaged communities on Instagram in less time. Read more from Bella on her website: bellafoxwell.com

More posts by Bella Foxwell

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