Everything You Need to Know About Instagram Reels


Earlier this month, Instagram revealed its newest feature — Instagram Reels. This latest in-app component comes in the midst of the pending fallout between the United States and the Chinese-owned video-sharing social media platform, TikTok. 

The United States vs. TikTok

In recent months, the United States has raised concerns over the information harvesting capabilities and usage noticed in the app. In March it was discovered that TikTok was accessing the content of people’s iPhone clipboards every few seconds. In December of 2019, an Israeli security firm noted they found bugs within the app platform that could allow hackers to access personal data. TikTok acknowledged both cases of potential security breaches as coding error and said they patched both of the problems. 

The current fear of TikTok unjustly stealing and abusing private American citizen data has caused the Trump Administration to set a 45-day deadline for a U.S. company to acquire the platform, or it will be banned for use. The deadline will expire in late September. 

Back in June of this year, the country of India banned TikTok along with 50+ other Chinese applications over security and national tension concerns. Currently, the U.S. Military prohibits TikTok from being on any official organization devices. Some private companies have followed suit in this measure including Wells Fargo. 

With a potential ban in place, Instagram unrolled Instagram Reels on August 5. This new feature built into the photo and video sharing giant aligns closely with the functionality of TikTok itself. The play is undoubtedly an effort to lure the TikTok audience away from the platform and provide a space for creators to continue producing the same type of short-form content. 

Why Do We Love This Type of Content? 

Before TikTok and Reels were a thing, Vine was a video-sharing platform that paved the way for the short-form video content that is so popular today. Vine, which launched in January 2013 and quickly became a fan favorite, with over 200 million active users by December 2015. The platform limited video clips to six seconds in length and was often used by creators for music/dance performances as well as comedy sketches. 

Vine became a “must download” for social media users. Built with a similar algorithm compared to other modern-day platforms, it encouraged users to keep scrolling as content was continuously suggested on their feed based on their likes and viewing history. As Millenials and Generation Z are the largest user base of social media apps, including TikTok and Instagram, it is a popular belief that younger generations have shrinking attention spans. Due to this, shorter-form video content is thought to be thriving. However, research suggests that this isn’t the case — instead, younger generations are becoming more selective with their attention spans. 

This translates to good content will receive more eyes on it. With the tools and available online audience, content creators are producing multi-media content at a faster pace than ever before. With a constant cycle of new and fresh content to consume, it makes social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram addictive. 

What Makes Instagram Reels Different? 

On the surface, Instagram Reels looks like a carbon copy of TikTok. However, Reels incorporates several features from Instagram Stories that offer creators new opportunities that are not present elsewhere. Instagram Reels enables the use of stickers on Reels, similar to Instagram Stories. Additionally, once a creator has edited their video and selected their desired music, filters. Stickers, etc. they are able to create custom thumbnails for their Reels or use a photo from their camera roll.  

When a Reel is made, it posts directly to your account’s main feed and will show up in your follower’s timeline. If you wish you remove the Reel from your main feed, you may delete it, and it will stay accessible in the “Reel Tab” located on your profile. Reels may also be posted as Instagram Stories but will disappear after 24 hours if they are not saved to your Instagram Highlights.

How to Make a Reel 

  1. Start by accessing the Instagram Stories camera in the top left corner. 
  2. Swipe to select the Reels camera feature.  
  3. Record your content by pressing the Reels button. 
  4. The video will collect in 15-second increments. 
  5. Once you’re done recording, add any effects, music, or stickers to fit your creation. 
  6. Publish to your account. 

Who Should Use Reels? 

With all the screentime and advertisement dollars being thrown at platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels doesn’t mean that these platforms are the right fit for everyone. Short-form video is hard to get right because you need to be able to do more with less — and with the majority of users falling into the younger age groups, their selective attention spans make it more difficult for businesses and brands to capture real impressions.  

Therefore, we highly recommend that Instagram Reels are best used by product-based companies and influencers. Often in marketing, it is better to excel in one advertising avenue rather than be mediocre in several. 

How Do We Create Business Engagement With Reels? 

Let’s say you are a company that could forecast to using Reels effectively. What does that look like? First, it is important to note that Instagram Stories and Instagram Reels, while somewhat similar, should feature different content forms. 

Instagram Stories is a way for businesses to provide causal, laidback content that is not thoroughly scripted. This can include items such as: FAQs, behind the scenes, micro-vlogs, news updates, etc. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Instagram Reels requires a high level of production investment. Shooting and editing a Reel call for more time, more thought, and greater team participation. Additionally, TikTok and Instagram Reels are dominated by a community vibe that is lighthearted, humorous, and clever. Therefore, it is recommended that your Reel content reflects a similar tone. If you are looking to produce more professional, serious content, an IGTV series would best fit your goal. 

Advice for Advertising With Instagram Reels 

If using Reels for advertising purposes, as a business it is important to remember that using this platform is to aid alongside your current Instagram strategy — it is not a substitute. 

  1. First and foremost, cater to your current audience and their preferences. 
    1. Your Reel content will most likely only be seen by them at first, and their favorability of it is what will determine the dissemination of your future Reel content. 
  2. Produce high-quality content. 
    1. You can’t get by without your video featuring great lighting, favorable backdrops, good audio quality, and crisp video definition. 
  3. Highlight your uniqueness 
    1. You have an audience for a reason. People like to associate businesses and brands with specific characteristics. What about your company does your audience appreciate? 
  4. Hop on trends. 
    1. TikTok is a platform for quick, viral trends. We expect the same type of content trends to follow on Instagram Reels — meaning that your business should take advantage of these trends when possible to help increase the visibility of your company.