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Master short-form video with Instagram Reels.

Instagram takes video content to the next level with Instagram Reels! These 15-30 second video clips are strikingly similar to TikTok’s video content format, giving marketers and content creators who are already familiar with the TikTok platform a competitive advantage. 

In this guide, we’ll cover what an Instagram Reel is, how to incorporate your marketing strategy, and how to start creating Reels of your own.

What is Instagram Reels?

Reels is an Instagram feature that allows users to create quick and engaging video clips to entertain or educate viewers. For businesses, Reels can increase brand awareness, draw in potential buyers, advocate for social issues and much more. 

Instagram launched Reels in August 2020, and the feature is available across the U.S. as well as 50 additional countries. 

Currently, Instagram has placed the Reels tab in the center of the navigation bar at the bottom of its app. That makes it easy for your audience to not only use it but to go back to it often to discover your new content. Instagram users can also find reels on the Explore page.

Instagram users see Reels from people they follow as well as popular and trending Instagram accounts. Featured Reels are public reels that Instagram chooses to share more widely with Instagram users, based on their inspirational and entertainment value. You’ll know if your Reel is chosen to be featured with a notification from Instagram and a tag displayed on the Reel.

Instagram Reels

A Reel can be up to 30 seconds long and includes either your original audio, music that you upload and have the rights to, or music from Instagram’s audio library. This gives your brand the liberty to talk about your product or service, create a lively or dramatic effect with music, or both. Here’s what else you can do to your reel:

  • Add augmented reality (AR) effects such as sparkles, masks, makeup and props
  • Record multiple clips and string them together or take one continuous video
  • Change the speed of music or clips to use slo-mo or stay on beat
  • Align your last clip with the next one for smooth transitions
  • Set a countdown timer to record your videos hands-free

Instagram Reels vs. TikTok: What’s the Difference?

It’s easy to make the connection between Instagram Reels and TikTok. And it’s very likely that Reels was created as Instagram’s competitive answer to the widely popular TikTok. Both feature short clips accompanied by music or audio and effects and are primarily meant to be entertaining. Both are successful marketing tools as well. 

But perhaps the biggest difference between the two is in the platforms themselves. While TikTok is solely focused on one feature — TikTok videos — Instagram has a variety of tools in addition to Instagram Reels — stories, IGTV, photos, videos, shoppable posts and live videos.   

Since Reels are fairly new, marketers are still learning about its algorithm. However, it is reminiscent of TikTok’s “For You” page. That means users likely see Reels from Instagram accounts they either follow, interact with, or are physically located nearby.

Why Marketers Should Use Instagram Reels

What makes Instagram Reels so appealing to marketers is its convenience. Rather than convincing your Instagram audience to follow your TikTok account, you can repurpose your short-form video tactics across both platforms.

Plus, Instagram is already widely adopted by most social media users. With over a billion users pretty evenly split among men and women and across age groups, Instagram is a go-to platform for social media marketing. 

Beyond the popularity of the app, there are plenty of great benefits to creating Reels for your brand. Here’s why marketers are eager to add short-form video into their Instagram strategies:

  • Reels are high-quality, yet informal content
  • Your audience can view them at any time, in contrast to 24-hour Stories
  • Shoppable Reels can increase sales and drive traffic to your brand’s IG Shop
  • The Reels algorithm has the potential to help you reach new audiences

How to Create an Instagram Reel

Creating reels could become one of the most entertaining parts of your marketing campaign. Follow these steps to create your first reel, add the effects you want and post to Instagram:

In your Instagram app, access Instagram Reels in one of two ways:

Tap the Reels tab at the bottom of your home screen and then the camera icon at the top.

How to access Instagram Reels
How to create Instagram Reel from Reels Feed

Or, Tap the plus symbol at the top of your home screen, and then choose Reels at the bottom.

How to Access Instagram Reels from Home Feed
How to Create an Instagram Reel

This is where you will create and edit your Reel. You can record a new video or you can choose a video from your phone’s library but first you must decide how long you want your reel to be. 

Toggle between 15 and 30 seconds by tapping the circle with a 15 inside of it in the row of icons on the left.

How to choose Instagram Reel Length
Choosing Instagram Reel Length

Now select your audio by tapping the music icon. Skip this step if you just want to use the original audio from your video clip.

Select the part of the audio you want to play in your video by tapping the thin white line. The audio will play for your preselected length (15 or 30 seconds) in the orange box below the line. You can also toggle this box back and forth until you find the audio you want. Tap Done when you’re ready.

How to Choose Music for Instagram Reels
Instagram Reels: Making music selection

Next, you can choose the speed at which you want your reel to play by tapping the speed icon.

Choosing the Speed of your Instagram Reel
Instagram Reel Speed

You can also add AR effects by tapping the face icon and then swiping left until you find the effect you want.

Choosing AR filters for your Instagram Reels
Spring Filter Instagram Reels

If you plan on recording a new video, you can use the countdown timer icon to give you a moment to get camera-ready before your Reel begins recording. Three seconds is the default, but you can set the countdown to 10 seconds max.

How to set a countdown timer on Instagram Reels
Instagram Reels Countdown Timer

With your Reel set up, you’re ready to record your video. Tap and hold the Reels icon or tap it once to begin recording and tap it again to end (if you added an effect, your Reels icon will be the image for that effect). Your countdown timer will display as you get ready.

Record Instagram Reels
How to record Instagram Reels

How Marketers Are Using Instagram Reels

Your brand can also get creative with the type of content you want to use to drive traffic and increase conversions with Instagram Reels. Consider using the following tactics to engage your audience with Reels:

  • Product showcases that provide interesting, lively ways for your audience to get their eyes on your product —  as well as make a purchase when you use Shoppable Reels
  • Educational content that teaches your audience the benefits of your products or services and how to use, maintain and repair your products, for instance
  • Your brand’s story to boost brand awareness and reputation in an engaging and personable way
  • Product reviews using user-generated or influencer content from satisfied customers to gain trust and increase sales
  • Case study results that show your audience data-driven results of the benefits of your brand’s offerings
  • Behind-the-scenes content to give your audience an insider look at what your brand does and stands for to increase brand reputation and retain customers