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Don't want to get scrolled past instantly in the Reels feed? Here's what you need to do to stand out on screen.
Want your 15 (or 30 or 60) seconds of fame?
Make an Instagram Reel.
Video is the future of Instagram. Reels are your ticket to video Instagram success. It’s really as straightforward as that.
Curious about Reels?
How can you create Reels content that isn’t more of the same old-same old?
We’re glad you asked.
This guide will take you through everything you need to know about creating engaging Reels content that stands out and gets you noticed by existing and new followers. Let’s dive in.
Launched in August 2020, Instagram Reels are short (15, 30, or 60 second) video clips. Said to be originally inspired by TikTok, Reels are a fun, engaging way to create video content with music, voiceovers, text, stickers, and other special effects. According to Instagram,
“Reels gives people new ways to express themselves, discover more of what they love on Instagram, and help anyone with the ambition of becoming a creator take center stage.”
Since their release, Reels have taken off on Instagram. Users are becoming increasingly creative with the format. It’s gone way beyond just teenagers making fun choreography videos.
With over 1 billion active users on Instagram, brands and businesses around the world are doing everything possible to engage their Instagram audiences in new ways. Reels, with their fun, easy-to-consume format are challenging brands to think outside the traditional video format.
According to Conviva, Instagram Reels are generating more engagement than traditional Instagram videos. For example, the average NFL team’s Reel is generating 67% more engagements than their average Instagram video. So if you want to reap the benefits of Reels’ high engagement rates - it’s time to get creative.
The Reels format is here to stay. Instagram users love it. So brands better get used to it and give their audiences what they’re asking for. In other words, create fire Reels content or get left behind.
With that in mind, here’s some of our best advice to help you create Instagram Reels that make them (your Insta followers) stop scrolling and pay attention.
An Instagram Reel is different from Instagram Story or Instagram Live. Obviously. What we mean is, you can’t just hop on, freestyle it, and pat yourself on the back for creating content. Reels are not really the medium for spontaneous sharing.
The best Reels need thoughtful planning. No, we’re not saying you need to go all Spielberg and shoot a professional movie. You just need to have a concept in mind. You also need to think about how you’re going to make the most of the different Reels features.
Some questions to consider:
To help you answer some of these questions, we discuss various Reel features and how to make use of them in more detail below. For now, simply note that that knowing what you’re going to shoot, and how you’re going to shoot it will make it much easier to create a Reel.
Storytelling is one of the keys to success in any form of social media marketing—Instagram Reels included. Your Reels must tell a complete story from beginning to end.
Whether it’s an educational video, a funny viral trend, a quick product demo, behind-the-scenes content—or anything else—think of each Reel as an opportunity to tell a story about your brand.
To start storyboarding for your Reel ask yourself key questions such as:
You may or may not have answers to all these questions for every Reel. However, the more clarity you have on this—the better your Reel will be. To reiterate our first point—have this story in mind before you start shooting your Reel.
If you create the same (or similar) content everyone else is making on Instagram—your followers are eventually going to get bored and stop watching. Also, don’t just regurgitate the same content you’re posting on your feed or Stories.
To truly keep your audience engaged, your Reels content needs to be original and creative. Ask yourself—what can you do on Reels that your competitors aren’t doing? How can you present your topic/ business niche from a new angle? It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking but it does need to be a bit more creative than just another video.
For example, @badyogiofficial focuses her Reels on providing micro tips to help her yoga community. These tips are educational and incredibly useful as they focus on one highly specific issue.
If you haven’t already noticed, TikTok and Instagram Reels have moved way past the dance videos. Sure, people are still making dance videos and they’re fun. But for brands looking to make the most of Reels, creating educational or informational content is a great way to get noticed.
Use your Instagram Reels to truly provide value to your audience. By value we don’t just mean offering your audience a discount on your products. Educate them through your reels. Give them information or advice they can’t find anywhere else. This positions you as an expert or a thought leader in your particular niche of business.
Always ask yourself, “What will my followers get out of watching this Reel?”
For example, @hubspot does a great job of creating a mix of valuable as well as relatable content for their audience.
Trends on Reel come (and go) super quick! If you’re stuck for ideas on what to make your next Reel about—check out what’s trending.
If you’ve used Instagram for any amount of time you know that Reel trends seem to catch on super quick. They’re fun and Instagram users love to see and interact with them. Brands that can adapt to trends quickly are more likely to keep up with their audience and thus engage them further.
You can find out about the hottest trends by checking out Instagram’s most recent Reel trend report. Of course, you should also just hang out on Instagram to see what other creators are getting up to. The Reels tab is a great place to stay on top of new Reels. The Explore tab will also show you popular Reels content.
You could also check out TikTok to see what’s trending there and create a Reels version of it for your Instagram channel.
@theverygirl hops on the “Tell me you…” trend to create a funny (but super relatable) Reel about clingy dogs that’s been hugely popular on Instagram.
Note: Trends are great but don’t hop on them if it doesn’t make sense for your business. Some brands can pull off an on-trend dance video. Others, maybe not so much. Hop on the trend wagon only if the content and format make sense for your brand voice. (link to Trends article when live)
This is an obvious one but we’ll say it anyway—shoot your reel in portrait mode i.e. vertically.
Instagram Reels don’t work unless they look native i.e. it’s content created specifically (and only) for use on Reels.
Use your full screen to record the video. No frames, not square, and definitely NOT horizontal (landscape)!
How you start your Reel matters. Plan your Reel so you lead with a “hook” i.e. something that hooks your viewers in and convinces them to keep watching the rest of your video.
Your hook can be something you say, a special effect, a facial expression, text, or even an image. When planning your content, think about what would make someone stop and pay attention to your video in a few seconds. Do that.
Body positivity influencer @maryscupsoftea uses music, text, funny dialogue and scenarios, audio, as well as eye-catching (sometimes controversial) images to grab her audience’s attention straight away.
If there’s anything Instagram users love to see in a Reel, it’s a fun transition.
Transitions are not new to those who’ve been making videos for a while. Reels just make really good use of them. They keep users engaged and interested in what’s about to happen next. These have been especially popular with fashion-related Instagram accounts.
Keep an eye on popular Reels to see which transitions styles are trending or popular.
This @gymsharkwomen getting dressed video makes use of a fun transition that’s popular in the fashion world. It’s simple, it’s quick and it’s effective.
Reels come built-in with extra features such as stickers, text, and special effects. If relevant and useful for your brand, make use of these special features in your Reels content.
Instagram recommends making use of these creative tools in your Reels in its best practice suggestions for creators.
Here’s a fun example from @refinery29 that uses an effect to create a short but funny Reel many are likely to relate to. Not much needs to be said or explained. The effect does the job.
Audio and music have been a huge part of the success of TikTok and Instagram Reels. After all, where would be a choreography video be without music?
Instagram encourages you to use music from the Instagram library or, take it a step further and create your own audio. Music and other audio effects add a further layer to the fun and engaging aspects of a Reel so definitely make the most of this feature.
@blogilates makes use of the ‘Got me Good’ song that was trending for a while, to create a super relatable Reel video.
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Don’t quite have the resources to create original Reels content? Or maybe, you just want to add a new dimension? Why not feature your users?
Supplementing your Reels content with user-generated content is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. You get to add new content to your Reels. You also humanize your brand by featuring real people who use your product. People love to see that. It’s a win-win.
@sephora’s Reels are a great example of how to make the most of user-generated and influencer content to boost your own Reels presence on Instagram. From product features to how-tos and tips, Sephora makes the most of their massive user (and fan!) base to share a variety of Reels content on their channel.
Long captions on a feed post? We’re all for it. On Instagram Reels? Not so much!
Keep your Reels caption short. When your caption is too long, viewers have to hit ‘More’ to keep viewing. The caption takes over the video, while it’s still playing in the background, making it pretty hard to read.
Besides, you want your users to watch your Reel, not pore their energy into reading a long-winded caption. So, remember, for best results, keep your Reel caption short.
This @patagonia Reel caption is short and to the point. What else do you need?
Did you know you can tag products in your Instagram Reel! Yes, it’s true.
According to Instagram, “70% of shopping enthusiasts turn to Instagram for product discovery.:
Instagram Shopping lets people shop your photos and videos no matter where they are in the app. Make your Reel shoppable by making the most of the product tags feature. It’s an awesome way to feature new products to your audience.
@lululemon is great at making use of their Reels to create shoppable content. View the Reel below on mobile. You will see a ‘View Products’ call to action at the bottom of the reel that allows you to see the products featured in the Reel.
Reels are an opportunity to have fun. Embrace it.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different formats. Try out different trends. Make the most of Reels features. Create content that may not suit other formats but may be perfect for the Reels experience.
This fun reel from @whogivesacraptp is a great example of a brand having a bit of fun with their content on Reels. This video lives up to the brand’s eco-friendly ethos while also giving its audience a fun and new take on how to put its product to use.
Creating awesome, well-planned content is really the “secret” sauce behind Reels’ success. But if you want to make sure all that hard work you put into creating those Reels is actually seen by your followers—check out some of these reach-boosting tips.
Every time you create a new Reel, make sure you share it on your main Instagram feed. Also, add it to your Stories. This is the easiest and most obvious way to let your followers know you have new Reels content for them!
Add hashtags to your Reels to make sure they get the reach they deserve. These tags also help the Instagram algorithm better understand what your content is about. Using hashtags also helps with keyword search so when people search for a relevant topic, your Reel is more likely to show up.
Repurposing content for various social media channels is a good idea… up to a certain extent. Instagram has been pretty clear (and brutal) about the fact that recycling your TikTok content on Instagram isn’t quite going to make the cut.
According to this post on the @Creators account:
“We’ve also heard that low video quality reels (i.e. blurry due to low resolution) or content that is visibly recycled from other apps (i.e. contains logos or watermarks) makes the Reels experience less satisfying. So, we’re making this content less discoverable in places like the Reels tab.”
Want to really see results from your Instagram Reel efforts? Keep at it.
You can’t create one Reel and expect to shake things up. To truly get the most out of the viral benefits of Reels, you have to post consistently.
Your first attempts may not be successful, but don’t give up. Experiment with your content. Hop on trends when relevant. Use effects and transitions. Don’t be afraid to be a bit more casual in approach than your main feed.
A consistent and creative approach to Reels will take you far and get you noticed by your audience.
So what are you waiting for? Pull out that phone… it’s time to make a Reel!