When Instagram launched Reels in August 2020, the initial reaction from many marketers was that it was little more than a TikTok clone. Unsurprisingly, more than a few people saw this similarity as way to easily repurpose content from one platform to another.
However, in February, Instagram advised users not to repost from TikTok or other apps to Reels and updated the algorithm to make recycled videos less discoverable.
Fair enough. Forget COPE (Create Once, Post Everywhere). Crossposting isn’t only lazy but can also be far less effective.
Alisha Marfatia, Creative Director of The Social Impact, is adamant that Reels are very different to TikTok. For the last few months, Alisha has conducted numerous experiments to unpick the secrets to success with Instagram Reels.
JC: How have you gone about experimenting with Reels and what are some of the patterns you’ve uncovered?
AM: I tested all sorts of things like educational content, shareable content, content that talks about myself and my story, content that promotes. I was testing what’s too much content, what’s too much information in a Reel, and what is just enough. Where is that sweet spot?
For some accounts, Reels work really well when you’re talking to camera. For others, you get those conversions through being creative.
For me, and with my audience, Reels are most effective when I use movement and transitions to convey a point.
But at the end of the day, it’s about understanding exactly what works for your audience and for you.
Should marketers be A/B testing different Reels systematically, one hypothesis at a time, to determine what works best for them – and what doesn’t?
Exactly. I’ve posted Reels that didn’t work well. I think I know what’s going to flop, but I wanted to see if it really was too much information for it to work.
I’ve even tested how Reels start and how they end. The first three seconds of a Reel are crucial. If you don’t grab attention – through a transition, through the visuals, through your text or what you’re saying – people will keep swiping.
But the last three seconds are also important. What am I doing in the last three seconds to get them from the Reel across to what I want them to do next? When I haven’t included a call to action, I can get quite a few views, but I’m not going to get those conversions.
That’s one of the biggest barriers when I see other Reels where I’m thinking, “I don’t know what you want me to do from this”. Do you want me to follow you? Do you want me to comment? Do you want me to share my story? Do you want me to buy your content? I don’t know. So that’s a big, big thing. Ensure you have a clear call to action at the end.
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What kinds of call to actions work well with Reels then?
Before I put a Reel up, I decide what I’m trying to do because that’s going to determine my call to action. If I need something that’s going to boost my engagement, to get people talking and building connections in the comments, then I’m going to have a call to action that asks a question. “What did you struggle with? Let me know in the comments below.”
The other day I put up a Reel for International Women’s Day and I wanted people to share it, to get it out there. So, my call to action was to tag your bestie, or tag someone who always has your back and tell them what they are to you. And it worked so well because I had people tagging ten different people.
I have Reels where I have a product I need to sell. So, I’m going to use that call to action. “Want to know more? Join our Rise with Reels course.”
There’s so much you can do, but it really is about nailing down what do you want them to do.
Not long after Reels launched, the maximum length doubled from 15 seconds to 30 seconds. What impact did that have on what you were able to do?
Sometimes you do just need a few more seconds. With quite a few Reels, fitting everything into 15 seconds became way too much. People couldn’t hear me because I was speaking so fast.
However, I’m constantly telling people that just because you have 30 seconds doesn’t mean you need it. And that’s the negative impact.
Don’t ramble on just because you have 15 seconds more. If you have long, drawn-out videos, you’re going to lose their attention.
If your audience really does love a Reel, that’s when you bring in part two, part three. If you leave them wanting more, it’s like a cliffhanger on a TV series. If it needs to be longer, give them a part two.
Give them more reasons to keep watching.