Remember when Instagram stole the whole concept of Snapchat and added Instagram Stories to its platform? Last year, the brilliant minds behind the popular photo-sharing social network did it again, but this time they capitalized on TikTok’s rising popularity and added Reels to the app.
Steal, borrow, take, innovate—it doesn’t matter. Instagram Reels are here to stay, and they’re a powerful engagement tool when used correctly.
Whether you’re a Reels expert or just Slacked your best friend “What’s an Instagram Reel,” we have you covered. This post will walk you through everything you need to know to start creating Reels on Instagram that boost your account’s engagement and following.
First, let’s start with the fundamentals. What’s an Instagram Reel?
What’s an Instagram Reel?
Instagram Reels are 15-to-60 seconds clips (usually set to music) that can be shared as Stories, posts, and even featured on a dedicated Reels tab on your profile.
You can find Instagram Reels by clicking the play-like button that’s dead center on your navigation bar. This page is a feed for all things Reels, though you’ll also find posted Reels on your home tab and the Explore page.
Businesses and casual users take advantage of Reels to feature products, make announcements, be creative, and have fun. Start scrolling through your Reels, and you’re bound to see everything from quirky dances to baby announcements and everything in between.
Like everything else on Instagram, the content on your Reels feed is determined by a nifty algorithm that users are always trying to figure out. While Instagram hasn’t blatantly come out and said why they feature some Reels over others, we have a pretty good guess (more on that soon).
Why Instagram Reels? Why Now?
TikTok’s popularity exploded in 2020, becoming the most downloaded app of the year with 850 million downloads. However, TikTok serves a primarily younger demographic, whereas Instagram serves a broader age range.
Noticing the opportunity, Instagram jumped on the scene to (again) give its users a one-stop-social network for every piece of content they’d like to consume. Ever.
IGTV combats YouTube by allowing users to post episode-length videos, and Stories battles Snapchat by letting users publish 24-hour accessible photos and videos. Now, Instagram has added Reels to provide short content that doesn’t have the tiny shelf life of Stories.
How Do You Make a Reel on Instagram?
Ready to get started making your own Reels? You’re in luck—it’s easy.
Instagram lets you create Reels from the “Your Story,” “New Post,” and Reels tabs. You can follow the process for creating a Reel from any of these locations, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s start from the Reels tab:
- Click the photo icon in the top right corner. This will redirect you to where you can start creating your own Reel.
- You’ll find a menu on the left with a few different icons. Here’s what they mean:
- Music Note: Choose the music you’d like to play in the background of your Reel.
- 30: Choose the length of your Reel (15 seconds, 30 seconds, or 60 seconds).
- 1x: Choose the speed of your Reel (from .3x to 4x).
- Stars: Add effects to your Reel.
- Wand: Use Touch Up to make your face or skin smoother.
- Timer: Decide the length of your Reel and set your countdown clock for a visual cue to help you get ready to start recording.
- Press the Reels icon button to start recording. Press it again to stop.
And that’s that.
Within Reels, you can stitch together multiple videos to fit within your time frame. Once you’re finished, you’ll then be able to edit music, add stickers and effects, overlay text, freehand draw, and more.
Add your finished Reel to your Stories, publish it to your feed, or both.
10 Instagram Reels Dos and Don’ts
Making a Reel is relatively easy, but making a good (read: viral) Reel can be tricky. Here are a few dos and don’ts to set you in the right direction:
- Use vertical video (this is a must)
- Create content that users will watch start to finish (skips will hurt your ranking)
- Experiment with creative tools like filters, effects, and text
- Add music
- Include closed captions (many people watch without sound)
- Be original—find inspiration from others but create unique content
- Publish Reels with watermarks from other sites (aka, TikTok)
- Upload blurry or low-resolution videos
- Cover your video with too much text
- Fail to meet Instagram’s Community Guidelines
How to Use Instagram Reels to Boost Engagement
Whether you’re looking to boost awareness, generate sales, or build your following, Reels is another tool to engage your audience. While you don’t necessarily need to use every Instagram feature to be successful, Reels is a high-priority item for Instagram at the moment—they’re featuring it front and center as soon as every user opens the app.
While we can’t be sure of everything impacting Instagram’s algorithms, it’s safe to assume they’re giving preference and priority to Reels content. Publish high-quality, engaging Reels, and there’s a good chance Instagram will also show some love to your Stories, Feed, and even Instagram Shop.
That’s not a fact, but come on—it’s Instagram.
Plus, it’s easy for Reels to have a more viral nature. Articles and videos can take minutes to consume, while Reels last only seconds. This makes it easy for users to watch more, like more, and share more.
Curious how you can use Reels to boost Instagram engagement? Here are a few ways:
Build Your Instagram Following
Engaged followers lead to more engagement, engagement leads to reach, and strong reach can land you on the Explore tab. Get your Reels on the Explore tab, and you’ll expose your brand to thousands of brand-new users who may never have interacted with your brand before—for free.
Include keywords and hashtags in your Instagram Reels. People will stumble across your Reels when using Instagram’s search function, and these pieces of copy will help Instagram understand more about the video you’re publishing. Add a hashtag or 2 to help users find your content.
Spread Awareness with Subtle Branding Elements
Not everyone cares who the author of a Reel is—they just want to watch, laugh, and go on with their day. However, you can add subtle branding elements (logos, brand-associated colors, captions, text blocks, stickers) to boost brand awareness without being too in their face. This makes for a “double win” whenever someone consumes your Reels.
Drive Sales with Product Features
Experiment with announcing or featuring products in your Reels to generate hype and drive sales. Remember, Instagram Reels isn’t ecommerce focused—it’s still a consumer-first feature on a social networking platform.
However, it’s worthwhile to give it a try and see how your audience reacts. If engagement goes up and you see more sales coming from Instagram, it might be a tactic worth exploring further or replicating regularly. If engagement dips, scale it back a bit and revisit your strategy before trying again.
Add a Single Call to Action (CTA) to Your Reels
Sometimes, you’ll just want to entertain or inform your audience and send them on their way. Other times, you’ll want them to consume your content and do something about it.
Use stickers, GIFs, and text to tell your audience what to do. Ask them to click the link in your profile, follow your account, or check out another piece of content.
Focus on a single CTA. Don’t overwhelm your viewers. Provide them with a great piece of content, and then ask them to like, comment, share, visit, or engage. That’s all there is to it.
Master Instagram and All Its Glory
Instagram can be a fantastic business tool, but it’s tricky to learn all the ins and outs and where you should be focusing your time.
We get it, we’ve been there, and we’ve been through that. However, now we’re sitting on an engaged account with over 3.2 million followers.
We didn’t get lucky, we weren’t early adopters, we didn’t buy fake followers, and it didn’t take us 10 years to build it. We figured out what works (and more importantly—what doesn’t), engagement formulas, and how to create irresistibly engaging content.
And you can learn it, too.
Sign up for the Instagram Domination course to learn the step-by-step process we used to grow our following from 0 to 500K followers in just 12 short months. We’ll provide you with a replicable framework for developing a business-changing audience on one of today’s most popular platforms.
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