Reels 101: Everything You Need to Know About Insta’s Latest Feature

Reels are Instagram’s answer to Tik Tok: 15-30 second short form videos that can live either on your main grid or on a separate page of your Instagram. These can be funny, education, or inspiring. Most importantly, no matter what your niche is, reels present an opportunity to drastically increase your reach and engagement and continue to grow in spite of changes to the algorithm.

Still hesitant? Keep reading to find out how to incorporate reels into your content strategy!

Why reels are so important

So many accounts have been saying that their reach has plummeted, their posts are being seen by a tiny percentage of their following, and they are seeing depressing dips in their engagement. How can reels help?

Reels, as a new feature that is quite engaging, are getting boosted in the algorithm. Why? Because people spend more time on videos than on photos, they’re short so they hold people’s attention for a couple loops, and by nature videos are more engaging than a regular photograph. In this updated algorithm, where time spent engaging with content matters, getting people to stay on your content for longer is key. Reels are a quick and easy way to do this.

Reels are especially important now because we’re still in the “early adopter” phase.

Why is it so important to be an early adopter?

We saw this with Tik Tok as well – people who got on the platform early and started creating content found it easy to go viral. With less accounts and less content, yours will be seen more.

As more people start creating Reels and the content becomes saturated, it gets harder and harder to get that type of virality. The earlier you start the better.

While it may be nerve-wracking to try to navigate this new content strategy, I’m going to explain exactly how to make a reel, what we know about them so far, and give you some ideas to get you started!

How to make a reel

To make your first reel, click over to your Explore page. Reels will be in the top section, and when you click that first reel you’ll see a camera icon on the top right. When you press that, it will take you to the reel editing page.

screenshot of explore page showing reels

You can either put your reel together in an outside app like Splice or InShot and upload the finished reel to Instagram, or film within the app. I prefer to film within Instagram because it lets me match my video to the audio right away.

The Five Tools on the Reels page

  • Length: you can choose between either 15 or 30 seconds for your reel
  • Audio: Where you can choose the music to use in your video! If you don’t have audio, there are a number of accounts that explain how to fix it or work around the issue – this youtube video is a good place to start troubleshooting)
  • Speed: if you want to adjust the speed of your clip, tap this button
  • Effects: allows you to film with a story filter
  • Timer: if you’re filming within the app, it allows you to select how long you want a particular clip to be. It also gives a countdown before starting to film
screenshot of reels filming page showing tools on the left side

After filming

Once you’ve finished filming, you can add text on the next page, just like in stories. To adjust how long the text shows up for, tap the text so it’s highlighted and drag the slider on the bottom of the page so it only covers the section you want the text to appear for.

Next you’ll see the final page where you can upload. Add a caption here (keep these short!) and also decide on a cover photo. To make my reels match my grid, I make covers on Canva like the one below.

example of a reels cover I made in canva

Finally, make sure you’ve toggled “Share to feed.” This is super important. The one reel I didn’t share to my feed got under 1k views, whereas all my others have between 1k-3k views (Even surpassing my amount of followers).

If you want to see a video tutorial of this process, visit my instagram profile and view the highlight titled Reels 101.

A few more tips for Reels

Let’s get into a few more tips and tricks for filming reels.

Just like with photos, remember to use good lighting! Dark videos aren’t very appealing. Keep your transitions crisp. This is where it’s very helpful to use the timer function. Play with different sounds – you can use viral tik tok sounds, or choose your favorite music to play in the background. There are so many fun things to do with Reels – the creative opportunities are endless. Remember that they’re a little more off the cuff – you don’t have to be perfect!

You don’t have much room in your caption to get people’s attention, so make sure the first few words are engaging! Use a good hook, then get into the meat of the caption.

Lastly, hashtags don’t seem necessary to get the type of explosive reach so many accounts are seeing – in my experience, my reels have gotten similar views with and without hashtags.

How to incorporate Reels into your content strategy

You may be wondering how to work Reels into your existing content strategy. Should you only do Reels? How should you balance photos and videos? What about IGTV and lives?

My recommendation is to do what feels right for you. I plan out my content in advance in order to balance all the areas of Instagram I want to show up on: Stories, Feed, Reels, IGTV and Lives. A good place to start would be posting 1-2 reels a week and 3-4 photographs.

Scared of showing up on video?

Maybe Reels sound like something you want to try, but you’re nervous about showing up on video. I get it – when I first started my account I thought I would never do an IGTV or a live. Now, video is a central part of my account. In addition to doing my first live, I’ve also made an IGTV and posted 2-3 reels a week.

It’s all about getting comfortable with seeing yourself on camera and talking to a virtual audience. Take it slowly – maybe you start with just doing the voiceover on a video, then eventually move into actually being in the film. Practice talking to the camera on your phone, without the pressure of making a reel. Lastly, as I said above, remember it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, bloopers are often a good way to get engagement and relate to your audience!

Some Prompts To Get You Started

I know one of the hardest things about Reels is thinking about what to actually make a video on. So, I brainstormed some skincare/beauty specific ideas to get you started!

  • your AM or PM routine
  • the behind the scenes of a shot (for example, I filmed one about how I created the photos for this post)
  • your top 3 products in a category
  • a review with a demo of the product (for example, a sunscreen)
  • using a funny tik tok audio with a skincare twist
  • putting together a routine for a specific skin type
  • 3 resources that you’ve found helpful for your skincare account
  • 3 things you wish you knew when you started
  • 5 facts about yourself
  • editing tutorial

If you use any of these ideas, definitely tag me so I can see them!

Final Thoughts

I hope this post was helpful as you start to incorporate Reels into your content strategy. Even if you’re not super comfortable with them yet, they’re here to stay – so definitely give it a go and start experimenting!

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