Content Strategy

The low-down on Instagram Reels and how brands can use them

By November 17, 2020 No Comments
Instagram Reels

Watch out TikTok, Instagram Reels are coming for you.

In a tactic that has been used by Instagram before (yes, we’re looking at you Instagram Stories versus Snapchat) the platform has now focused its energy to take on video sharing social giant TikTok.

When you’ve been scrolling through your ‘gram Feed recently, chances are you will have come across a little something called Reels. Now don’t be alarmed, TikTok hasn’t magically appeared in your Instagram app, but instead Reels is Instagram’s answer to TikTok.

Reels is a new format for Instagram that allows users to create and share short-form video content through a dedicated Feed and the Explore Page. And it features the similar bite-sized (15 to 30 seconds) videos, and all the editing and audio features inbuilt, that we’ve grown to love through TikTok. 

We don’t know much about the algorithm at this stage, but it does seem similar to TikTok, whereby it prioritises posts by location, people you follow and content similar to what you’ve engaged with recently. And rumour has it the algorithm fairies take fondly to those who post Reels, however Instagram hasn’t confirmed or denied either way.

Reels may sound a lot like Instagram Stories or IGTV, but there are a few key differences:

  • It offers a much wider range of editing tools, including AR effects, speed controls for both the video and the audio, and the ability to work with multiple clips aligning them for cleaner transitions
  • Reels can be shared to the Explore Page (as long as your account is on public) and can also be shared to your Feed and Stories
  • It comes with an audio library for creator and personal accounts, however if you use a business Instagram profile you will need to add your own audio
  • Reels don’t disappear after 24 hours, but instead sit under their own tab on your profile
  • You can film Reels in one take or as a series of takes stitched together
  • You can film natively on Instagram or you can upload from your device

Opportunities for brands

Currently it is not clear if Reels will be as successful as or even overtake TikTok, however, it is a good way to expand on your brand’s existing Instagram tactics and reap benefits without planning a foray into TikTok.

If your brand has been on the fence as to whether to jump into TikTok, then Reels is a good way to dip your toes in, without learning a whole new platform.

A few ways brands can use Reels:

Brand awareness

This is arguably the most beneficial outcome of using Reels for your brand. Reels has a huge advantage when it comes to brand awareness as not only can you share Reels with your existing followers through the Feed and Stories, but if you have a public account, you can make them available to the wider Instagram world (including people who don’t follow you) through the Explore Page.

Any original audio you upload will be attributed to you and others can include it in their own Reels, expanding your reach.

You know you’ve made it if your video says featured and you can sit back and watch the eyeballs roll in. If your reel is featured in the Explore Page you’ll receive a notification and you will be put in with a selection of Reels chosen by Instagram to help people discover content that they say will entertain and inspire.

Repurposing content 

Reels is an easy opportunity to cut up and repurpose any existing content your business has developed, whether that be IGTV videos, YouTube videos or Story content. 

In fact many TikTok creators are just repurposing their TikTok content directly onto Instagram Reels.

And while we’ve discussed how the TikTok algorithm is a tough cookie to crack, brands may like to turn to Reels as the algorithm seems to be a little kinder to you.

While with TikTok you can be fully experimental, with Reels it is best to stay aligned with your existing brand presence on Instagram. While repurposing content on both you may find that it does better on one or the other and that is where your focus should be moving forward. 

Working with influencers

Reels is just another way to expand on your influencer strategy and gives you another touch point to work with. Let influencers do the heavy lifting for your creative Reels strategy and the benefits can be astronomical as you open yourself up to not only their audience but also their overall Instagram reach power. 

Fun content 

This app feature can be used for a huge range of content ideas including tutorials, step-by-step videos for products or tips, behind-the-scenes content, meet the staff/showcase your company, show off your product (particularly good for fashion and beauty) and to introduce the production process, just to name a few.

Benefit is all about showcasing its products using Reels and Sabo Skirt uses Reels to take viewers through its production process.

Things to consider before you dive in

  1. Captions seem to be mostly ignored, so make sure any information or call to action is on the text overlay 
  2. You can’t edit captions so don’t make any mistakes
  3. Long captions aren’t logical as only a little bit of text previews so focus on the video content instead
  4. If you plan to share to your Feed make sure any text overlay is within the Feed frame
  5. Currently there are not a lot of analytics or insights
  6. Reels is on mobile only and can’t be viewed or created on a desktop
  7. Ads are not yet supported
  8. As with any new feature they are likely still ironing out the kinks and in my very humble opinion the Reels editing certainly feels a bit clunkier compared with TikTok (and yes, I’ve tried both, but am still yet to go viral </3)