Social 101: Instagram Reels

Thought Leadership

Instagram Reels recently launched globally. Here, our Senior Strategist Briel Waxman shares her thoughts on the feature.

What is Reels?
Instagram, owned by Facebook, has a tendency to add features that are clearly lifted from their competitors. Reels is their interpretation of TikTok’s video based platform, which offers a suite of library sounds and editing effects that can be used to make quick videos. Instagram has made Reels available In-feed, on Stories, and is currently the first offering in your Discover page—mimicking TikTok’s “For You” discovery page on their app.

Users have criticized Discover for Reels, saying it prioritizes already popular Instagrammers. TikTok’s “For You” encourages discovery of new accounts, and users joke that it’s “creepily accurate” in terms of content curation.

How do you use Reels?
Reels is a video format. Like TikTok, you can create a video in one shot, or film in sections to create practical effects (like this Reel from Color Me Courtney). The videos can be paired with existing sound clips—which on TikTok aids in discovery or drives trending sounds or formats—or you can provide an original sound. Reels can also be edited with AR effects and speed options. They can be recorded in a series of clips (one at a time), all at once, or using video uploads from your gallery.

Should you use Reels?
This feature was only released last week, so it’s worth playing around with and experimenting to see if the format works for you and your brand. But, before you jump in, some questions to think about:

Are you already on TikTok? If you’re already creating content successfully on TikTok, it’s worth experimenting to see what works on Reels.

Should you be on both TikTok and Instagram Reels? Instagram is a massive platform with huge reach, particularly with Millennials, so it’s an opportunity to engage a broader audience with similar content. Given that not all organic content makes it to every one of your followers, cross-posting to TikTok and Reels shouldn’t cause issues, but it isn’t without risk. It will depend on your content strategy whether it makes sense for you to do so.

Are you equipped to create nimble, mobile- first content? The nature of the platform dictates that the content feel less polished and more natural, so you’ll want to be sure you’re ready to create content in this way.

Is the content style/format right for your brand? We’ve highlighted some key principles to consider below.

Is Reels relevant to your brand?
There are many similarities between Reels and TikTok so, we can use the latter as a baseline to determine whether Reels is a good fit for you.

Look & Feel: Despite the highly edited nature of the platform, content designed for TikTok is often less “designed” or “picture perfect”. And, since the platform encourages anyone and everyone to post, it has a more behind-the-scenes, authentic feel.

Content Narratives: There are a number of trends happening because of TikTok, such as:

Some content narratives to consider for Reel

Should I get on Reels right now?
If you are already active and have a large following on Instagram, it would be worth experimenting with some content in that format to see if anything resonates with your audience. The only certainty with this format is that Instagram will surely make changes to how Reels content is surfaced to users, so we’ll have to test-and-learn in order to figure out what works — much like what brands had to do with Stories.

Should you abandon TikTok and jump ship straight to Reels? Probably not. It’s hard to say, at this point, how successful the format will be for Instagram and the audience on TikTok is deeply committed to that platform. But with Instagram’s huge audience base, we shouldn’t count them out. See: how quickly Instagram Stories gained adoption versus Snap.