Updated: Jun 29, 2021
What are Instagram Reels?
Instagram Reels is a video feature that is available in over 50 countries including India, the United States, and Russia. It is a fun way to create engaging content largely mirroring Tiktok’s own video features. With Reels, users can edit 15-30 second short video clips after recording them. These can be shared onto Instagram Stories, the Explore Feed, and a tab dedicated particularly to Reels on every Instagram profile.
As of 2020, 88% of Instagram users reside outside of the United States. Of these, India boasts of a staggering 120 million Instagram users, making it the largest ethnic audience on the platform.
Today, Instagram Reels dominate a large part of the platform’s content. Given its location at the forefront of the application, i.e. the central region of the primary navigation bar, Reels have revolutionised the app by increasing browsing and shares. Within the Reels tab itself, users can find Reels from trending accounts, alongside accounts they follow.
According to Instagram, “the tab will provide a deeply immersive Reels-experience with auto-play videos, with a creation entry point that opens directly to the Reels camera.’’
Although the Instagram Reels algorithm hasn’t been entirely figured out yet, it can very well be aligned with Tiktok’s ‘For You’ page. As such, it is largely influenced by the profiles you follow, the content you often interact with, and your location. However, marketers have narrowed down the following buckets regarding content which is preferred by the Reels algorithm.
Fun and entertaining (content which grabs attention, makes people laugh, has a fun twist to it, and overall delights people)
Inspirational (content which could potentially lead to a trend, or attracts other participants)
Usage of creative tools: filters, camera effects, and texts
Utilization of original audio, or music from Instagram’s music library
Experimental: new content where authenticity is reflected
In stark contrast, Instagram Reels are unfavorable towards the following content niches:
Blurry due to poor camera quality, or low-resolution
Borders around videos
Content covered largely by text
Reels which do not follow Instagram’s Community Guidelines
Moreover, the app has also declared that content which is being reused after its posting on other applications, particularly ones which consist of watermarks and logos, will be far less discoverable on its Reels Tab. Users can utilise a number of apps, such as:
MusicallyDown: downloads Tiktok videos without a watermark.
Apowersoft’s Online Watermark Removal: removes watermarks from videos and images for free
Snaptik App: removes watermarks from all videos and images.
Instagram’s Reels camera comes with a number of features which allow the utilization of sound, and audio overlays, while recording videos.
Editing tools: Ability to change the speed of a video by slowing it down, or speeding it up, coupled with transitions, and enhanced reality effects.
Stitchable takes: Enables users to combine multiple quicker takes, or simply use one long take.
Audio attribution: Allows other users to overlay an original native audio used by another user. Instagram credits the account of the original user for the overlaid audio.
Shareability: Reels can be shared on the Explore Page, profiles, or the Instagram Feed depending on the owner’s privacy settings.
Mobile-only: Cannot be viewed or uploaded via a desktop.
Why Reels after all?
As a reader, a lot of Instagram's Reels’ these features might be starting to sound increasingly familiar to you- we’re here to tell you that this isn’t a coincidence. Instagram’s Reels could certainly be regarded as a direct response to the growth of Tiktok, particularly over the past year.
As per Adweek, within the first quarter of 2020, Tiktok accomplished “the most downloads for any app ever in a quarter”.
Moreover, its demographic is constantly changing, allowing it to become a highly enticing proposition for advertisers. This is noticeable with its initial utilization by mostly Gen-Z users, followed by a surge of Millenials who now make up a larger share of Tiktok’s global users.
Data published by Comscore states that the percentage of users aged between 18-24 fell from 41% to 35.3%, whilst those aged between 25-34 rose from 22.4% to 27.4%.
CNBC’S Jessica Bursztynsky commented the following regarding the changes in the age brackets, alongside the launch of Instagram Reels as a competitor to Tiktok, "Instagram's short-form video feature, Reels, launched Wednesday. Instagram is swooping in at a vulnerable time for its largest competitor, TikTok. Reels allows users to create 15-second clips, like TikTok, and share them publicly or with friends within the Instagram app.’’
Therefore, Instagram’s bid to overtake Tiktok, particularly in countries such as Brazil where Tiktok hasn’t yet garnered a strong foothold, comes as no surprise. Interestingly, Brazil also happens to be the first country Instagram decided to launch their Reels feature. In comparison to Tiktok, Reels possesses a far higher chance of success given its excellent positioning within the app, alongside the familiarity and exposure which accompanies Instagram.
In comparison to Instagram’s other features, particularly IGTV, Reels come across as an informal medium to fill the gap with high-quality content. As such, where IGTV is more utilised as a series-based content feature, Reels is more of a creative, and dynamic, opportunity to portray more of your brand, and authenticity.
Instagram Reels and India
The timeline states that Facebook gained ownership of Instagram a week or so after India’s ban on Tiktok. When presented with a group of alternatives, Facebook narrowed their options down to Instagram Reels as the most likely to be widely used in the future.
Rightly so, Reels, which is Facebook's response to Tiktok, has now been welcomed by 62% of urban Indians who have tried it, and are going to continue using it as per a popular study.
Statistics also inform us of the following:
An increase in Instagram Downloads by 11.4% in India
On july 12, 2020, Instagram launched Reels within India. From the date of its launch, upto August 16, 2020, there was an increase of 7.8 million Instagram downloads. Thirty days before the launch of Reels, there was an average increase of 7 million downloads in comparison.
2. Time spent on Instagram rose by 3.5% within India
In line with the above, Head of Partnerships and Director of Facebook India, Mr. Manish Chopra, stated the following, “Reels is being received very well and a variety of public figures and creators from across India are starting to use the feature.” The same is reflected in the 3.5% increase in Instagram usage by Indian users.
What can we expect from Instagram Reels now?
An important consideration is what Instagram Reels will essentially mean for businesses and brands on Instagram. A notable indication to go by is the launch of Instagram Stories back in 2016.
Before its launch, Instagram was utilised by 150 million global users, in comparison to 500 million users as of 2020.
Marketers have predicted a similar response for Instagram Reels.
Brands and Influencers
Given its favourable future, jumping onto Reels is an excellent idea, especially during its present growth period. Instagram itself is further paying extra attention to profiles that actively utilise the Reels tab located on the Instagram homepage. In line with the same, multiple brands, across the world, are already utilising Reels to promote their products/services, quite similar to how it’s done on Tiktok. Moreover, the launch of branded content tags on Instagram Reels make it highly likely brands are going to partner with several influencers.
Branded content tags
Branded content tags ensure Instagram is able to clearly monitor uploads made on Reels by brands and influencers. By utilising branded content tags, creators are clearly showcasing that their content is specific to their brand, whilst increasing brand transparency, and simplifying the process of sharing.
Brands and Instagram Community
Utilization of Instagram Reels further allows businesses, and brands, to better navigate their Instagram community. Currently however, in-depth analytics for Reels are quite limited with only the view count, comments, and likes available as indicators. Yet, just as Instagram provided in-depth analytics for its Instagram Stories overtime, you can expect the same to be available for Reels.
All in all, whether you’re a brand or a business making use of Instagram Reels, it’s certainly a creative opportunity to grow your popularity and enhance your audience. While the Instagram Reels algorithm hasn’t been known to work just yet, there are several content niches, alongside do’s and don’ts which are known to work.
How can you use Instagram Reels for your business or brand?
Following the launch of Instagram stories in 2016, the feature was largely referred to as a Snapchat clone. However, today, Instagram stories surpass Snapchat in the number of daily users, while also becoming a prominent channel for brands to grow their audience.
With this in mind, brands and business alike should hop onto Instagram Reels immediately. This allows you to engage with newer audiences in a manner where your content is easily digestible, and your brand value is quickly communicated. Furthermore, brands can also collaborate with creative talents who are new to the industry in order to experiment with more creative forms of content.
If you’re not convinced yet, it is important to note that Reels are located at the very center of the Explore page- a hub utilised by over 50% of Instagram accounts each month. If your Instagram reel happens to make the Explore Page, your brand/business has a huge chance of going viral and exposing your content to several new followers.
Interestingly, some of the very first brands to immediately use Reels, following its launch, were big names such as Louis Vuitton, Sephora, and Maybelline.
This comes as no surprise given that 81% of people regularly use Instagram to research products and services, while a further 130 million Instagram users often tap on multiple shopping posts every month.
Similarly, you can utilise Instagram Reels as a part of your own social media marketing strategy. Here’s some ways to do so:
Reuse your Tiktok Videos
If your brand has already published content on Tiktok, you can use the same for your Instagram Reels tab. By doing so, you can expose your content to new audiences, whilst also reaching out to followers of yours who don’t use Tiktok. This is particularly true for a country like India where Tiktok has been banned. Colourpop Cosmetics is a popular brand which often conducts an excellent job when reposting their own Tiktok videos on Instagram Reels.
Share content which is educational
If you’re looking to start on Reels, creating, and sharing, educational content is a great way to grow your following. This could include something as simple as ‘Top 5 skincare tips’, or even ‘How to make delicious pancakes in 15 minutes'. Essentially, you’re helping your followers to learn a brand new skill.
A popular influencer to go by is Rena Awada; owner of Healthy Fitness Meals (@healthyfitnessmeals), she often uses Reels to share family-friendly, healthy recipes. Rena often uses relevant hashtags, while ensuring her videos are quite easy to follow, short, and simple. This explains her growing popularity.
Showcase your products
Once again, Reels central location on the Explore Page plays a very important role. However, given the uncertainty of the Reels algorithm, you should make sure to use text overlay, hashtags, and descriptive captions. This allows Instagram to know what your content is about. You can also collaborate with several Instagram influencers in order to promote your product.
Fashion Labels Balysah Couture often showcases its new collection via Instagram Reels.
Share BTS content
Sharing behind-the-scenes content is an excellent way to let your Instagram followers know more about who you are, your brand values, the manufacturing process, and why you started your business. As such, it personalizes your brand, while gaining the trust of your followers and building your relationship.
A few BTS ideas you can start with are:
Share how you select materials for your products
Share the actual product making process
Share the everyday life of your brand team
Share the story of your brand- who your business came to be, and what struggles have you been through
Announce offers, sales, and contests
It is important to stay genuine to your brand in order to maintain your authenticity. As a business/brand, focusing on fun and originality is far more important than the quality of your Reel. You could do so by highlighting the individuality of your staff, or transforming something ordinary regarding your brand, into an aesthetic aspect by using motion and video.
Tips from an Influencer
Popular influencer Anushka Rathod (@anushkarathod98 on Twitter) utilised Instagram Reels to grow her own online presence. She shared some awesome tips to help you do the same. Here’s how she sums it up:
So what do we know now?
Now that you’re aware of what Instagram Reels is, alongside its primary features and its algorithm, you can effectively use the same to grow your business/brand. We’ve also shared some great tips for brands, and business, navigating the usage of Instagram Reels for you. Moreover, you can now sit back and watch Instagram Reels unfold while mirroring our own expectations of the feature. Ranging from brands and influencers, to brands and the Instagram Community, what you can expect has certainly been made much clearer.