Instagram

The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Reels


By Jessica Worb

Published August 13, 2021

11 minute read

Everything you ever wanted to know about Instagram Reels, all wrapped up into one, information-packed blog post!

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Stay on top of the biggest social media marketing trends!

The secret to viral growth on Instagram right now? You guessed it, it’s Instagram Reels.

“Since introducing Reels to our Instagram channel last year, we’ve seen our engagement grow by 280%,” shares Later’s Social Media Manager, Christine Colling.

But landing the perfect Reels strategy — and knowing how to use *all* those different editing features — is no mean feat.

We’re sharing everything you need to know in this ultimate guide:

Table of Contents:

  1. What is Instagram Reels?

  2. How to Create Your First Reel

  3. How to Add Music to Instagram Reels

  4. How to Access Instagram Reels Insights

  5. How the Instagram Reels Algorithm Works

  6. How to Use Reels for Business

  7. What’s the Future of Instagram Reels

What is Instagram Reels?

Instagram Reels is a way to create fun and engaging video content. The video feature is available in the United States and 50 other countries.

Similar to TikTok, Instagram users can record and edit together 15 to 60-second video clips set to music and share them to their Stories, Explore Feed, and the Reels tab on a user’s profile.

On the Reels tab, instead of only seeing Reels from accounts you follow as you scroll, it’s filled with Reels from popular and trending accounts on Instagram — just like the For You page on TikTok.

On top of seeing Reels on the new Reels tab, you can also find Reels on the Explore page.

When creating a Reel, you can either choose to film video clips on the spot or upload a pre-edited video from your camera roll.

Once you’re happy with the clips, you can use the draw and text tools and choose from a selection of Instagram stickers.

Want to jump into the details of Instagram Reels? Learn everything you need to know to create your very first Instagram Reel in this handy step-by-step video:

How to Create Instagram Reels

You can access and create Reels in three different ways: the Instagram home screen, the Reels tab, or the Instagram Stories camera.

To access through the Reels tab, tap the camera on the top right.

To access through the Instagram home screen, tap the “+” on the top right and scroll to the Reels tab at the bottom of the screen.

We’ll walk you through the steps on how to create an Instagram Reel using the Instagram Stories camera menu.

To access it, simply open the Instagram Stories camera and find the Reels icon positioned either between the default Normal mode and Create mode or on the bottom menu next to “Story”.

From this screen, you can select your audio by tapping the music icon:

Choose the speed of your video by pressing the play icon:

Decide how long you’d like your video to be by tapping the circle with 15-seconds on the left-hand side. When you press, shuffle between 15, 30, and 60 seconds.

Once you’ve decided on your video length, you can choose how long your clips will be by selecting the stopwatch icon. When you set a timer, there’s a countdown before the recording starts. You can choose between a 3 second and 10-second countdown.

Change the countdown duration by tapping the number next to “Countdown”.

Similar to Boomerang mode, you can scroll across to apply effects or AR filters to your Instagram Reels video. You can choose to use any previously saved filters or you can scroll to the end and tap “Browse Effects”.

Either hold down the record button to capture footage or upload video footage from your camera roll.

Much like on TikTok, you can start and stop recording multiple times during your video by pressing and holding the record button.

If you want to trim or delete any of the clips you’ve filmed, tap the back arrow to the right of the record button. Press into the individual clip you want to edit. When you tap into the clip of your choice, either tap the scissors to trim and the trash to delete.

Once you’re happy with the result, you can use the draw and text tools and select from a number of Instagram Stickers.

If you’re creating a video with a voiceover or dialogue, be sure to add closed captions to your videos. Not only does it help with those watching your videos without sound, but it’s also helpful for those who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

When adding text to your videos, keep the text placement in mind. This is because when you share an Instagram Reel to the feed, Instagram crops it to 4:5 dimensions. To avoid important text from being cropped, keep your text close to the middle of the screen.

When finished, you can edit the cover photo with a video thumbnail or add a cover from your camera roll. If you’d like to keep your Instagram aesthetic in place, opt for uploading an on-brand image from your camera roll.

Now it’s time to share your masterpiece! You can share the Reel to your Stories, Explore Feed, and the new Reels tab on your profile.

TIP: If you want to see how your Instagram Reels cover photo will look on your feed, check out this handy Later hack:

How to Add Music to Instagram Reels

Like it is on TikTok, music is a huge part of Reels.

If you find a song or audio clip you like, you can tap the music and select “Use Audio”.

Users can also select music from a huge library or use their own audio.

And, Instagram recently added the ability for users to search for specific audio clips — making it easier for users to jump on trends and find specific audio clips.

Take a peek at the other videos using that audio and see what’s out there. It never hurts to take inspiration and jump on a trend!

Beware that the Instagram Reels music feature may not work for all Instagram accounts.

If you notice your account doesn’t have the music feature, don’t panic!

There are ways you can work around it. Either record your own music and audio or you can edit your video outside of Instagram Reels.

If you find a song or audio clip you like, you can tap the music and select “Use Audio”:

On top of selecting and adding music, there are a number of handy video editing tools to explore. The option to trim and delete video clips, a video countdown timer, the option to adjust your video’s speed, align for transitions, and a library of video effects to choose from.

How to Access Instagram Reels Insights

You can now access insights for Instagram Reels — insights are available in both the Instagram Insights tab and for individual Reels.

To see how a specific Instagram Reel is performing, visit the Reels tab on your profile page and open a Reel.

From here, tap the three dot icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, and select “Insights.”

Users can see metrics including Plays, Accounts Reached, Likes, Comments, Saves, and Shares.

How the Instagram Reels Algorithm Works

The Instagram Reels Algorithm has been a bit of a mystery, especially when it comes to what’s shown as a suggested post, or in the Reels Explore tab.

But, recently Instagram has released some helpful insights.

What we do know about the Reels algorithm is that it favours Reels that:

  • Are entertaining and fun (i.e. delights people, grabs their attention, makes them laugh, or has a fun surprise or twist)

  • Are inspiring (i.e. starts a trend that others can easily participate in)

  • Use creative tools like text, filter, or camera effects

  • Uses vertical video

  • Use music from the Instagram music library and/or original audio you create or find on Reels

  • Are experimental! Try something new, be yourself, and see what works for you

And on the flip side, Instagram advises that brands and creators should not post Reels that:

Instagram has confirmed that content that’s visibly recycled from other apps (containing logos or watermarks) will be less discoverable on the Reels tab.

How to Use Instagram Reels For Business

Instagram Reels is a way to build your community and grow your reach on Instagram. It’s a fun and engaging way to share original (and creative!) snippets with your audience.

If you’re already using Instagram for your business, it may be worth giving Instagram Reels a try.

Here are three ways you can use Instagram Reels in your marketing strategy:

  1. Create authentic content

  2. Share educational content

  3. Showcase products

#1: Create Authentic Content

When Instagram Stories entered the scene in 2016, few could have predicted just how successful the fun and informal ephemeral format would prove to be.

If Instagram Stories is anything to go off of, Reels could be even bigger.

They’re designed to be fast and fun and are packed full of special effects that make creating captivating and authentic content seriously easy.

This offers a great opportunity for businesses to show a more human, less picture-perfect side — which can be great for building genuine relationships and strengthening community.

We spoke with Chriselle Lim in our TikTok For Brands Workshop, and she explained to us how many of her Instagram followers didn’t even know she was funny until they saw her on TikTok.

You don’t have to save your personality for other apps, now you can showcase it all on your Instagram. All your followers have to do is slide on over to the new Instagram Reels tab.

And what’s even better? You’ll reach a whole new audience doing so. Your Reels will show up on users’ Reels tab and just like that, they’ll be able to tap the follow button right away.

#2: Share Educational Content

Posting educational content is a great place to start — give your followers your top five travel tips, teach them how to get the perfect photo, how to write the perfect caption, or show them how to style a skirt five ways.

Educational content can help position you as an expert on that topic, and you could become a go-to voice within your community.

Take Later friend @jera.bean for example. She has cemented herself as a social media marketing expert by sharing tips, tricks, and behind-the-scenes content for her entrepreneurial following.

#3: Showcase Products

Instagram Reels is a huge opportunity for brands and businesses looking to drive awareness and sales from the platform.

Instagram Reels are shoppable — which means businesses can showcase products and tag them directly. This is major. Since many Instagram creators were already featuring products in their Reels, the addition of shoppable products is a great way to increase sales and traffic to your IG Shop.

Showcase products as creatively as you want and within 3-clicks, users can actually purchase your products straight from the video! If a user is interested, they can tap “View Products” to learn more about the product, save for later, or go ahead and purchase.

What’s Next for Instagram Reels

After a full year around the sun, Instagram Reels have solidified their place on the platform.

They’ve proven to be a major growth and engagement hack — and this is only the beginning.

With the integration of Shopping and Branded Content features, we’re seeing brands and businesses use Reels as a way to creatively promote products and partner with influencers to create branded content.

The introduction of Branded Content Tags is a way for Instagram to ensure creators clearly disclose when they’re creating branded content, increasing transparency, and making it easier for creators and brands to create, share, and amplify branded content.

As Reels continue to become an integral part of the Instagram user experience, we expect to see further in-app video editing tools, algorithm disclosure, and insights.

Whatever your brand or business, there’s a creative opportunity waiting for you with Instagram Reels.

Ready to jump in and create your first Instagram Reel? Here are our top 5 resources on the Later blog to help you get started:

  1. How to Create + Upload Your First Instagram Reels in 3 Easy Steps

  2. How to Hack the Instagram Reels Algorithm – According to Instagram!

  3. 15 Instagram Reels Ideas to Post Today

  4. Instagram Reels Shopping: Everything You Need to Know

  5. The Top Instagram Reels Hacks You Need to Know

Level-up your social media strategy with Later — plan, schedule and automatically share Instagram posts to your feed**,** for free!

Stay on top of the biggest social media marketing trends!

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