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The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Reels

Introducing Instagram Reels: a new way to record 15 to 60-second clips set to music on Instagram.

If Instagram Reels sounds familiar, it may be because of the new Reels tab taking center stage on the Instagram navigation bar. Plus, almost everyone is comparing Instagram Reels to TikTok!

So what is Instagram Reels, and how can you use them in your marketing strategy? Find out everything you need to know in our Ultimate Guide to Instagram Reels:

Table of Contents:

  1. What is Instagram Reels?
  2. Why is Instagram launching Reels?
  3. How to Create Your First Reel
  4. How to Use Reels for Business
  5. What’s the Future of IG Reels

What is Instagram Reels?

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

instagram reels 2021 predictions

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.

You can find Instagram Reels at the forefront of Instagram — taking center stage of the main navigation bar. This is a huge change on the app, and a significant push to have users browse and share Reels more often.

On the Reels tab, instead of only seeing Reels from accounts you follow as you scroll, you will see Reels from popular and trending accounts on 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,” according to Instagram.

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

What is Instagram Reels?

While the Reels algorithm hasn’t been locked down yet, it feels similar to the TikTok For You page. It’s likely influenced by who you already follow, what content you interact with, and where you’re located.

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.

To remove the huge watermark, there are a number of handy apps and websites you can use like Snaptik App, MusicallyDown, and Apowersoft’s Online Watermark Removal.

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

Everything You Need to Know About Instagram Reels

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

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.

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.

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. 

ICYMI: You can now access insights for Instagram Reels. Users can see new metrics including Plays, Accounts Reached, Likes, Comments, Saves, and Shares.

Source: Instagram

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.”

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:

Why is Instagram Launching Reels?

If you’re thinking most of the features sound very familiar, that’s no coincidence.

Reels could be considered a direct response to the growing popularity of TikTok — which has surged in popularity over the last year.

TikTok generated “the most downloads for any app ever in a quarter” in Q1 2020, according to Adweek.

And TikTok’s core demographic is rapidly changing. While once dominated by Gen-Z users, Millennials now make up a greater share of TikTok’s user base than ever before — making the platform a much more attractive proposition for advertisers.

According to recent data from Comscore, the percentage of US-based TikTok users aged between 25-34 increased from 22.4% in January to 27.4% in April, while the 18-24 year-old bracket fell from 41.1% to 35.3%.

Instagram Data

Source: Adweek

So it’s no surprise that Instagram is making moves to replicate TikTok’s most popular features — especially in areas where TikTok hasn’t already amassed a strong foothold, like Brazil.

Reels, however, could have a much higher chance of success thanks to its prime positioning in the Instagram app — and all of the exposure and familiarity that comes with it.

IGTV has found its positioning as series-based content, where audiences can tune in to each episode with their favorite brands. But, with Reels, it’s filling the gap of high-quality content that’s still informal, but has longer shelf life than 24 hours.

It’s a more dynamic and creative opportunity to showcase more of your personality and brand.

There are over 1 billion active users already on Instagram — and if we’ve learned anything from the introduction of Instagram Stories, it’s that Instagram knows how to replicate a tried-and-tested format with success.

Save yourself time for Instagram Reels creation and start scheduling all of your Instagram posts and Stories with Later.


How to Create Instagram Reels

You can access and create Reels in 3 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.

Everything You Need to Know About Instagram Reels

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.

Everything you need to know about Instagram Reels

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”.

New Instagram Reels

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

Adding music to IG Reels

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

Instagram Reels Timer

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 seconds and 30 seconds.

Guide to Instagram Reels

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”.

Everything You Need To KNow About Instagram Reels

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”.

Special 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.

IG Reels

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.

Upload IG Reels

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.

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

Check out the latest Instagram Reels tab on Instagram profiles — this is where you will see your videos and drafts and where your followers can go to find all of your published Reels.

IG Reels Tab

Looking for more ways to grow your Instagram presence? Sign up for our free workshop on how to get your first 1000 Instagram followers!


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 3 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 5 travel tips, teach them how to get the perfect photo, how to write the perfect caption, or show them how to style a skirt 5 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 now 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.

use instagram reels to sell products

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.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out 15 creative Instagram Reels ideas to post today!

What’s Next for Instagram Reels

So, what will Instagram Reels mean for brands and businesses on Instagram?

When Instagram launched Instagram Stories in 2016, there were 150 million users. Now, a mere four years later, over 500 million users use stories every day. If this is any indication, it looks like Instagram Reels has a bright future ahead.

It’s a good idea to jump in early while competition is still low, especially since Instagram is giving extra prominence with the latest Reels tab on the Instagram homepage.

Influencers and brands are already starting to use Reels as a way to promote products — and we think this is only the beginning! Similar to TikTok, it’s likely brands will jump on the opportunity to partner with influencers to create branded Instagram Reels, especially since Instagram has introduced branded content tags on Reels.

This update 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.

Instagram Reels may also be another way for brands and businesses to better understand their Instagram community even further.

And, while we aren’t sure how the Instagram Reels algorithm works just yet, it’s a good idea to use hashtags and descriptive captions to let Instagram know what you’re talking about.

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

What do you think the future of Instagram Reels will be? Join the conversation over on Later’s Instagram profile!

Ready to get started? Level-up your Instagram strategy with Later — plan, schedule and automatically post to your feed, for free! 


Written By

Jessica Worb

Jessica is a creative problem solver and a content writer. Jessica is from Winnipeg, a city smack dab in the middle of Canada — but is currently living and working remotely in Paris, France. Follow along at @jessicaworb.

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