The secret to growth on Instagram?
You guessed it: Instagram Reels.
But landing the perfect Reels strategy — and knowing how to use all the different features — is no easy feat.
So, we’re sharing everything you need to know about Instagram Reels, including the best free tool for scheduling them in advance.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Reel on Instagram?
- How Does the Instagram Reels Algorithm Work?
- How to Make a Reel on Instagram
- How to Post Instagram Reels on Your Desktop
- Can You Boost Reels on Instagram?
- Can You See Who Watches Your Reels on Instagram?
- Can You Hide Likes on Your Instagram Reels?
- Instagram Reels Size, Dimensions & Length
- What is the Best Time to Post Reels on Instagram?
- How Many Reels Should I Post a Week?
- How to Use Instagram Reel Analytics & Insights
- The Top Instagram Reels Trends Seen So Far in 2023
- Our Top 5 Instagram Reels Tips for Businesses & Creators
- Additional Instagram Reels Resources
What Is a Reel on Instagram?
Instagram Reels are short-form Instagram videos that can be up to 90 seconds long.
Users can record, edit, and clip videos and photos together, set them to music, and post to their feed.
Since their inception, Instagram Reels have been a great way for brands and creators to flex their creativity, and extend their reach.
“Since introducing Reels to our Instagram channel, we’ve seen our engagement grow by 280%,” shares Later’s Social Media Manager, Christine Colling.
Why? Unlike other types of Instagram posts (e.g. carousels), Reels has its own tab on the home feed navigation bar, making them more discoverable.
Plus, short-form video is very in right now.
What’s the Difference Between Instagram Reels and TikTok?
While Reels and TikTok videos are strikingly similar, there is a difference.
From demographics to editing tools, they serve different purposes.
On TikTok, filters are super popular — users can choose from a number of effects, templates, and filters:
While the video and special effects on Instagram Reels are more limited, they still have their own editing perks.
With Instagram Reels Templates, users can quickly copy clip timings of an existing Reel — saving tons of time and effort:
It’s also important to note that while both platforms offer the same type of content, the demographic on TikTok skews younger than Instagram (between ages 16-24).
In comparison, nearly half of Instagram’s audience falls within the 25-34 age range.
So, with that in mind, if you’re looking to reach a Gen Z audience, TikTok may be the place to be.
But if you’re looking to buffer up your Instagram strategy and grow your following, Instagram Reels is a great place to start.
Need help staying on top of trends? Bookmark this: The Top Instagram Reels Trends to Try This Week.
How Does the Instagram Reels Algorithm Work?
The Instagram Reels algorithm prioritizes videos based on what it believes a viewer will be most likely to interact with.
According to Instagram, the most important signals that influence the Instagram Reels algorithm are:
Whose posts are you interacting with? If you frequently like or comment on someone's content, you're more likely to see their posts in your feed.
What type of content do you engage with? For example, if you love beauty content, the algorithm will continue serving that type of content to you.
When do you post? As Meta’s Content Strategist, Laurise McMillian explains, "This focuses on when a post has been posted to decide if it's relevant to you." It also takes into consideration how often you scroll on the app — so it will pick and choose what to prioritize.
Instagram also shared that the Reels algorithm will deprioritize content that is visibly recycled from other apps (AKA TikTok) or is low-quality.
In a nutshell? If your videos are original, entertaining, interesting, and high-res, the Instagram Reels algorithm is more likely to suggest it.
How to Make a Reel on Instagram
Ready to shoot your first Instagram Reel? Here’s how to post a Reel on Instagram:
First, head to your profile and tap the “+” in the upper right corner, and then tap “Reel:”
Reels can be recorded in a series of clips, in a single stream, or shot externally and uploaded.
To add external clips from your camera roll to your Instagram Reels, select the “+” icon in the bottom left corner or swipe up:
To shoot footage internally in the Reels app, hold the recording circle in the bottom middle of the screen:
You’ll also have the option to edit your footage with tools like layout, speed, scale, and more:
And to really bring your content to life, take advantage of Instagram’s many tools (you'll recognize most of these if you regularly post Instagram Stories):
Text: Say more by adding text to your Reels.
Draw: Use the draw tool to add some extra flare.
Stickers: Include captions, GIFs, the time, and a plethora of fun Instagram stickers.
AR effects: Search from Instagram’s endless gallery of AR effects created by Instagram and creators around the world.
Filters: Swipe left to access filters for your Reels.
Audio: Add audio from Instagram’s music library at this stage — in addition to recording a voiceover, or including sound effects.
When you're finished adding more creative elements, tap “Next.”
Then, choose a cover photo, write a caption, toggle whether you’d like to share your Reel to the Instagram feed, tag people, rename your audio, add a location, and toggle if you’d like to Recommend on Facebook:
Finally, tap “Share.”
And just like that, you’ve successfully posted your very first Reel — job done!
For more tips on how to shoot and post your next Instagram Reel, bookmark this blog post: How to Create Instagram Reels like a Pro in 4 Easy Steps.
How to Post Instagram Reels on Your Desktop with Later
And the best part? You can do it all for free.
Here’s how to get started in five simple steps:
Step #1: Connect Your Instagram Profile
Sign up (or login) to Later on your desktop and tap “Add Social Profile.”
Then, select “Instagram” and connect your account.
Step #2: Upload Your Reel to Later’s Media Library
From there, upload your edited Reels video to the Media Library:
TIP: Looking to edit your Instagram Reels? We're sharing seven of the best apps for editing Reels in this blog post.
Step #3: Add a Caption and Hashtags
Drag your video to the Calendar to open the Post Builder. Tap Post Type, and select Reels from the dropdown menu:
Step #4 (Optional): Crop Your Reel
Here you’ll have the option to crop your Instagram Reels size and adjust the length of your footage with the “Trim” tool:
Tap Edit Cover to select a frame from the video for the cover:
NOTE: Due to API restrictions, you can only upload custom cover images for Reels when scheduling through Later on desktop.
Step #5: Choose the Date and Time to Schedule Your Reel
Select the date and time you’d like to post your Reel on Instagram:
Next, scroll down to Settings, and under “Share to Feed”, toggle whether you’d like your Reel to appear in your Instagram profile grid or not. Then tap Save:
When it’s time to post, your video will publish automatically, no late-night logins required!
To get around this, select “Notification” when scheduling your post to receive a manual prompt to post from the Later app.
You’ll get everything you need delivered straight to your mobile device and you can then add trending audio.
Can You Boost Reels on Instagram?
Boosting a Reel on Instagram is a great way to bring more eyes (and engagement!) your way — especially for creators and businesses.
Here’s how to boost an Instagram Reel:
Step #1: Head to your Reel and tap the three dot icon or "Boost post" in the bottom right corner, and tap “Boost Reel:”
Step #2: Fill in the details of your ad including your goal, audience, budget, and duration:
Step #3: Once you’ve reviewed your details, tap “Boost post” and voila — you’ve successfully boosted a Reel, it’s that simple!
Can You See Who Watches Your Reels on Instagram?
Unlike Instagram Stories, you can’t see who's watched your Reels.
However, you can see who's liked it.
How? Head to your Reel and tap "Liked by" at the bottom of the screen:
Here you’ll see every account that has liked your Reel.
Can You Hide Likes on Your Instagram Reels?
Yes, you can hide likes on Reels! Here’s how:
Head to your desired Reel and tap the three dots in the bottom right corner:
Tap “Manage” and then tap “Hide likes:”
Instagram Reels Size, Dimensions & Length
Much like Instagram Stories, Instagram Reels are designed to be viewed vertically, full-screen, and on mobile.
With this in mind, it’s best to create content with the below dimensions:
Instagram Reels Size & Aspect Ratio
The size of your Instagram Reel should be an aspect ratio of 9:16.
Instagram Reels Dimensions
The dimensions of your Instagram Reels should be 1080 pixels x 1920 pixels.
How Long Can Instagram Reels Be?
Instagram Reels can be up to 90 seconds in length.
Instagram Reel Resolution
The ideal resolution for your Reel should be 1080 pixels x 1920 pixels.
Instagram Reels Cover Photo Specs
Much like your Instagram Reels, your Reels cover photo should be an aspect ratio of 9:16 and 1080 pixels x 1920 pixels.
Instagram Reels Compression Size
According to Instagram, images and videos between 320 and 1080 pixels are supported in their original resolution, "as long as the photo's aspect ratio is between 1.91:1 and 4:5."
How Long Can Instagram Reels Caption Length Be?
Instagram Reels captions can be up to 2.2K characters long.
FYI: If you're interested in the correct dimensions for all Instagram posts check out our Instagram post size ratio guide.
What is the Best Time to Post Reels on Instagram?
The best time to post on Instagram has created much debate on social media.
To find the answer, Later analyzed over 200K Reels from various industries and sizes, to deduce the ideal time.
Here’s what we found:
The overall best time to post Reels on Instagram is 4AM (calculated in local time across time zones).
The best day to post Instagram Reels is Monday.
By posting earlier in the day, accounts benefit from less competition, while also tapping into traffic from users during their first scroll of the day — even if that’s a few hours after the post was shared.
Translation: the early bird gets the worm!
How Many Reels Should I Post a Week?
Here at Later, our social team posts:
3-4 Reels a week
However, try not to get too caught up on the numbers — creating quality content that drives real value for your audience should always trump quantity.
Use your Reels data as a starting point to gather insights and experiment with your own account to find what works best.
How to Use Instagram Reel Analytics & Insights
Let’s face it, growth on Instagram doesn't happen overnight.
To see a spike in followers, engagement, and sales on the platform, you’ll need some mighty Instagram analytics tools by your side.
You can access insights for Instagram Reels in three ways:
Individual Reel Insights
The Instagram Insights Tab
#1. Individual Reel Insights
To see how a specific Instagram Reel is performing, visit the Reel from your profile page, tap the three-dot icon in the bottom right corner of the screen, and select “Insights:”
Here, users can see metrics including: accounts reached, views, audience retention, impressions, content interactions, and more!
#2. The Instagram Insights Tab
To see how your Reels are performing overall, head to your Instagram profile and select “Insights.”
From here, you can browse and see how your Reels videos are performing alongside one another.
You can organize your Reels insights by comments, likes, saves, reach, plays, shares, and Reels interactions:
#3. Later’s Instagram Analytics Tool
Not to toot our own horn, but we’ve saved the best for last.
If you’re looking to increase engagement, optimize your Reels, and drive traffic, Later's Instagram Analytics feature is your new BFF.
Our comprehensive analytics tool gives you a visual overview of how your posts are performing — all in an easy-to-use dashboard:
You can also track up to 12 months worth of Instagram feed posts, stories, and Reels, so you can see exactly what's performed best — and filter by key metrics, such as likes, reach, comments, and more.
Plus, Later’s Instagram Analytics have separate “Post Performance,” “Story Performance,” and “Reel Performance” dashboards, so you can see exactly how each channel is driving value for your brand.
The Top Instagram Reels Trends Seen So Far in 2023
Looking for some Reels inspo? Here are three trends we've spotted that you can incorporate into your strategy, too:
#1. Instagram Reels Trend: It Goes Like
Trend Recap: This groovy mashup is the perfect track to flaunt your products, highlight a milestone event, or show off your travel fits.
Audio: Original audio - ianasher
Current # of Posts: 20.4K
#2. Instagram Reels Trend: Love Like This
Trend Recap: This audio and template pairing makes for the ultimate weekend recap.
Simply click on the Reel below and select, "Use Template" to easily jump on the trend!
Current # of Posts: 181K
#3. Instagram Reels Trend: Out Getting Ribs
Trend Recap: Quote text + soothing video = recipe for engagement.
If you don't feel like showing your face on camera, try pairing this audio with a text overlay and a calming clip for peak tranquil vibes.
TIP: Opt for a question, quote, or even a quick tip.
Current # of Posts: 115K
For even more trends heating up the feed, bookmark this post: The Top Instagram Reels Trends to Try This Week.
Our Top 5 Instagram Reels Tips for Businesses & Creators
#1: Use On-screen Text and Captions
We know 69% of video is watched without sound, so adding on-screen text and subtitles to your videos is a no-brainer when it comes to reaching more users.
Not only are subtitles great for people who watch without sound, but they keep your content accessible for those with hearing difficulties:
To add video subtitles, you can use Instagram's closed caption sticker.
Tap on the sticker icon and select "Captions."
It may take a few seconds for the audio to transcribe.
Once they've pulled through, you can review and edit the text to make sure it's correct.
TIP: Make sure your closed captions are visible in every part of the Instagram app by positioning them in the center of your screen.
For even more Instagram Reels tips to supercharge your strategy, bookmark this post: The Top Instagram Reels Hacks You Need to Know.
#2: Use Trends as Inspiration
Similar to TikTok, Reels trends come and go quickly.
To hop on a trend before it becomes old news, take a few minutes each morning to scroll through the Instagram Reels tab and other creators’ profiles to see what they’re sharing.
Is there anything consistently popping up — a particular song? An audio clip?
If so, click on the music to see how many other brands or creators have used the audio, and save it for later.
Or, bookmark this Reels trends resource for the trends you need to hop on.
#3: Drive Traffic by Encouraging Viewers to Head to Your Link in Bio
The best way to drive traffic from Reels is by including a clear call-to-action (CTA) that encourages people to head to your link in bio.
This could be with on-screen text placement, a verbal call-out, in your video caption, or all of the above:
You can use a link in bio tool, like Later's Linkin.bio, to create a mini landing page with multiple link buttons and clickable images.
This is a great way of getting more value from your link in bio, and it only takes a few minutes to set up.
#4: Find Your Niche and Post Consistently
One of the best ways to go viral on Instagram Reels is by finding your niche and posting consistently.
There are so many Instagram users with a wide range of interests and hobbies. No matter what your brand or business does, there’s a niche for you!
If you’re a bakery, you could go behind-the-scenes in the kitchen like @jennaraecakes.
Or, if you’re a skincare brand, you could provide product tips like @glowrecipe:
Even if your first few Reels don’t garner a ton of traction or engagement, keep going.
Just like anything else on social media, it’s all about trial and error.
#5: Include 3-5 Hashtags
For example, using hashtags like #VeganRecipes, #PlantBased, and #WhatVegansEat will indicate to the Instagram Reels algorithm that your content is about vegan cooking — which may increase the likelihood of it being served to users who are actively engaging with similar content:
Every little bit helps!
TIP: For some hashtag inspiration, check out Later’s Hashtag Suggestion feature. With it, you can discover the best hashtags for your account in seconds!
Additional Instagram Reels Resources
Whatever your brand or business, there’s a creative opportunity waiting for you with Instagram Reels.
Here are more resources on the Later blog to help you get started with all things Reels: