The secret to viral growth on Instagram right now? You guessed it: Instagram Reels.
But landing the perfect Reels strategy — and knowing how to use all the different features — is no easy feat.
Fear not! We’re sharing everything you need to know about Instagram Reels in this ultimate guide.
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 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 Sizing, Dimensions & Specs
- What is the Best Time to Post Reels on Instagram?
- How to Use Instagram Reel Analytics & Insights
- How to Get Paid for Instagram Reels
- Our Top 5 Instagram Reels Tips for Businesses & Creators
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 an amazing way for brands and creators to flex their creativity, and extend their reach.
“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.
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?
Instagram Reels are strikingly similar to TikTok videos, which begs the question — when it comes to short-form video is there really a difference between Instagram Reels and TikTok?
The answer is yes! From demographics and editing tools, they serve different purposes.
One of the main differences between the platforms are the editing interfaces.
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.
When it comes to trending audio, Instagram Business profiles have limited access to Instagram’s music library because of copyright concerns.
So, finding trending Reels audio can prove a bit trickier than TikTok audio usage.
The TikTok “For You” Page (FYP) is also very customized to your interests, whereas Instagram is still fine-tuning its Explore page algorithm to be more personalized for users.
It’s 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:
To create an Instagram Reel, head to your profile and tap the “+” on the top right, and 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:
Here, you’ll also have the option to edit your footage with tools like layout, speed, scale, and so much more:
To really bring your content to life, you can also take advantage of Instagram’s many features.
If you’re familiar with Instagram Stories tools, you’ll recognize most of these:
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: In case you missed it earlier, you can also add audio from Instagram’s music library at this stage — in addition to recording a voiceover, or including sound effects.
Tap “Next,” and 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 Desktop
One of the easiest ways to post Reels from your desktop — or whatever device you want — is by using Later’s Instagram Scheduler.
Later is trusted by millions of brands, creators, and social media managers — making it the best app to post and schedule Instagram Reels from your desktop.
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.” 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: You can edit your Reels in a third-party app like InShot or Splice.
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:
Write your caption and include strategic hashtags and keywords to maximize your Instagram Reels reach:
Step #4 (Optional): Crop Your Reel
Here you’ll have the option to crop your video 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, uploading custom cover images for auto-published Reels is not currently available on Later. However, you can update your Reel cover image in the Instagram app after posting.
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!
NOTE: Reels auto-publish is only available for Instagram Business profiles, and due to API restrictions, only original audio can be used for auto-publishing.
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 to post delivered straight to your mobile device and you can then add trending audio.
Ready to plan your Instagram Reels content in advance? Start scheduling Reels with Later, the #1 social media management platform — today!
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. Here’s how:
Head to your Reel and tap your "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 you do it:
Head to your desired Reel and tap the three dots in the bottom right corner:
Tap “Manage” and then tap “Hide likes”:
Join over 4M creators and brands and start scheduling your Instagram Reels in advance so you can save time and get more views. Create an account today!
Instagram Reels Sizing, Dimensions & Specs
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:
The Best Instagram Reel Size
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.
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?
If you want to reach new audiences, posting more Reels — paired with an effective hashtag and keyword strategy — is always a good idea.
Here at Later, our social team posts:
3-4 Reels a week
So, how does that stack up against Instagram’s recommendations?
In June 2021, Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, suggested posting, “a couple feed posts a week, and a couple stories a day.”
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 so much 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 best friend.
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 unique value for your brand.
Ready to start tracking your performance more efficiently? Sign up to Later and explore the Instagram Analytics dashboard today!
How to Get Paid for Instagram Reels
ICYMI: creators can make money based on the amount of plays their Reel gets.
It’s simple. As long as you have a business or creator account (and access to the program), all you have to do is share Reels to Facebook and Instagram.
Instagram will pay out on Reels that get at least 1,000 views over a 30-day period.
NOTE: The Reels Play bonus program is currently only available to select creators in the US.
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? A dance trend?
If so, click on the music to see how many other 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.
Make the most of your Instagram link in bio with Linkin.bio by Later — create an account today.
#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
Including 3-5 hashtags can be a great way to help the Instagram algorithm understand your content and serve it to relevant audiences.
For example, using hashtags like #vegan, #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!
In need of some #Inspiration? Check out Later’s Hashtag Suggestion feature. Discover the best hashtags for your account in seconds!
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 five resources on the Later blog to help you get started:
15 Easy Instagram Reels Ideas to Post Today (+ Free Planner)
Ready to plan your Instagram Reels content in advance? Start scheduling Reels with Later, the #1 social media management — today!