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How to Use Instagram Reels for Business in 2021

Instagram Reels is a content format that allows you to create and share short engaging videos that — unlike Instagram Stories — don’t disappear after 24 hours.

Despite originally being criticized as a “TikTok copycat,” Instagram Reels has gained positive responses from influencers, brands and users. Many creators embraced Reels while also growing their presence on TikTok. Brands like Sephora, Walmart, and Beardbrand are already using Reels.

So, what is Instagram Reels? How does it work? How can you, as a brand, use it in your marketing strategy? We have the answers to all of your questions below.

What are Instagram Reels?

Instagram Reels are short, 15 or 30-second videos.

Similar to TikTok, Reels offer a set of editing tools that allow users to create engaging and fun video footage. Reels can include multiple video clips, filters, captions, interactive backgrounds, stickers and more.

A scrollable tab full of trending Reels (a.k.a. Instagram’s version of the TikTok For You page) can be accessed through the Reels icon at the bottom of the Instagram app’s home page:

An individual user’s Reels can be viewed in a dedicated tab that can be accessed above the account’s Feed:

Accessing a user's Reels in the tab on their profile page

Reels are also heavily featured in Explore. If you’d like to set your Reels up for success with this powerful discovery tool, check out our guide to getting your content on the Instagram Explore page.

Instagram Reels vs. TikTok

Since Instagram Reels is TikTok’s rival, it’s worth discussing how they’re similar, and how they are different.

The essence of Instagram Reels and TikTok is the same: providing users with a creative space to create and share short videos with others. They come with creative options, allowing users to make their best possible clips.

Instagram Reels and TikTok comparison

However, they also have significant differences, as shown below:

Instagram Reels TikTok
A feature inside the Instagram ecosystem A platform
Available video length: 15s, 30s, 60s (available to select accounts) Video time limit up to 3 minutes
Reels shared to Stories will disappear after 24 hours All videos stay on TikTok

Instagram Reels vs. Instagram Stories

Don’t get confused between Instagram Reels and Instagram Stories. Even though they sound a lot like each other, they have some key differences:

  • Reels offers several creative tools, including AR effects, speed controls, and the option to align multi-clip videos for cleaner transitions.
  • Reels can be featured in Explore and shared to Stories. When you upload a Reel, you can also choose to post it to your Feed. All the Reels you create will also appear in a dedicated section of your profile, similar to IGTV posts.
  • If you include original audio, the audio clip will be attributed to you, and other users will be able to use it to create new Reels.

Now that you understand what Instagram Reels are, let’s move on to how to use them in your marketing strategy.

How to make a Reel on Instagram

If you’re familiar with Instagram and/or TikTok, you’ll find it easy to create videos with Reels.

How to log in to Reels

To access Reels, simply open the Instagram camera and choose REELS.

Instagram Reels button

You’ll work with this button to create a Reel.

How to create an Instagram Reel

Instagram Reels gives you two options to create a Reel:

  1. Press and hold the record button to capture footage.
  2. Upload video footage from your camera roll.

Reels can be recorded in a series of clips (one at a time), or all at once.

Follow these six steps to create your first Reel:

Step 1: Scroll to REELS at the bottom of the screen and tap it.

Step 2: Use tools to prepare for your recording. Tap Audio (1) to select audio from the Instagram music library and add it to your video. You can even choose to add your favorite part only.

Instagram Reels Audio

Tap Speed (2) to change the speed of your video, tap Effects (3) to apply special effects, and tap Timer (4) to determine how long your video will be.

Instagram Reels Speed Effects and Timer features

Step 3: When you’re ready, tap, and hold the record button to record a clip. If you set a timer early on, there’s a countdown before the hands-free recording starts.

Instagram Reels recording

During the recording, you can tap the record button to end a clip, and then tap it again to start a new clip. Then, the Align button (5) will appear, allowing you to line up objects from the previous clip before recording your next. This is useful to create seamless transitions for moments like changing outfits, adding new music, or adding new friends into your Reel.

If you want to watch, trim, or delete the previous clip you recorded, you can tap the clip (6) and edit it.

Instagram Reels watch trim or delete clip

Step 4: Once you’re done with recording, you can add stickers, drawings, and text to edit your Reel.

Add stickers and drawings to clip

For a crash course in Reel’s creative editing features, download our free 10-day Reels challenge:

Done! You’ve known how to create a video with Instagram Reels. Let’s move on to find out how you can share it with your followers.

How to share a Reel

Once you’re satisfied with your clip, you can tap the Next button (7) to access the Share page. Then, tap Cover (8) to edit the cover photo with a video thumbnail or add a cover from your camera roll. You can write a caption, too. If you don’t want to publish the clip right away, you can save it as a draft.

Instagram Reels share pageInstagram Reels allows you to:

  • Share the clip to the Reels tab only. Your Instagram audience will be able to access it in the Reels tab in your account. The Instagram algorithm may also pick it up and suggest it to users browsing the app’s main discovery Reels tab.
  • Share the clip to your Feed as well. If you choose this option, the Reel will show up in your profile grid along with your other posts.

When you’re done with sharing, you’ll see your Reel like these:

Instagram Reels completed

How long can Instagram Reels be?

As of July 2021, all Instagram users can create 15 and 30-second long Reels. Select accounts can create 60-second Reels.

Instagram Reel sizes

If you’re creating Reels on the go and recording your video footage using the Reels camera, you don’t have to worry about file size. However, if your Reels include uploaded footage, make sure your files are the correct size and dimension to avoid a blurry and awkwardly cropped end product.

Like Stories, Reels are a mobile-first format, designed to take up a full vertical screen. The recommended aspect ratio for Reels is 9:16 and the recommended size is 1080 x 1920 pixels.

How to track Instagram Reels analytics

To understand if your Reels are hitting the mark and engaging your audience, you should keep track of their performance. Instagram makes this easy — Business and Creator accounts can access Reels analytics in Instagram Insights.

Reels-specific performance metrics include:

  • Accounts Reached. This metric tells you how many unique Instagram users saw your Reel at least once.
  • Plays. This is the number of times your Reel has been played. It could be higher than the number of accounts reached, since some users may watch your Reel more than once.
  • Likes. This metric tells you how many users liked your Reel.
  • Comments. The number of comments on an individual Reel.
  • Saves. The number of times your Reel was bookmarked.
  • Shares. The number of times Instagram users shared your Reel to their story or sent it to another user.

In Insights, you can look up the performance of individual Reels as well as see how the format is contributing to the overall performance of your account.

Reels analytics

Source: Instagram

To learn more about Reels analytics and how to use them to create better content, check out our complete guide to Reels Insights.

5 ways to use Instagram Reels for business

When Instagram Stories was first launched in 2016, it was called a Snapchat clone. But Stories quickly surpassed Snapchat in daily users and have become an effective channel for brands to build their audience.

With that in mind, brands should grab the opportunity to engage new audiences with Reels—people who prefer quick-and-easily-digestible content. Reels are also a great platform for collaboration with creative talent.

And, one more thing: successful Reels are likely to be featured on the Explore page—a place that more than 50% of Instagram accounts use for discovery every month. If your Reel is shown on this page, you have a huge chance to expose your brand to new followers.

If big names like Maybelline, Sephora, or Louis Vuitton have been using Reels from day one, and if you’re already using Instagram for your business, why not give Reels a try?

Convinced? Then, here are five ways you can use Instagram Reels in your social media marketing strategy:

1. Share educational content

Creating educational content is a great way to start on Reels. Top 5 skincare routines, a secret to make delicious pancakes in 10 minutes, or 5 tips for styling a skirt—there are so many things to share with your followers that can help them learn a new skill.

Rena Awada, the owner of Healthy Fitness Meals (@healthyfitnessmeals), used Reels to share delicious, healthy, family-friendly recipes made with real food.

Healthy Fitness Meals educational content

Her video was short, simple, and easy to follow, which explains why it gained in popularity. She also included several relevant hashtags like #healthy, #snack, and #lowcarb.

2. Showcase your products

I’ve said it before, but let me repeat it again: users can find Reels in the dedicated Reels tab and on the Explore page, meaning Instagram users who don’t follow you will see your content—this is gold!

To help the algorithm understand what your content is about and serve it to the right audiences, use hashtags, text overlay, and descriptive captions. Below is a good example from @elfcosmetics. Notice how the brand focused on the benefits of their Luminous Putty Primer and used emojis to show them clearly.

Elf Cosmetics showcase products

Another example is from Deborah Ruiz. She used her personal Instagram account to post a Reel demonstrating how she wore lashes from her small business @deborahcosmestics.

Deborah Cosmetics lashes demonstration

Besides, you can collaborate with Instagram influencers to promote your product, as FLOWER Beauty and Revlon did:

FLOWER Beauty and Revlon Instagram collaboration

3. Share behind-the-scenes content

Behind-the-scenes content helps your Instagram followers understand who you are and why you’re selling whatever it is that you’re selling. It’s personable, it gains trust, and it builds relationships.

Take a look at two examples below. Fast and Food shared a moment of their staff preparing food for guests during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Benefit Cosmetics US created a Reel to show how a day in the life of their graphic designer.

Fast and Food and Benefit Cosmetics US Instagram Reels

Some behind-the-scenes ideas you can try:

  • Share how you choose materials for your product
  • Share the process of making products
  • Share the day-to-day life of your team
  • Share your brand story—how you came up with your business idea and what you’ve been through.

4. Announce your sales and share offers

How about using Reels to announce your sales and exclusive deals? IT Cosmetics US and Tarte Cosmetics applied this tip successfully, as they gained a lot of engagement from Instagram users.

IT Cosmetics US and Tarte Cosmetics sales announcement

Bonus tip: Stay genuine, and don’t make your content too explicitly salesy!

Think this way: many brands have been successful on TikTok because they show their human side and give up being perfect all the time, which is exactly what TikTok users want to see.

So, try to maintain the same level of authenticity in your Reels. Focus on originality and fun, rather than the quality of your videos. It could be highlighting staff individuality or bringing an ordinary aspect of your brand to life through music and motion. Doing this will lead to high engagement for your Reels videos.

5. Use Instagram Reels ads

As of June 2021, Instagram advertisers can choose Reels as a placement for their Instagram ads. The placement supports 6 advertising objectives:

  1. Brand awareness
  2. Reach
  3. Traffic
  4. App installs
  5. Video views
  6. Conversions

Reels ads offer brands a new way to reach targeted audiences when they are scrolling through Reels in the mindset to engage with content. It’s no wonder that many brands are already experimenting with the ad placement. Here’s an example from Canadian supermarket chain Superstore:

Real Canadian Superstore Instagram Stories ad

To learn more about how to set up your first campaign on Reels and how to make your creatives stand out, check out our guide to Instagram Reels ads.

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