Instagram announced that they no longer wanted to be thought of as “the square photo-sharing app” but instead a “general entertainment app driven by algorithms and videos“
– like Instagram Reels. So, it’s no wonder that Reels have completely taken over, and both creators and businesses have markedly shifted their strategies to focus heavily on this short-form video content. Instagram Reels can organically increase engagement
, and expand your reach to a much wider audience, making it one of the platform’s most invaluable content formats. In today’s guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about creating Reels
that pack a punch and will undoubtedly grow your audience on Instagram.
What are Instagram Reels? 🤔
Instagram Reels are short full-screen vertical videos that can be shared or remixed by other users.
Reels were introduced in 2020 as a direct response to TikTok’s booming popularity. Like TikTok, you can edit your videos, add text, stickers and music, all within the app and either post live, or save your video creations to publish later.
These videos can either be uploaded from your camera roll or recorded in-app.
These short video clips are housed in a separate tab on creators’ profiles.
In March 2022, the create tab button in the bottom app toolbar was replaced by a dedicated Reels page. Here, users can browse popular reels in a TikTok-style full-screen rolling feed.
Reels are designed to be viewed in full-screen on mobile devices and follow a 9:16 (1080 x 1920) format. Any video uploaded that doesn’t fit these dimensions – for example, landscape clips – will either be letterboxed or trimmed.
To make sure no information is lost, you should publish your videos in this widescreen vertical format.
How long can an Instagram Reel be? 🤔
When reels were introduced in 2020, they had a 15-second limit. This was soon increased to 60 seconds, and then finally up to 90 seconds in 2022.
But, in July 2022, Instagram made some changes to reels that significantly altered the video length limit.
All video posts under 15 minutes were automatically converted into Reels. That means the maximum limit to how long a reel can be is 15 minutes.
How long should an Instagram reel be?
The platform still sets 15 seconds as the default time limit, and short clips may benefit from following this. But, there’s nothing wrong with making longer content.
TikTok’s shift to 10-minute videos changed the landscape for short-form content. This allowed longer clips to thrive on both platforms.
In general, videos that exceed the old 90-second limit may be too long, and viewers may get bored. A video’s length, however, is not as important as how well it engages the viewer and how well it hooks them.
We recommend following a simple format to convince Instagram users to stick around:
Opening hook (3 seconds): This briefly introduces what your reel is going to be about. Many brands use a simple title or text-to-speech voiceover to introduce the topic.
Content (15+ seconds): This is the main meat of the reel. We want to make this section as snappy and digestible as possible. Make use of slick transitions and fast editing to keep your viewers engaged.
Call-to-action (3 seconds): What do you want your viewers to do after watching your reel? This is your chance to convert customers. Selling something? Tell your viewers to check out your store. Want to increase your follower count? Give your viewers a reason to follow you.
Not every reel has to follow this format. Not every clip needs to have a CTA. But, the 3-15-3 formula is still a useful tool to create an engaging reel that performs well.
Why should you use Instagram Reels? 🤝
In this guide, there are a number of reasons why your ball should firmly be in the Instagram Reels court.
Firstly, they have fast become the easiest way to reach a mass audience with just one post, and also have a higher potential for going viral. This is because as viewers watch Reels, once one video ends, a new video pops up and is suggested to them immediately.
This means that reels enjoy much higher visibility. Suggested videos are shown to users on their Reels explore pages. These recommendations are usually related to viewers’ interests and what they tend to interact with, so your videos are likely to target the audience you need.
Unlike the traditional Instagram feed, you won’t just see posts from those that you follow, you’ll constantly see a stream of new content from new users, as you watch.
Another reason why you should be leveraging this short-form content on your platform is that Instagram’s algorithm definitely has a soft spot for Reels.
The reason the platform is pushing video content so heavily is that users respond to it so well, and it keeps them in the app for longer. Naturally, this means Instagram will want to prioritize this, hence the algorithm is usually on your side.
Reels, on average, tend to see much higher engagement than standard Instagram videos. Major sports leagues across the world are transitioning to reels to deliver content on the platform and to great effect.
Conviva found that NFL teams posting their videos as reels saw a 67% jump in engagements when compared to results seen for IGTV videos.
How to use Instagram Reels 👀
You can create a Reel in one of two ways:
Record, edit and create your Reel outside of the app, save it to your camera roll and upload it directly in Instagram.
Record, edit and create your Reel in-app, using the Instagram Reels editor.
If your video is based around a popular track, it’s more likely that you will record the content in-app, since you can play the music whilst you record. If you are producing a highly edited piece of content over multiple days, it’s more likely you will create it outside of the app and upload it later.
Our guide to creating Reels on Instagram:
Select the plus button in the top right-hand corner of your profile.
Click Reel, and you will be directed to the camera. If you want to upload something from your camera roll, just swipe up and select the videos or photos you want to add.
Otherwise, record your content using the camera. You can select various settings such as the music you want to use, how long you want your Reel to be, what speed you want to record at, whether you want to use filters, and whether you want to use a self-timer to count you in.
If you want to access popular features like ‘green screen recording’, you can find these in the filters section.
Once uploaded, you can add stickers, text, drawings and closed captions. If you want to learn more about how to use closed captions to increase the accessibility of your content, just click here.
Once you are happy, select next, add your caption and select whether you’d like to share your Reels to your main feed too. You can also add a cover from your camera roll, or select one from your video, as well as adjust how your thumbnail will appear in the feed.
💡 QUICK TIP: When your Reel is being previewed on someone’s feed, they will only be able to view your Reel in 4:5 dimensions (rather than the Reels size of 16:9). Users will have to click into the Reel, or be watching on the ‘Reels feed’ to be able to see your full-size video, so make sure any text you use fits within the dimensions of 1080 x 1350 (4:5), so it doesn’t get cut off in feed previews.
Want to organize your own content photoshoot at home? We’ve released a few ideas for you, in our recent blog post!
How does the Instagram Reels Algorithm work? 📈
Probably the most talked about topic amongst businesses, creators and Social Media Managers trying to perfect their Instagram strategies. We all have a love/hate relationship with the ‘algorithm’. But, how does the Instagram Reels Algorithm work, and in what way does it differ to Instagram’s traditional feed?
Instagram takes into consideration how likely it is that a user will watch a Reel, by looking at:
How likely a user is to watch a Reel all the way through.
How likely they are to interact or engage.
How likely they are to go to the audio page of that Reel and make their own.
What Reels a user has engaged with in the past.
Whether or not a Reel is already popular, or whether the music track it has used is popular.
Information about the creator.
There are also reasons why your Reel might not be suggested within Instagram’s algorithm:
The video contains a watermark (such as a repost saved from TikTok).
The Reel is low resolution.
The Reel features heavily political content.
💡 QUICK TIP: Because Reels are so fast-paced, you should try to get your point across, or show users what your content is going to be about in the first three seconds. Why not follow the 3-15-3 framework we covered earlier on?
This will help users understand the content quickly, and will make them more likely to watch the whole video.
What is the best time to post Instagram Reels?
The ideal time to publish your tweets will largely depend on your audience and your brand’s niche.
Established Instagram creators should use their engagement and impressions analytics to find when their followers are most active. However, if you’re new to reels, there are some rough rules to follow.
Hootsuite regularly posts to Instagram Reels and they’ve found their content performs best when they’re published between 9 AM and 12 PM on a weekday. This could be a good place to start.
There are a couple of caveats with this result, however:
Hootsuite, being a social media marketing tool, has a B2B audience. Therefore, posting during the workday helps reach social media managers and marketers who use Instagram as part of their job.
If your audience is primarily consumers, they don’t tend to use social media until they get home. It may be worth posting after 12 PM, or even as late as 5 PM to get the best traction.
We wouldn’t recommend posting later than 8 PM on a weekday, as the optimal window for discovery will be capped by when people go to bed.
How about weekends? If you’re a B2B account, we would say focus your efforts on weekday publishing.
B2C brands and creators should post early on Saturdays and Sundays to give their content the best chance of being seen.
We can’t stress how important using data-driven analytics is to picking when to publish your reels.
Test out some common time slots and see how they perform. An analytics dashboard can help you see how your engagements and reach change depending on when you post.
Once Flick has analyzed your previous reels, it can provide some great best time to tweet suggestions to help get your reels right!
How do you schedule Instagram Reels?
An important aspect of getting the time you post right is scheduling them into the right time slots.
It’s difficult for social media managers to manually post reels, and this can end up with an added workload and missed content deadlines.
That’s why using an Instagram scheduler is so important. With Flick, it’s easy to plan the perfect Reels schedule and post at the perfect time.
Here’s how our scheduling tool works:
How to add music to Instagram Reels 🎶
Music is arguably one of the most important elements of Instagram Reels. Trending music can determine whether or not you go viral on the platform, and can be the catalyst in giving your videos that added momentum. Instagram’s algorithm takes this into consideration, so it would be a disservice not to build your strategy around it.
You can either add music to your content after you make the video, by using Instagram’s music library or before. If you see a track or sound that inspires you on someone else’s Reel, look at the bottom of the video where the track is listed, and click it. This will take you to the sound page, where you can choose to create your own video using this audio. You can also save it for later, if you want to come back to it.
To access Instagram’s music library when you are already in the app-editor, just select the music icon, and you’ll be given access to a plethora of song choices. If you are using a Business account, however, you will only be able to access royalty-free music, due to copyright claims.
What music should you use in your Instagram Reels?
It can be difficult for creators that don’t regularly watch short-form content on TikTok and Instagram to understand the importance of music choice.
TikTok’s meteoric rise was powered by trending music and sounds inspiring creators to record content.
In an attempt to copy this successful formula, Instagram has also placed a key emphasis on choosing popular sounds in reels.
Creators should explore interesting ways to put a spin on popular sounds and trends.
How do you find trending Reels sounds?
You can browse suggested music through the Audio tab in the Reels creator.
First, hit the Create button in the top toolbar and swipe right until you reach Reel mode.
Then, tap the Music icon.
This will show you some suggested music tracks – including new releases. These recommendations will be based on your account, followers, and reach.
The Suggested for your reel tab will show you some recommendations based on sounds you’ve bookmarked.
The best way to find ideas for sounds is to browse TikTok and Instagram Reels yourself. Remember, just checking a list of popular music won’t tell you how popular trends use these sounds.
You can bookmark and save sounds as you browse Reels. This will appear in your Saved list in the Audio tab.
if you want to see a full rundown on how to find the best trending sounds to use for your Reels each and every time. And if you want a round-up of trending sounds each week, bookmark this blog post
How to edit your Reel 📹
Much like recording content, you can either edit your Reels in-app or on a different platform like InShot, Prequel, or Premier Pro. InShot and Prequel are both great options if you want to add different overlays, sound effects, fonts, or you need more options when it comes to cutting and shifting your clips.
If you want to edit in-app, it’s a lot simpler. You can shorten clips you upload from your camera roll, and delete or add clips if you are pre-recording live, but you can’t shift them around in a timeline-like style. Most of the editing you’ll do in-app will be through adding stickers, gifs or text.
If you want to create a video with a transition, you can record a clip, save your content as a draft, and then keep creating later.
How to add images to Instagram Reels 🏙
Feeling like a regular Picasso and want to practice a little bit of mixed media? Here’s how to add pictures to your Reels!
You can upload both photos and videos to Reels, but you’ll have to use an image that already exists in your camera roll.
Swipe up in the Reels editor, and select the photo you want to feature. You can then alter how long you want it to last by adjusting the timing as you upload.
Let’s Recap! Best Practices Checklist for Instagram Reels From our Guide ✅
Create organic content that fits in with what is trending on Reels. Try to avoid over-polished pieces that are better suited to other platforms.
Utilize trending music tracks and sounds to increase your chances of landing on the explore page.
Pay attention to your engagement in relation to the times you are posting to decipher the best times to post.
Jump on to trending formats and cultural moments.
Look for gaps within your market or niche.
Understand your analytics to see what types of Reels your audience responds best to.
If you repurpose content across apps, use applications to remove watermarks, and make sure the resolution is high.
Make sure any text you use fits in with the dimensions of your in-feed preview (1080 x 1350 (4:5).
When creating a Reel, try to get your point across in the first 3 seconds, so your audience continues to watch.
You’ve reached the end of our guide, and hopefully, you are armed with everything you need for creating Instagram Reels that not only increase your engagement but also reach a broader audience. The content format is fast becoming one of Instagram’s favored content streams, so it’s important you leverage them in the right way for you.
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