Instagram Reels – how to use them effectively
If you’re a creator on Instagram, you’re definitely familiar with Instagram Reels. Maybe you’ve created your own, or maybe you just spend an alarming amount of time watching them. Instagram is promoting Reels hard – it wants its creators making them and its audience watching them. The fact is, if you’re looking to grow your audience on Instagram, the absolute best thing you can be doing right now is making and sharing great Reels.
So why is everyone talking about Reels at the moment? Well, Instagram created Reels as part of a strategy to try and lure back the chunk of its audience lost to TikTok. This is why the app promotes Reels so hard, and why your reach will benefit if you make them.
It isn’t, however, as simple as all that. You can’t just throw a Reel out there and wait for the engagements to come in – it’s all getting more competitive. You need to be thinking effectively about how best to create, share and promote your Reels to maximise engagement.
And that’s what I want to show you how to do! In this blog, I’ll explain how to create a Reel, the key mistakes to avoid, and the best methods for sharing Reels across your feed and story.
Let’s get started!
What’s the difference between Instagram Reels, Stories and IGTV?
It’s no secret that Instagram’s video offering is muddled. Even its top executives have admitted that the fact that the platform has four (arguably five) different ways to share videos is more than a little confusing. Let’s quickly break it down.
You can simply share videos to your feed as posts, as you would a photo. These can be up to 60 seconds in length.
This is the feature originally created to copycat Snapchat, which it has arguably since eclipsed. You can share videos up to 15 seconds in length, and they will expire after 24 hours – though you can save them on your profile as a highlight that others can view. Through Stories, you can also broadcast live video for up to 60 minutes at a time.
An important thing to note about Stories is that they are pushed to your existing followers only, not to new ones. They’re a fun way to keep your existing audience engaged, but aren’t too useful for growing it.
Instagram’s longer-form video platform. You can share videos here that are up to 10 minutes in length for a normal account, or 60 minutes in length for a verified account. You also need to have the separate IGTV app to do this – it’s a whole thing. Still, Instagram wants people using IGTV, so your videos shared here will be pushed out to new followers.
Reels can be 15 or 30 seconds long, and they will be pushed out to people beyond your followers, which is our key takeaway here. Your reels will appear on the Explore pages of people who don’t follow you, making them a highly effective way of getting new eyeballs on your content and accruing more followers.
Let’s talk about the best strategies for creating and sharing Reels.
How to create your Instagram Reel
Creating and sharing a Reel may seem easy, but we made a few simple mistakes when starting out. We’re sharing our lessons here so that you don’t make them too!
A side note: we’re not going to go too far into the business of actually shooting your content here, as that’s a whole other conversation. If you do need some help in this department, you can check out our blog on whether it’s best to shoot video with a phone or a dedicated camera.
With that said, there are a few things worth covering. The dimensions of a Reel are 1080 x 1920 pixels. These are standard vertical video dimensions, a 9:16 aspect ratio.
However, there is a “safe zone” within this of 1080 x 1350 pixels, which is all that will be shown on the feed when somebody scrolls past your reel. This also takes into account the screen furniture in the Reel itself when a viewer clicks through. So, it’s essential to make sure any text or essential imagery in your Reel occupies this safe zone, as otherwise many viewers simply won’t see it.
With regard to length, Instagram lets you make your Reels 15 or 30 seconds. It used to be the case that you could only do 15 seconds if you were recording in-app, but this has now been updated so that you can select either option.
We’re not here to tell you what kind of content to create, suffice to say that it should be interesting and engaging!
Creating an Instagram Reel cover
This is not essential, but is definitely good practice if you want eyeballs on your Reels. You can add an eye-catching graphic to the first frame of your Reel which is then selectable as a cover image. This will appear when people are browsing the Reels section of your profile or your main grid.
You can make a cover image in your video editing software, or whip it up in a different program like Photoshop or Canva and then import it into your video. The important thing to remember is that with a cover image, your “safe zone” is even further reduced to 1080 x 1080. Remember – when someone is browsing your feed, they’ll see your content as square tiles. So, all the information you want them to have before clicking your Reel needs to fit in that square!
You may want to put the title of your video into the cover, or at the very least, at the start. When people first start watching your Reel, they’ll likely be watching without sound, so adding a title will mean they won’t have to restart to understand the video.
Last step, fill out the description as you would any post, and don’t forget to use any relevant hashtags. They are still hugely useful on Instagram.
Publishing and sharing your Instagram Reel
Make sure you share your Reel as a post. This will make it appear in your timeline and your grid. Getting it maximum exposure from your existing followers will help catapult it into the clutches of the algorithm. In turn, this will get it pushed out to more people!
If you’re the type who carefully curates your grid, don’t worry. You can remove the Reel from your grid and keep it on your timeline. Although, if you’ve created an attractive cover image within the square safe zone, that hopefully shouldn’t be necessary!
The next step is to share your Reel to your story. Again, this will get it more views and engagements and increase its algorithmic weight. This is easy to do: go to your Reels tab, select the Reel, and tap the plane icon. There – all done, your Reel will now be in your Story for the next 24 hours.
So, let’s quickly recap what we’ve done here:
– We’ve created a cool, engaging Reel. We know Instagram is going to push it.
– We’ve made sure the first frame has an attractive cover image, with a title that explains the Reel.
– We’ve kept the important text and imagery inside the safe zones. This means we know it looks awesome on the feed and the grid.
– We’ve published the Reel to our Reels section and our main feed.
– For a few extra eyeballs, we’ve shared it to our Story.
Make sure to check off these steps every time, and you should start seeing fantastic results from your Reels!
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