The Definitive Guide to Instagram Reels – A Social Media Must Have?

I think from a very young age I’ve been drawn to watching short videos. My Dad was an avid Cine filmmaker, taking his Chinon 410 Macro Super 8 Camera wherever we went and getting us to do cartwheels on the beach, dancing in our tinsel wigs at Butlins and filming my Gran being chucked around on a very rickety old train whilst we all giggled uncontrollably.

Some very early video reels of myself on holiday
Always in a tinsel wig! Thank goodness the quality of home video has improved dramatically!

Once back home from our holiday, he would then set up a projector screen and turn the whole event into a movie night, replaying all our holiday antics with a bowl of popcorn and total admiration for my Dad’s cinematography skills. You had to feel sorry for all our neighbours and friends that were often roped into these nights and we found that they increasingly became busy when my Dad invited them around. Haha.

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Very similar to my Dads Chinon 410 Macro Super 8 Cine Film Camera. We all thought it was state of the art!

Fast forward a few decades and we’re all at it now! You can’t move at a beauty spot for people capturing the scene on their camera and we are increasingly recording our every move for social media. To date, 500 million people use Instagram stories every day and it is continuously rising.

TikTok has now exploded onto the social media scene with it being the 2nd most downloaded app in 2019, second only to WhatsApp. TikTok currently has the largest social media engagement rate per post and has seen its popularity soar throughout the pandemic. It has helped to bring a lot of people together in difficult times by dancing, lip syncing and finding amusing ways to see our way through it. It currently has 3.7m active users in the UK and is set to have 10m users by 2021

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Me looking ever so glamourous on my TikTok feed!

With the ever-increasing popularity of TikTok, Instagram has decided it needed a slice of that TikTok pie and has introduced Instagram Reels. Like it did with Instagram Stories trying to rival Snapchat and IGTV trying to emulate YouTube, Reels is a way for Instagram to keep current and attract a new (and often younger) audience. Although, I often think Instagram is good at what it does already, providing a visual platform for its users and should stop trying to tread on other people’s toes.

Social media is forever changing, it is a fast paced environment and once we get our head around a new feature, another one pops up! I wrote a blog post on how to create engaging content for your social media here, Reels is just another way to engage with your followers. 

Have I tried it?

I actually love Reels. I’ve been a fan of TikTok since the end of last year and love the short and often humorous tone of the clips.

I recently created a Reel of myself getting out of bed on the first day back to school and to date, the Reel has had 1.4 million views, over 38k likes and 1,300 comments. Instagram decided to make my attempts a Featured Reel and it all went a bit mental!

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No, this wasn’t an advert for Quaker Oats. Just me and my glamourous self as usual 🙂

Hang on, I’ve just got my head around Stories. What is Reels?

Reels is a new way to record a 15 to 30 second video clip accompanied with music or your own soundtrack on Instagram. You can then share the video to your stories, in the Explore Feed and the Reels tab that is slowly appearing on user’s profiles. But, a bit like the music function, not everyone has the Reels tab on the bottom off their profile (I only got it last week) and will have to watch it through Explore or go direct to users’ profiles and click on their reel tab.

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Your own personal Reels will appear in the top tab and Reels from everyone else will appear in the bottom tab.
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If you don’t have the Reels tab at the bottom of your profile, go to your explore page and some videos will be marked with the Reel icon. Click on that and you will be able to scroll up through all the Reels videos.

Instagram is slowly rolling out the Reels icon at the bottom of all accounts profiles so I think it proves that it is here to stay. With the icon, it means that you can see videos from trending accounts and featured videos, not just from the people you follow. A bit like the “For You” page on TikTok.

How to create a Reel

At the moment, Reels doesn’t really have its own “space”, but you can find it where you create stories. Tap on your Home button > Select “Your Story” > select “Add to your story” and then select Reels from the bottom.

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Click on your home button at the bottom and Your story button at the top
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Select Add to your story
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Choose Reels at the bottom.

Once you’ve selected Reels you have two options to start recording a video. You can either record a 15 or 30 second video by holding down the Reel record button or you can upload a video or images from you photo library.

Reels used to be only 15 seconds long but Instagram now gives you the choice to do a 15 or 30 second clip. Make sure you select 15 or 30 from the top icon before you start recording or uploading.

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You can either create a new video by holding down the reels record button or you can upload an existing video from your photo library in the bottom left hand corner. Don’t forget to choose 15 or 30 from the top icon on the left to choose how long your clip lasts.

Other features of Reels

You can either preselect the features or use them once you have uploaded or finished your video. Probably one of the most important features of the Reels function is music! Select the music icon and this will bring up a very large music database where you can choose a track to go with your clip.

Don’t worry too much if you don’t have music, you can add music via other apps onto your video before preloading to Reels.

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You will see the different features for your Reel on the left hand sign with the music icon at the top.

Once you’ve chosen your music, you can choose the section of music you want to play for your clip so you haven’t got the intro of the track playing! Always useful when you want a particular lyric or chorus.

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Instagram has a For You tab which displays music similar to what you’ve used in the past and a Browse tab which shows you what’s trending. You can also search for music at the top.
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You can then choose the section of the clip you want to play

Other features include being able to speed up or slow down your video, apply effects or AR filters to your video and set a Timer which is useful if you want to be in front of the camera for your video. You can change the countdown for the video starting from 3 seconds to 10 seconds by tapping on the number next to Countdown.

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Change the speed of your video
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Change the effects
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Set a stopwatch so you can set up your phone and appear on the video with a 3 or 10 second countdown.

The last icon is the align tool which is really important for making your clip appear seamless! You can line up objects from your previous clip before recording your next one to help the transition for things like an outfit change or adding objects to create a stop motion video.

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The align tool overlays a new image onto the previous image so you can make the transition seamless.

That’s all folks!

That’s pretty much the basics to Reels. Once you are happy with your Reel, select the right-hand arrow at the bottom of the Reel which will take you to the video itself and you can add text, stickers and Gifs just like a story. Finally select the white arrow to take you to the share page where you can add your description before sharing.

  • Make sure you put a description or caption for your Reel but I don’t think you have to make it too long. People just want a quick fix when it comes to Reels and will probably watch the video and scroll on by!
  • But, definitely add your 30 hashtags! When you click on a hashtag, your Reel will appear in the results so it is still as relevant as ever.
  • You can also choose the cover of your video. Click on the Cover image and it will give you the option to choose a frame from your video or upload an image from your camera roll.  
  • Once you have finished, you can share it to your feed or just share it to your Reels tab on your profile.
  • And finally, you can share straight away or save it as a draft.

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Why should I bother with Reels?

Short film video and clips are not going away. Instagram stories grew from 150 million users to over 500 million users a day in just four years and it looks like Reels will probably be even more popular.

Reels is still quite new so I think it’s really important to get yourself using it whilst the competition is still low. It is such a fantastic way to show your creativity with your home/crafts/DIY projects instead of using a still image. I also think Instagram is looking to push the feature heavily so will give prominence to videos and posts that are in Reel form.

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I recently asked via my stories if anyone had any questions or thoughts on Reels and here are a few answers:

Is it worth doing them?

As I’ve said above, I really think it’s worth doing Reels as they’re only going to get bigger. I also believe that Instagram really wants to push this feature so it will only become more prominent in Explore and throughout our Instagram experience.

Do they work better with music?

Absolutely! I think the whole point of Reels is to add music to your videos and the more relevant the piece of music to your Reel is, the better. I think one of the reasons my Reel did so well was because I added a track which matched me getting out of bed!

Is it better to stay with your niche? If you are a mainly interiors account, is it best to stick with interiors?

I think this is a tricky one. I would say yes, it probably is best to stay with your niche but I don’t think there’s any harm in throwing a few funny ones in there. Or recipes. Or whatever floats your boat! It’s a bit like stories in that respect, it captures more of your life in video form.

Which app do you use to make your Reels?

I mainly create them with my iPhone camera to begin with and then upload them to Reels. My stop motion ones I create by taking lots of photos and then I put them together in the InShot App (which I love), save to my camera photo library and again upload it from there.

How is a Reel different to a video in a Story?

I got asked this the most! There is no real difference as they use the same features. However, stories only stay live for 24 hours whereas Reels are live as long as you keep them on your feed or Reel tab. They are more evergreen and for this reason, they are more polished than stories and don’t really capture your every day life, more how creative you are and a fabulous tool for Businesses trying to sell products.

What is the point of them?

Hahaha. I also got asked this a lot! I think they are a brilliant way to give you more creativity over your posts and show more personality than a still image. Plus, who doesn’t love listening to music?

Reels are the real deal

I love them, I think they’re here to stay and will only get bigger with more features being added all the time. I think the only negative thing I’ve experienced is you are definitely open to more trolls if you put yourself on Reels!

Two of my favourite comments have to be “I’ve got better looking slugs in my garden” and “stop being an overbearing Mum and get your kids to iron their school clothes”. If I ever met that delightful commenter, I’d like to shake his hand. I can’t get my 5- and 7-year olds to put their apple cores in the bin, let alone iron their own clothes!

What do you think? Are you a Reel fan or not?

Mel x

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