Everything your brand needs to know about Instagram Reels

Hillary Therriault

As a Freelance Designer with experience in social media analytics, content marketing, and graphic design, I work with the BRIGADE team to bring ideas to life. I enjoy taking complicated problems and simplifying them to their roots. When I’m not behind my computer you can find me behind a camera working on food photography.

From an underdog app that targeted Gen Z to the fastest growing social media platform of 2020, TikTok has garnered a lot of attention recently. With over 800 million active monthly users and an estimated revenue of $500 million in the U.S. alone, it’s no wonder that TikTok has stolen the spotlight from other social platforms.

But a new fighter has entered the arena, Instagram Reels. 

The TikTok copycat is fully integrated into the Instagram platform making it easy for current users to start making short viral clips. And this comes right as the U.S. has been talking about shutting down TikTok.

So how does this new player impact your brand and marketing strategy for the rest of 2020? Let’s start with the basics.

What are Instagram Reels?

It’s not news that Facebook and Instagram often adopt features from rival platforms in an attempt to provide everything a person or brand would want all in one place. Reels is the newest version of that, mimicking the style of TikTok with bite-sized clips.

Reels allow Instagram users to create and share short, 15-second long clips. These can be edited with added music and effects and are then shared in followers’ feed.

Clips can then be found in the explore feed. Once a Reels video is selected, users can endlessly swipe through content. Much like IGTV, all of your Reels will then be stored on your profile page in a new section at the top with the Reels icon. 

Competitors in the Space

Since Reels is still so new compared to TikTok it’s hard to say that one is ultimately better than the other. But let’s jump into the details with pros and cons for each platform.

Even amid all the news that TikTok could be banned in the U.S., the sheer number of users and general hype around the app still holds TikTok above its competitors—who use the same video style. The app has until September 15th to find a U.S. buyer, so users know they are still safe to use it until that point. For now, it’s safer to wait until after the September deadline to make sure that any marketing efforts are not for naught. 

One of the main observations that people have been making since the release of Instagram Reels is that TikTok’s platform is much more intuitive in terms of how you can sync up the music and easily cut multiple video clips together. 

Although Instagram already has Stories and IGTV, Reels introduces a more modern and youthful approach to sharing video content.

A potential threat to both TikTok and Instagram’s Reel are competitor apps like Byte and Triller. With similar content setups, these apps are looking to profit off of being a close alternative to TikTok—and downloads for them have spiked since the news of the potential ban. But it’s still too early to tell if these other platforms will take off and surpass TikTok’s growing numbers.

Snapchat is also looking to get into the game, which could shift how people use the platform and the content they release. For a while now Snapchat has been looking for ways to increase user engagement after Instagram began using a similar story format. Having TikTok style videos for people to create and view in the Explore section of the app could be a great way for them to expand how users and brands can share content. 

Instagram and Snapchat have gone up against each other before with the types of content creators can release, and with Instagram’s dominance in the marketing space at the moment, the addition of Reels could only further strengthen their hold.

How does this affect your brand?

Reels format and content style is nothing new, we know it’s trying to integrate TikTok’s format but, even before that, Vine had started the trend for quick and clever videos. 

Short video marketing and content creation has certainly evolved and improved since the era of Vine’s popularity, and people are becoming more accustomed to consuming this type of content. 

TikTok also highlights how short content paves a way for brands to advertise to a younger audience, which has been hard to break into for many companies, with over 60% of all TikTok users being a part of Gen Z. TikTok also has some of the highest engagement rates when it comes to native content—which is a huge advantage for brands partnering with prominent influencers on the platform.

Instagram still has a strong presence within this demographic with almost 65% of Gen Z users saying they check the app daily. With the addition of Reels, Instagram has been able to provide a unique opportunity for brands to capitalise on short trendy videos on a platform where their brand already has a presence. This puts the pressure on TikTok to provide additional value for brands where Instagram cannot. 

Instructions for recording a Reel

  1. Swipe left to open the Instagram camera. Select the Reels option at the bottom.
  2. On the left-hand side of the screen you can see 4 icons for editing and enhancing your Reel.
  3. Click on the music note icon to browse and choose music. Or opt to just use audio from the clip you record! Once you share your Reel people can choose to create their own version using your audio when they select, “Use Audio.”
  4. Use the forward arrow below to adjust the speed of your clip.
  5. Just like with Instagram Stories you can add the same filters to your video. When you select the filter icon you can scroll through any saved filters you have or move all the way to the right and choose “Browse Effects” to find any styles you haven’t saved yet.
  6. The last icon is the stopwatch which lets you decide how long you are going to record your clip for. The combined length of all of your clips can only add up to 15 seconds, so you can either have a bunch of short clips all spliced together or just a couple longer ones. This timer also allows you to record hands free so once you determine the clip length, set up your phone and get ready to record!

You can also choose to upload video clips from your camera roll that have been recorded outside of Instagram and incorporate them into your Reel.

Why you should utilize Reels for your brand

If you’ve been hesitant about adding marketing efforts to TikTok, Reels is a great way to slowly and more easily transition over to that style of content. 

Due to Instagram’s highly integrated advertising and shopping features, the addition of Reels gives brands a new way to reach and connect with a younger demographic. 

Most brands already have a following on Instagram, so adding a new feature only makes this jump to a different content style easier, you don’t have to worry about growing followers from the ground up. 

Whether you’re a small brand looking to break out or a large company trying to boost engagement and sales, Instagram is marketing Reels as a way for creators to be seen by sharing a mix of content on the explore page. 

This increases the potential for more people to find your brand and engage with your products or services.

Reels is still evolving as more users start to create content through it, but consider trying out some videos and see how your audience reacts to them—then determine if focusing more marketing efforts in that area is right for your brand. And if you need help creating a more detailed social strategy feel free to reach out to BRIGADE for a consultation.