How to Increase Your Reach with Instagram Reels

Georgi Todorov
By Georgi Todorov
May 13, 2021 · 11 min read

Do you want to take your Instagram marketing strategy to the next level? You have to try Reels. Launched less than a year ago, Instagram Reels has given social media marketers many reasons to be excited about. So if you want to learn how to increase your reach and engagement with your Instagram content, this article will show you why and how you can use Reels to do just that.

Let’s get started.

What are Instagram Reels?

Reels are 30-second videos that include audio, text, effects, and stickers. Although reels look similar to Stories, they are 15-seconds longer, exclusively video-based and have their own tab within a user’s profile and dedicated feed.

Source: Instagram

Reels were developed as a direct response to TikTok’s rise in popularity. In 2020, TikTok was the  second most downloaded app with over 3.2 million downloads. 

Facebook, the owner of Instagram, decided to try and match TikTok’s success—just as they did with Stories, which they got from Snapchat. In August, Instagram launched Reels, and in that same month, Instagram experienced a seven-million app download growth month-over-month, proving the popularity of the short-video format.

How to Create a Reel

To create a reel, hit the camera button at the bottom of your screen and scroll to the left until you find the “Reels” option. Before you start recording, you can select one of the several options available:

  • Audio: You can add a song or audio track from Instagram’s music library or leave your video’s original sound.
  • AR Effects: You can choose to select one of the several dozen effects from the gallery.
  • Timer and Countdown: This option is useful if you plan to record your video hands-free and there’s no one around to help out.
  • Speed: Another helpful option if you plan to record multiple shots and you want to accelerate or lower the speed of the video while filming.

Here’s a handy video that explains how you can set up your Reels:

If you exceed the 30-seconds mark, you can edit the video or cut your shots until it meets the time limit. You can also use pre-recorded videos from your library. After you publish your reel, it will show up on your profile’s Reels tab. 

Why Instagram Reels Should be in Your Strategy

By now, you understand what Reels are, but one key question that we haven’t asked ourselves yet is, why should you use them? As a user, Reels are a fun way to interact with your friends. However, as a business owner, the benefits may not be as clear.

For a business owner or social media marketer, Reels complement your Instagram content strategy, including your posts, Stories, IGTV, and shop. Considering Instagram launched Reels recently, the algorithm is favoring this new content type over traditional video.

Conviva compared the average engagement per reel for American sports teams and found it higher than the average engagement per regular video post.

Users want to see fun, engaging Reels; for that reason, you don’t want to think of Reels as ads but as a friendly way to communicate with your audience.

You can professionally produce your content, or you can make it look natural, almost improvised. In the latter case, your Reels’ costs will be relatively low compared to other types of video content.

Although Instagram doesn’t allow companies to advertise on Reels just yet, Instagram allows brands to create a video views custom audience to retarget those users who previously viewed and interacted with a reel. So if you are promoting a new product with Instagram ads, you can use Reels to capture more data and retarget more people, which will lower your ad costs significantly.

How to Increase Your Reach with Instagram Reels

Create Engaging Content

Reels wouldn’t be what it is without great content. Instagram users want to consume fun, interesting and unique content, or “engaging content.

According to Instagram, brands should create Reels that are:

  • Entertaining and fun
  • Inspiring
  • Experimental

For users, these points usually translate into funny videos, dance videos, and other “challenges” that go viral regularly. For a brand that aims to educate and nurture their audience, they can thrive with reels with an added  twist to their regular content. 

Considering that reels are 30-seconds long, you only have one opportunity to engage your audience, so you must use this time wisely to captivate your users’ attention.

Shopify created a series of Reels in honor of Black History Month, where they featured unique stories of African American entrepreneurs and inventors.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Shopify (@shopify)

 

Bloomberg Businessweek created a reel where Dave Portnoy, a famous entrepreneur and investor, advises all new investors to avoid the optimism bias, a common mistake this audience makes.

 

Both cases feature simple videos that mix entertainment with education, which is a common goal among any brand on social media.

Follow Instagram recommendations

Instagram also suggests brands to create Reels that use:

  • A mix of text, filters, and camera effects
  • A vertical format (16:9)
  • Music from the Instagram music library, original audio, or audio you find on other Reels

Although these aren’t must-have factors, they will make your reel stand out and improve your chances of engaging your audience. In fact, we could safely say these three factors are what make Reels different from stories and regular posts.

At the same time, Instagram recommends brands to avoid creating Reels that:

  • Have low-resolution
  • Contain logos and/or watermarks
  • Include a border around them to catch users’ attention
  • Text covers the majority of the video
  • Violate Instagram’s Community Guidelines 

Have a content strategy

To create engaging content, you should check to see what your competitors are doing—if you find any with Reels, as they are still quite new for most brands. Even if the companies you research aren’t in your industry, you can use their content as inspiration. You also want to look at your existing content and see how you could adapt it to the Reels format.

For example, if you planned on creating a video where you featured user-generated content, you could add some music and AR effects to it and publish it as a reel. Since audio is one of the features that make Reels stand out from every other Instagram content type, you can check the audio library and find any interesting clips to match the vibe of your video.

One crucial tip to leverage is to use video captions, which increases engagement from muted viewers

You also want to use hashtags. Instagram allows you to add as many as 30 per reel and a great caption. Considering the 2,000-character limit, you have more than enough space to write descriptive copy.

 

Educational content is the most helpful type of content a brand can use on Instagram—an idea that applies to regular posts, stories, IGTV, and Reels. Share tips and give short tutorials to keep your brand relevant in your followers’ minds.

Foundr focuses most of its time on creating educational Reels. Their conciseness makes their Reels extremely useful and engaging, which their audience seems to love.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Foundr Magazine (@foundr)

You can also use Reels to promote your content, like Dribble, who created a reel to promote an upcoming workshop with an industry expert.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Dribbble (@dribbble)

Last but not least, you want to use an attention-grabbing cover image. Think of it as a YouTube banner or an ad—you want to persuade users to click through your reels. Your cover should explain what the reel is about or show a video frame that looks intriguing.

Post Consistently

Instagram has shared little about what makes its algorithm tick. Based on experience, most social media marketers agree that consistency is critical to succeeding with Instagram, something that’s especially important for a new feature such as Reels. The more Reels you publish, the higher the chances your followers will see them and engage with them.

To do so, you will need to develop a social media content calendar, if you haven’t done so already. In this calendar, you will be able to keep all of your ideas in one place, with their dates and tasks organized.

Source: Promo.com

Your content calendar should include a mix of educational content with user-generated content from customers. You can also add some fun content ideas to your calendar, something that Stockwits excels at.

Additionally, you can reuse the content you publish on TikTok. To avoid showing TikTok’s logo on your Instagram Reels, you can record your screen when editing the video on TikTok. In any case, as long as it respects all the previously mentioned points—especially Instagram’s community guidelines—you can get away with it, and neither your followers nor Instagram will punish you for doing so.

This is a reel that Gymshark republished from TikTok, generating 400k views from both social networks.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Gymshark (@gymshark)

To get a better idea of the different types of videos you can create with Reels, look at trending content on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram—this includes stories, IGTV, and regular posts. You can use this content to inspire your content calendar and find new viral ideas to try.

As you add your content ideas, define their publishing dates and your team’s responsibilities. Every member should know what they are expected to do. Don’t forget to add any information they could use, like your brand’s style guide and the deadlines for each task.

Once you define a video idea, you need to prepare the script. Since you only have 30 seconds, your script won’t be long. Try to keep it as short as possible to make every second count.

It’s a good idea to prepare multiple scripts simultaneously so you can shoot and edit your Instagram videos all at once. Even though Instagram doesn’t allow users to schedule a reel, you can still save your videos as drafts and post them according to your calendar.

Best practice is to publish at least one reel a week and ramp up those numbers according to your social media goals and resources. Even if you don’t make Reels your primary content type, use them to diversify your Instagram content strategy.

Optimize for Instagram

Before you publish your Reels, you want to optimize them appropriately. Instagram posts are either square, featuring a 1:1 ratio, or portrait, with a 4:5 ratio. However, Reels are better suited for mobile, which means you should publish them with a vertical, 9:16 ratio.

To give your Reels an extra boost of engagement, write a descriptive caption that explains what your reel is all about or even summarizes the main points.

Source: mindvalley

Remember to add a “call-to-action” that keeps the conversation going. If your reel promotes a new marketing initiative or a product, tell your audience where they can learn more about it. Otherwise, you can ask them to comment, double-tap to like, save and share your reel.

Final Thoughts

Both marketers and social media users love video content. In fact, 17% of marketing professionals say video marketing is the second most effective ad format, followed by 16% saying Instagram Stories.

Reels are another way to publish video content in an exciting way your followers will enjoy. Because they are still new, they are a breeding ground for experimenting with new content ideas that will boost your engagement rates higher than ever.

Mix your Reels with Stories, IGTV, and regular posts, and you will definitely take your Instagram marketing strategy to the next level.

About the author

Georgi Todorov

Georgi Todorov is the SEO Manager at Semrush, responsible for establishing new processes at the company. He loves traveling, watching online courses, reading books, and listening to podcasts during his daily nature walks.

Become a better marketer.
Grow your business.
Join over 250,000 businesses already seeing an impact
from using our tips and tools delivered directly to your inbox.
Thank you for subscribing
to the Promo Blog!
Your video marketing education
is on it's way to your inbox.
Become a better marketer.
Grow your business.
Join over 250,000 businesses already seeing an impact
from using our tips and tools delivered directly to your inbox.
Thank you for
subscribing!
Your video marketing education
is on it's way to your inbox.