Reel Talk: Instagram Reels Best Practices

Is your head spinning trying to stay ahead of the latest social media trends? We’ve put together this list of Instagram Reels best practices to attract more followers and promote your business.

If your head is spinning trying to stay ahead of the latest social media trends, keep reading. The topic we’re about to discuss could become a gold mine for your business. 

That topic: Instagram Reels.

What are Reels?

Say you get sucked into Instagram and find yourself watching videos for an hour. You’ve probably been watching Reels! 

Back in 2020, Instagram introduced Reels, a short-form video format, to compete with TikTok. Unlike Stories, which disappear after 24 hours, Reels have greater staying power. They can include stitched-together effects and filters and almost always incorporate catchy music clips. As of July 2022, your reel can be up to 90 seconds long.

According to Meta, Reels now make up more than 20 percent of the time people spend on Instagram and 50 percent of the time users spend on Facebook. It also doesn’t hurt that in July 2022, Instagram merged standard video and Reels video formats so all video content is now Reels. 

Here’s another Reels figure that may convince you to jump on the bandwagon: 45 percent of accounts now interact with a Reel in the app at least once a week

Why are Reels Beneficial for Brands? 

Reels provide a platform to tell a story or share your knowledge. Whether you create a series of Reels on topics your customers find valuable, or you infuse snippets of content that showcase your brand voice, the platform is your stage.

Instagram sums it up nicely: “Reels is the ideal place for brands to get discovered on the global stage to express themselves with more creativity and fun, and can play a powerful role in crafting compelling narratives that drive excitement, engagement and awareness.”

Some ideas to get you started producing Reels: 

  • Give users a glimpse of your day-to-day business operations or a behind-the-scenes look at how you make products or deliver services 
  • Spotlight your team or partners and allow them to introduce themselves
  • Showcase your customers and share their stories 
  • Produce short how-to videos to educate your customers 
  • Provide sneak peeks of upcoming product launches or exciting news 

Best of all, your followers can see your Reels, and so can all other Instagram users. This is a solid benefit of Reels—on average, Reels generate a video view rate of 2.54 percent, while regular Instagram videos only generate 1.74 percent. 

And unlike regular videos, which only show up for your followers or those searching specifically for your content, Reels can appear in a user’s Reels tab, on the Instagram Explore page, and in your followers’ feeds. That’s a lot more visibility than your regular posts!

Instagram Reels Best Practices

In our experience, Reels are one of those things most brands know they should be doing on social media, but they don’t quite know where to start. We’re here to help you take that first step! 

As with any type of social post, you’ll get the best engagement on your Reels if you follow certain guidelines. Here are some best practices to keep in mind.

Choose a Trending Sound 

Those earworms you find yourself humming in the shower? There’s a good chance those sounds are trending on Instagram. Using the sounds your audience already recognizes is a great way to capture their attention on the platform. 

How do you find a trending sound to use with your video? You can either click on the Reels Explore page (the video icon in the bottom navigation of the Instagram app) and scroll through the videos to find the ones with a ‘trending’ upward arrow next to the sound. Or you can use Instagram’s own Reels audio library to search for music or sounds. 

Note: While the second approach is easier, you won’t be able to see from the library which sounds are trending.

Later has a resource for Reels trends, updated every week, to fuel your creativity. 

Avoid Horizontal Video 

If you binge-watch your favorite show from your phone or spend extended periods of time on YouTube, you might prefer horizontal video. But when it comes to Reels, you want to create vertical videos—the Reels algorithm will reward you. 

For Reels, the ideal aspect ratio is 9:16 and sized 1080 x 1920 pixels. If you use horizontal images, Instagram will add black padding to the top and bottom of your video. No matter how beautiful your horizontal video or image is, the black padding will most definitely detract from it. 

Keep in mind you can also use static images when creating your Reels. In fact, this is how many Reels are created—static images that are synched to a sound. Again, make these vertical, or the dreaded black padding will be added automatically by Instagram. 

One final note about video specs: Make sure your video is high quality. Low-quality, blurry videos are often penalized by the Reels algorithm. 

Create Original Content for the Platform… 

It’s definitely easier to create one video and promote it across platforms. But each platform has a similar goal—to keep users on their own unique platform and interacting with content that’s native to that platform. 

If you create a video for TikTok, post the video on TikTok. Publishing a Reel with a watermark from TikTok or another platform will get your content pushed to the back of the line. And it can also signal to your audience that you’re out of touch with the platform’s functionality. 

Remember, the best Reels content is funny, entertaining, interesting, or all the above!

… But Don’t Be Afraid to Share Your Reel in Multiple Places on Facebook and Instagram 

While Reels and TikTok are major competitors whose algorithms don’t get along, it is perfectly fine—even encouraged!—to share your Reel in multiple places within Facebook and Instagram, since they are both owned by Meta. 

When getting ready to post your Reel, there will be a little toggle that says “Post to Feed.” You will want to toggle this on. This means the Reel will be posted to both the Reels tab (which is Reels only) and the News Feed (which is regular posts and Reels). This gives your Reel much more visibility, as your followers can see it in both places, whether they choose to scroll in the News Feed or the Reels feed. 

In addition, make sure the “Recommend on Facebook” setting is set to “Allow.” Choosing “allow” means Instagram will recommend your Reel to people on Facebook, too, for some cross-platform exposure. 

And just like you would with your normal Instagram posts, don’t be afraid to share your Reel to your Instagram Story. This allows your followers who are tapping through stories to click on your Reel to watch the full thing. Just one more way to get more organic exposure for your Reels! 

Use Tools Wisely 

Within the Instagram app, you’ll find all the basic tools you need to create your Reel. You can trim or delete video clips, add stickers and filters, auto-generate captions and more. If you’re looking for more advanced features, you can use a video editor like Adobe Rush.

That said, use the tools wisely. Too many visual distractions, like text and filters, can detract from the effectiveness of your Reel. You should also avoid placing text or stickers over faces if possible. 

Last but not least, when adding text or stickers to your Reels, always remember to avoid these areas, as they will be covered and hard to see: 

  • The top left corner of the video – your username will be here
  • The bottom left corner of the video – your username and caption will be here
  • The right side of the video – the like, comment, and share buttons will be here  

If you try to drag a text, gif, or sticker into one of these areas, Instagram will bring up semi-transparent lines to warn you that your sticker or text is not in the “safe zone” and may be covered. 

Save Time with Templates

Creating a Reel can be time consuming—filming, finding a sound, syncing the visuals, writing a caption, adding text and stickers, etc. The “Templates” feature can help save time!

When you are scrolling through Reels, you may see a little camera icon and a button that says “Templates” on the bottom left corner of certain Reels (right above the caption). Clicking this will create a blank “template” based off of that video. The template will have the same sound as the video, as well as pre-set clip lengths that are usually already synced to the sound. All you have to do is add your photos/videos in the appropriate order and they will automatically adjust to those pre-set clip lengths. Creating Reels this way saves a lot of time that would otherwise be spent trying to get the timing of the clips just right! 

Here’s another pro tip: if you find a sound you like and want to use, scroll through Reels that use that sound until you find one that has a template available. That way you are not recreating the wheel from scratch for that trend or sound! 

Note that not every Reel has the template option. Look for that button near the caption of the Reel. 

Keep an Eye on Your Industry and Competitors 

This is equally as important as staying on top of the latest trends. Sometimes what’s trending on the platform won’t necessarily be trending in your specific industry. Your most savvy competitors will also give you a preview of the trends you should take advantage of or keep a close eye on. Remember that not all trends make sense for your business to jump on. 

You can look to TikTok for inspiration. But remember, avoid too much crossover between the platforms. 

Other Instagram Reel Tips

  • Include hashtags in your posts—3-5 hashtags are plenty. 
  • Create auto-captions for your video. Even though 80 percent of Reels are viewed with the sound on, you don’t want to lose out on the other 20 percent of users. This is also a great way to make sure your videos are accessible to all, especially those who may be deaf or hard of hearing. 
  • Video posts perform best when their captions include at least 30 words. 
  • Shorter Reels are ideal. Aim for under 20 seconds to hold your audience’s attention. 
  • Make sure to sync your visuals with your audio for maximum impact. Visuals that are out of sync with the audio can create a jarring viewing experience. 
  • Accounts that post consistently maintain the best engagement. If it makes sense for your brand, shoot for 4-7 Reels per week, while keeping in mind that you should publish a Reel only when you have something worthy to share. Quality over quantity! 

How Does the Instagram Algorithm Sort Reels Content? 

Like the Google algorithm, Instagram’s algorithm can sometimes feel like the wizard behind the curtain. Reels AI learns what each video is about by analyzing hashtags, pixels, frames, and audio. This is why it’s critical to create high-quality content and keep a pulse on the types of video content users crave. 

But always remember, you’re creating content for users, not for the algorithm. While it’s a good idea to play by the platform’s rules, chasing solely after the approval of the algorithm is a futile endeavor. 

Let Us Help You Get “Reel”

Now that you know more about Instagram Reels best practices, you’re on your way to creating a more engaged following on Instagram and promoting your business! Need help getting started? Reach out and we’ll help you put a strategy together. 

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