Puns aside, following trends is a large part of gaining success on Instagram. But it’s more than ice bucket challenges and showing off your new dance moves. It’s about larger and long-term trends in how people use Instagram. Each new feature Instagram launches tells you what to focus on. First Stories in 2016 and then Reels in 2020.

It’s all about the videos. Instagram’s Adam Mosseri flat-out said, “We’re going to double down on our focus on video, we’re no longer just a photo-sharing app…”.

The algorithms “evolve” to reward using new features. Instagram skews algorithms towards rewarding engagement, where videos have an advantage. Just unmuting a video counts as an engagement signal to the algorithms. But just viewing an image post in Feed doesn’t; it’s just an impression.

This blog post will cover what a Reel is, a few important features, and how to leverage Reels to grow your followers. If you want to learn more about Instagram Algorithms, click here.

What are Instagram Reels?

A Reel is a short form, vertical video. In other words, the counter to TikTok. Users can record, upload, and edit videos and clips. Reels are shared on Feed, Stories, Explore, and the Reels tab. Most Reels are between 5 to 15 seconds but can be up to 90 seconds. After some testing, let the analytics guide how long your Reels should be. We have a blog post coming up about analytics so stay tuned.

Core Features 

The core features of a Reel are the following:

  • Music: Instagram’s audio library or upload your own to find songs and sounds 
  • Playback: Set the speed of your audio or video
  • Effects: Filters, AR effects, text, and drawing 
  • Timer: Recording the video without having to hold down the record button

Within the last year, Instagram has added a flurry of new features, including:

  • Reels Insights
  • Import your own audio
  • Polls, Quizzes, and Emojis
  • Templates
  • Auto-generated captions
  • Collaboration options
  • Longer format
Instagram Reels effects, filters, timer, audio, songs
Reels Screenshots

Leveraging Reels

According to Instagram, they want the Reels to be entertaining. That doesn’t mean it can’t be informational and educational. “Entertaining” to the algorithm means engaging. The algorithm attempts to predict primarily 3 things: will you watch it, will you unmute it, and will you watch it until the end. Your Reel should be visually interesting, have audio, and be short. The aim is for the viewer to stop, look, and listen.

You might be tempted to say anything under 15 seconds is good, but a boring 5-second video feels longer than a fast-paced 15-second video. There’s nothing wrong with a good build-up, but don’t forget to get to the point. 

30+ second Reels connect better with your core followers but repel non-followers. New accounts should stick with short Reels until you have your core audience, the people that regularly engage with their content. Nevertheless, if you make great 90-second Reels, don’t let me stop you.

The Reels tab on the app has Reels from accounts the viewer doesn’t follow. Creators, influencers, and brands can leverage Reels to help get new followers and gain traction within a community or niche. If your account is about chess and a chess enthusiast follower likes your Reel. It will be easier for you to be discovered by other chess enthusiasts. It’s much more complicated, but at its core, that’s a major advantage of making a Reel.

Engagement and You

It’s important to give your audience a variety of ways to engage with you. Some will just like your Reels, some will participate in polls, but others will want something more personal. Yodl is an all-in-one booking, 1-on-1 video-chat, and payments platform for you and your followers to engage on a deeper level. It’s a great way to turn followers into fans and advocates. Check out the link below for more information.

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