Welcome to Instagram Reels
August 2020

By Sophie Haugen


In case you were on a ‘social media break’ (what’s that like?), Instagram Reels has finally launched to a wider audience, including UK. In one of the most anticipated build ups on social, Facebook’s image-sharing platform finally introduced the TikTok clone after launching it in Brazil last November.


So, what exactly is Reels, what is its purpose and how exactly do you make one? Here’s the lowdown:


What is a Reel?


Similar to Stories, a Reel is a 15 second maximum video clip which is set to music, audio or silence (please don’t post a silent video). This short but sweet piece of footage can be posted to your Stories or grid and is automatically shared in the Explore tab with a view to gaining exposure and potentially going viral… a bit like an Insta-famous lottery.



What’s the Point?

Put simply: It’s all about video right now. As TikTok and its 1.5 billion users has proved, there is clearly an engaged market, and with the Chinese adversary’s future prospects looking hazy, there may well be a healthy demand for more of this style of content creation.


Businesses, too, should look to how this new function can benefit them. Being ahead of the curve and creating Reels could put certain companies at the forefront right now; especially in a time when social media usage is generally up, thanks to COVID.


The major spanner here is that business accounts won’t have access to music due to licensing restrictions. Bummer. TikTok also changed their commercial licensing rules back in May, but still provides a Commercial Music Library, which is better than nothing.


So, How Do I Make One?


Okay, so you want to make a Reel? Fun! Here’s how:


  • Go to your homepage and swipe left or select ‘Your Story” same as you would to post a Story. You are given the option to go Live, create a Story or a Reel. Select “Reel’.
  • Reels are designed to be audio-led and there are three ways to include your audio. Either select “Audio” and pick a song, use original audio by going straight to record, or use someone else’s audio (sharing’s caring) by clicking on someone else’s Reel and selecting “Use Audio”
  • Now, record up to 15 seconds of footage, either all in one go or in sections. You simply hold your finger down to record and lift it to pause/stop. The music plays as you record to give you control of the timing and sequencing
  • Extras: Of course, there are tools you can use, including a Self-Timer (give your partner a break), Speed controls for slow-mo and super speedy, effects and filters, and an Align button for seamless transitions
  • Review and post! You can either share the clip to your Reels page (found in between your grid and your tagged images) or to your Stories. The option to share to your feed (and followers) is automatic and needs to be turned ‘off’ if you don’t fancy this.


Final Thoughts


We would question… with a busy Feed, Stories, IGTV and Shops, isn’t the app already too convoluted? Plus, with a damning NY Times review labelling the function “a dud”, the feature may be a little too confusing for some. Personally, I think that if you’re familiar with TikTok, you’ll figure it out.


The major issue is, if you are going to replicate another platform’s content creation USP, you are going to churn out the same content (not so unique). As we have seen from the overspill of TikTok water-marked videos on Reels, there is nothing individual about the function. It is unashamedly, a replica. That being said, it may be the next best thing if TikTok gets the axe…


Also, call us cynical, but it seems that the Reels algorithm gives far too much time to content from major influencers and celebrities – meaning that it may prove harder to go viral with a video on Reels, than on TikTok.


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