Using Instagram Reels within your Video Content Strategy

Instagram Reels could be the next new tool to supercharge your video content strategy. Launched in August 2020, Reels is Facebook/Instagram’s take on the extremely popular TikTok platform. While many marketers have only started to scratch the surface of what TikTok can do in terms of user-generated content to reinforce brand positioning, this new video feature inside Instagram could very well be a game-changer. Let’s take a deeper look at Instagram Reels vs TikTok and how it can be used in your content strategy?

Instagram Reels is similar to TikTok. Reels lets you create and edit videos within the app, you can also add music and look through the feed of other people’s clips. Where they differ is the length of the video. Instagram Reels is capped to 15 seconds, whereas TikTok allows you to create videos up to 60 seconds.

That’s not to say that Instagram won’t change the video length in the future, but here’s the catch: TikTok often shortens videos.

Instagram Reels

So why does TikTok shorten videos?

Many people have made complaints that their videos have been shortened. There’s a simple explanation for this. TikTok has signed a licence agreement with music providers that only allows users to play 15 seconds of a song. The videos are being shortened to prevent copyright infringement.

Why Instagram is challenging TikTok with Reels?

Social Media Marketing is big business and Facebook, with it’s 2.6 billion active users undoubtedly wears the crown. Demographic shifts have led the business to branch out and in 2012 they acquired Instagram. In July 2020 there are 1 billion active Instagram users, 60% of those are aged between 18-35.

It hasn’t been smooth sailing, Snapchat for a time dominated the under 25 market until Instagram Stories launched in 2016, directly taking on Snapchat at what they did best.

Then came along TikTok.

Launched in 2017 and aimed at the Chinese market, TikTok soon gathered a following with under 25s across the world thanks to the creative nature of the app.

But if you’re wondering why Instagram has launched Reels to challenge TikTok then you have to look at the numbers.

In March 2020 the Coronavirus Pandemic enforced lockdown saw the gradual growth of TikTok users turn into a tsunami of epic proportions. Usage grew from under 2o0 million to 800 million in the space of six months. Whatsmore, Instagram started to feel the hit. Their core demographic, users aged between 25-34, started to use TikTok. It was all too apparent that TikTok was hurting the photo-sharing app as Instagram started to invest in PPC ads on mobile games.

The threat has been exaggerated with the intervention of politics and fear-mongering by international heads of states.

For Facebook Instagram Reels challenge on TikTok was a necessity.

Where is Reels on Instagram?

Instagram Reels is a brand new feature inside the Instagram Stories camera menu. To access it, just open the Instagram Stories camera and find the Reels icon, found next to the Story icon. If you can’t see it then you might need to check that you have the most up-to-date version of Instagram installed on your device. Also, check that your phone has the latest operating system (OS) update and restart.

How to use Reels on Instagram

Instagram Reels is a intuitive feature, making the creation of creative videos only take moments. It’s perfect for busy marketers who want to capture the essence of their brand. The key features include: Audio, AR effects, countdown & timer, speed effects and align.

Let’s take a look at how you use the Instagram Reels features in greater detail

Audio: A neat feature of Instagram Reels for marketers is that you can use your own audio or use music from the Instagram music library. It’s a very conclusive audio list (some of our music features on it, so we know it goes deep).

Video speed: Press the play button and you can adjust the speed of your video from super slowdowns to 5x speedup.

Timer and countdown: The Reels app gives the functionality to choose how long you want to record for an offers a handy countdown timer before your device starts filming.

Align: To make transitions seamless, the align tool makes it easy to line up objects from the previous clip to create stuff like outfit changes or illusion effects.

AR effects: As with TikTok these effects (lenses) blur digital and reality. It’s similar to what you have in Boomerang Mode. There are loads to choose from and I’m sure we’ll see a lot more creative uses for these soon.

Further features of Instagram Reels

Recording multiple shots: To create multiple shots just press and hold the record button to enable recording and release when you want it to stop.

Text and stickers: As you’d expect, Reels also features a whole host of typography and imagery options.

Sharing is caring

When you’ve completed your Reels video then you’re ready to share!

One top tip is to make sure you add a caption and hashtags to help improve visibility when people are searching for similar interests.

Using Instagram Reels as part of your Video Content Strategy

So you’re wondering how you can integrate Instagram Reels within your video content strategy you have to think big.

By thinking big we don’t mean all-star production. We’re talking about the BIG picture.

Whatever you do, follow the set plan

If you don’t have a digital marketing strategy head over here and learn more about what we mean. But for now, let’s say you already know your audience on Instagram. So what kind of video content should you create on Instagram Reels?

In our example we’re going to talk about a cool little Thai restaurant we at StoryThreads digital like to frequent.

1. Educational content

At 15 seconds, there isn’t much time to ramble on, but that’s great for the audience. It’s snackable.

What we mean about snackable content is it’s easy to take in and video is the perfect medium for short-form content. The combination of imagery, music, and graphics all reinforce your message.

For our Thai restaurant, showcasing fresh produce in a recipe format is the perfect way to engage viewers to the end. It’s certainly true that on the TikTok algorithm you’ve more chance of going viral if viewers watch the whole video, so it’s likely Instagram Reels will follow suit. It makes sense. Great content keeps people entertained.

2. Behind the scenes video content

Since the invention of reality TV, nosey into the lives of others has become a national pastime. It makes sense that this follows into social.

For a brand this means showing your true colours, giving an air of authenticity that wholly transparent. What’s not to love about humans being humans, it makes them more relatable and brings the customer and the business closer together.

Fundamentally people buy on emotions. If the video resonates with the audience, they’re more likely to crossover, from lurker to customer, even advocate.

In the case of our Thai restaurant, they’re building a business from scratch. So the audience can come along for the ride, joining them for all the ups and downs of working life at a startup.

3. StoryTelling content

Let’s jump straight into this one with our example of the Thai food place around the corner from our office.

They’re super passionate people. They have a story to tell about their experiences, funny anecdotes, and inspiration. This all makes for excellent content to reinforce their brand positioning as the authentic Thai built on home cooking traditions passed down through the family.

Even if you’ve just fallen into business by chance, your experience is what sells you. Make those 15-second shorts count.

4. Case studies

Case studies on video can often feel protracted. They go on and on, and no-one wants to see them because they’re all the same.

It’s like the 1980s never ended!

Somehow, that style is still in production. The route cause?


If you forget about what the customer wants to see and no-one will watch it. 

A great way to create case studies for Instagram Reels using our little Thai place would be to make ‘Meet the Maker’ videos showcasing the quality and care taken by the supplier to source responsibly.

Don’t think you have to only create one video. You could churn out a small series of 4/8 episodes that could be combined for other formats such as YouTube. Repurposing your content is a great way to achieve the long-tail effect.

So that’s it from us. We hope you’ve got some ideas and inspiration to create your own Instagram Reels.

If in doubt, experiment on a private Instagram page. What have you got to lose?

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