A creator’s guide to Instagram Reels

Social Media Video
10 min read
In this Article

If Instagram Reels haven’t sucked you down an hour-long rabbit hole yet, we have to assume you have superpowers.

Reels are Instagram’s latest foray into video. The quick, vertical videos are taking over newsfeeds worldwide as more creators hop on to the trend.

Seeing your favorite creators sing a verse from their newly released song, talk about their favorite topic, or create a funny, relatable skit hasn’t gotten old. And the platform doesn’t plan to let it either: Reels’ popularity is a big part of why Instagram recently announced they were officially a video app, and not just a photo app.

That’s why creators want to take Reels seriously and bring them into their content creation, because they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. And if we know anything, it’s that the future of Instagram is video.

So, it’s time to hit record.

What are Instagram Reels?

Instagram Reels are 60-second (for now) multi-clip videos that are edited with audio and AR effects. Just like other short-format video apps like TikTok, you can either record an entire Reel in 60 seconds and have one clip, record a series of clips, or add clips and photos from your phone library.

Reels include four core elements:

  • Audio: Create your own audio or search Instagram’s music library
  • AR Effects: Choose from a variety of filters best suited to your brand or video
  • Align: Create seamless transitions between clips
  • Speed: Speed up or slow down all or clips in your Reel

Your Reels can be shared to your Instagram feed, where you can opt to have them just in your Reels tab or right on your feed. Instagram users can also discover Reels on the Explore page, or by scrolling through other similar Reels (similar to TikTok’s For You Page).

Why are short-form videos taking over the marketing space?

Instagram didn’t launch Reels on a whim. Video has taken over the social media space for a few years, and big platforms, like Facebook (Instagram’s parent company), have paid attention. A 2020 study by Wyzowl reported that people share videos at twice the rate of any other form of content. The study also found that 84% of people were convinced to buy a product or service based on the brand’s video.

People spend an average of 53 minutes per session watching Instagram Reels, which is higher than how long they spend on TikTok (45 minutes on average per session!).

instagram reels
Instagram Reels have the highest average watch time per session for short-form video content. Image via Statista.

Reels (and TikToks) let marketers and influencers alike turn short videos into engaging pieces of edited content, complete with songs, AR effects, and other video effects. Reels perfectly suit the fast-paced nature of scrolling on social media.

Between our own scrolling behavior (hey, we’re honest about our high screen time here) and Facebook’s priority of short-form content, right now is the best time to use Instagram Reels to grow your creator business. With Instagram Reels, you can share an in-depth look at who you are as a creator, what you create, and the products you sell—without it disappearing 24 hours after posting (like Stories). For example, musicians can use Reels to share snippets of newly released songs while sharing what inspired the song in the first place.

Reels can become a big part of a creator’s business—if you know how to use them to grow your audience, email list, and listenership/customers.

How to use Instagram Reels to grow your business

If you’ve never made a Reel before and you’re feeling overwhelmed by the process, let’s remind you that at one point you were probably just as nervous to post an Instagram feed post or Story. But, you got used to posting them and now you can hit publish without batting an eye.

 

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A post shared by ConvertKit (@convertkit)

The same will happen for Reels, in time. To give you some confidence in pressing publish on that first Reel, here’s your game plan to know you’re using Reels the right way (a.k.a to grow your creator business).

Research Instagram Reels for your business

The most important part of using Reels to grow your business is to create Reels that attract your ideal follower and customer.

Before you create a Reel, figure out who your ideal follower and customer is. What topics do they care about the most and what do they want to see from you? Answering this question will show you what topics to center your profile around. You can talk about dating and relationships and the anxious attachment style, or you could teach people how to sculpt vases out of clay. The opportunities are endless.

Research trends and inspiration for how others are using Reels (even the audio unrelated to your content!). For example, a Taylor Swift song can be used to showcase how you’re starting your new business or a prior experience you’ve had as a creator—even if the song’s lyrics don’t align with the story you’re sharing. Scroll through Reels to get an idea of how audio is used even when it doesn’t relate directly to the content.

Open the notes app on your phone or grab a pen and paper and write down 20 ideas for Reels that your ideal follower or customer would be interested in watching.

Pick your favorite idea and create your first Reel!

How to create an Instagram Reel

Instagram Reels leave a lot of room for creativity, which makes them such a cool type of content for creators. We remember the days of stock photo-like images on Instagram and we’re here for the new change. Seeing creators express themselves by sharing video content, adding text, and choosing the *perfect* audio to go along with their video has made Instagram much more creative.

To create an Instagram Reel, ask yourself these questions:

  • Video: Will it be one 15-second clip or multi-clip?
  • Audio: Which audio will you use? Will you create your own?
  • Effects: Which effects will you use and on which clips?
  • Record: Where is the best place to set up your phone to record (lighting and sound)?

Then, follow these steps to make your first Reel:

  1. Open the Instagram App
  2. Swipe right on your feed (like you’re about to record a Story)
  3. Choose “Reel” from the bottom menu
  4. Choose the audio, speed, and effects you want in your Reel
  5. Add new photos or videos by clicking on the round button with the Reel logo
  6. Add existing photos or videos by clicking on your library in the bottom left-hand corner
  7. Click Preview
  8. Click Next
  9. Add a caption to your Reel (and hashtags!)
  10. Choose to Share to Feed (if you don’t Share to Feed, your Reels only show up in the Reels tab of your profile)
  11. Crop or add a Profile Image
  12. Tag people in your Reel
  13. Rename audio (optional)
  14. Add a location (optional)
  15. Click Share (or Save as Draft if you want to post it later)

Remember, practice makes perfect. Your first Instagram Story felt new and slightly scary, and it’s okay for your first Reel to feel the same.

Tips for creating Instagram Reels

If you lean into the best practices for creating Instagram Reels, getting started with Instagram Reels will be a lot easier. You’ll reach a bigger audience (woo-hoo more followers!) and you’ll meet them with trends and ideas they can understand and appreciate.

Use these four tips to get started creating Reels.

#1: Pay attention to trends

When audio trends, Instagram will show you more accounts who used the same audio (if you’ve watched a few videos using it). Trends can be dances or audio that people are creating different types of content with, but along the same premise. For example, Alexandra Fasulo used this trending audio to create a Reel relevant to her freelancing audience:

 

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A post shared by Alex Fasulo (@alexandrafasulo)

#2: Use trending songs

Trending songs can lead to people watching your Reels for longer and (same as above) Instagram showing your Reel to people who have interacted with that song on other Reels. Trending songs can either have the same dance or visuals alongside them or you can make up your own thing. For example, musician and ConvertKit user Drew Holcomb used this trending song in his Reel:

 

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A post shared by Drew Holcomb (@drewholcombmusic)

#3: Add hashtags

Instagram is smart, but it still needs your help figuring out the best people to show your Reels. Give them a helping hand by using hashtags to make it clear what your Reel is about and who you want it to be shown to. For example, world traveler and ConvertKit user Gabby Beckford adds hashtags to her Reels to increase the number of people Instagram shows each Reel to:

#4: Loop your Reels

Looping your Reels makes it so the end of your Reel aligns with the beginning in a bit of a never-ending loop. This can help you get more views on your Reels, which tells Instagram your content is something people want to see more of! For example, freelance business coach Jamie Brindle loops all of his Instagram Reels like this:

#5: Create promotional Reels

At least 20% of your content should be a direct promotion for what you do or sell. If you don’t tell people about your book, new single, consulting, coaching, merch, etc.—how will they know?! Don’t be afraid to sell stuff or promote yourself in your Reels, and as long as you keep it to about 20% of the time, your audience won’t get mad. For example, creator Aileen Xu used this Reel to promote her merchandise packaged with zero single-use plastic (go Aileen!):

 

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A post shared by Aileen Xu (@lavendaire)

Take these creators’ advice and create Reels that use trends, loop, promote your products, and make it easy for Instagram to show them to the right people with hashtags.

Start growing your following with Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels are the perfect way for creators to nurture their audience. Instead of stock photos and “candid” shots, Reels are engaging content that keeps people scrolling for more, making them an intimate way to build your audience faster than it used to be possible.

With the rising popularity of Reels, it’s not a question of IF your audience wants you to post them. It’s WHEN you’ll hit publish—and hopefully get more viewers on your content than before.

And you know what we’re going to tell you to do with that audience…make sure you own it! Creators can’t rely on social media platforms to be their digital headquarters. You have to own your audience by building an email list and building a relationship through newsletters, online events, exclusive content, and more using ConvertKit.

You can even have your audience tip you with our latest Tip Jar feature!

See how creators use ConvertKit to grow their audience and business.

Take the next step on your creator journey

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Eva Gutierrez

Eva Gutierrez is a freelance content writer specializing in writing for companies with marketing-related products, like education platforms and SaaS. She writes articles and newsletters that build and nurture relationships with her clients' leads while showcasing their expertise and leadership in their industry. You can find her tweeting about writing tips, marketing strategies, and the psychology behind buying at @TheEvaGutierrez.

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