Instagram Reels: The Complete Guide For Creating Standout Content

Doga Kıbıcı
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One year ago, Instagram launched a new feature on 5th of August, 2020. It was not something we never heard or seen of, it was actually the same thing that TikTok has been doing for years. It’s Instagram Reels I’m talking about. And when first it was launched, I couldn’t keep myself thinking about how much of a copycat Instagram is; first Story feature from Snapchat and then this. But over the past year, Reels became the main feature of Instagram, surpassing it’s aim on being a photography app. Now, everyone’s trying to get featured on Explore page with the Reels they make. A lot of people succeed, so can you. 

In this article we’ll cover everything you’d want to know before start making Reels on Instagram. Such as what are Instagram Reels, how long are Reels, how to share them, how to view your reel’s insights and how to make reels; if you decide to make one we even listed some ideas for you to start your journey the right way! We also compared it with the infamous TikTok to decide which platform you’d want to make your creations. Let’s get into it!

To start off let me say this, Instagram has an algorithm that features videos that are more relevant, interesting and entertaining to watch. But these kind of videos do not have a stereotype. Every month, every week, from day to day, type of videos that get the attention change. Hence, every person’s interests and Instagram feeds are different from each other. Instagram puts content in front of you according to the things you like, watch, bookmark or comment on. Thus, I have some ideas that might help you make a Reel that has a higher chance of going viral. But first, let’s go through what reels is and how to share them before deciding what type of content you want to create. 

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What Are Instagram Reels?

A reel is basically a vertical video format in Instagram which you can record up to 15, 30 or 60 second videos and add audio at the background. If you feel a little spicy you can even add effects and use other creative tools that Instagram serves. A reel is different from a normal video, story or IGTV. 

How To Share My Reels?

Before getting into how you can make reels, there are important things to know about how to share them.  “We’re no longer a square photo-sharing app.” Said the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, earlier this year. This means, a reel has much more potential than being featured at different tabs of Instagram as it’s a video. So you have to know the best way to share them to make it appear into someone’s Insta.

When you share a reels, you don’t just share it with your audience but with the diverse community of Instagram. You can get featured on someone’s Feed, Discovery page or Reels Explore page. Plus it stays on your profile (if you post it just on the story it’ll disappear in 24 hours).

If your account is Public, no need to worry. You can share it to Explore and everyone can see it. If you specifically want it to be seen by your followers, you can choose to share it on your Feed also. 

If your account is Private, the policy goes the same as your posts on your profile. Only your followers can see it and it cannot be shared with someone who doesn’t follow you. There’s one more downside, people cannot save or use your audio that you put at the back of your Reel. This may seem not that important but hear me out.

From time to time social media has trends. Whether it’s a song, sound, an effect or a choreography. People usually follow these trends in order to succeed, which they do. They make videos for the trends so that they get featured. Let’s say an audio is trending on Instagram and people make videos for it. When you click the sound that’s been used in the Reels, you can see other hundreds and thousands of people that used the audio and made a video. So appearing in an ‘audio tab’ or people using your audio, increases your chance to be both featured and discovered. So if you have a private account, none of the things I mentioned above will apply to you. I suggest making your account a public one if you like to be discovered.

As we’ve mentioned how to share them; we didn’t talk about what to do if you don’t want to share them right away or not at all.

If you don’t want to share it, just discard your process and delete your work. You can also save it as a draft and share it later. 

Quick Info: Reels tab on your profile appears once you’ve created a draft for a Reel or shared one. Unless you don’t have either of them, your profile doesn’t open up a Reels tab.

How To Make Reels?

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We mentioned what Instagram Reels is and how to share them. But we haven’t talked about how to make Reels.  So let’s make one!

  • Open your Homepage on Instagram and find the icon where it has a plus sign in a square. When you click it, a dropdown menu will open. Select Reels to start making.

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  • Choose a song from the music library of Instagram. You can either upload your own audio from your phone, or use a pre-saved audio from a reels you liked. If the audio is your original audio and if you’re account is public, other people who saw your Reel can use it too and it’ll be attributed to you.
  • You can also add effects from Insta’s effect gallery. The effects can be created by Instagram or by other creators/users of Instagram.
  • Select the length of your Reel. You can adjust it by the length of your chosen audio as well. Plus, it has a timer countdown so you can shoot it hands free.
  • If you want slower or faster clips, no problem. You can make slow-mo videos or use it to stay on the track when recording for an audio by adjusting the speed.
  • Transitions are a must. So use the align feature to adjust the previous visuals with the next ones for smooth transitions.
  • You can record a Reel in one straight shot or shoot it clip by clip. When you hold the capture button it records, if you stop holding it’ll stop recording. Then you can hold it again for it to keep recording.
  • Don’t want to shoot it right on the spot? Upload videos that are pre-recorded from your gallery.

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Instagram Reels Algorithms

Think of a Reel in Instagram that you would like to watch. Does it contain visuals that are blurry, watermarked or copied from somewhere else? Or do you prefer a less entertaining, irrelevant one? None of them. Exactly! So this is how Instagram Reels Algorithm is featuring videos. Instagram AI features videos more that are:

  • Entertaining to watch
  • Fun
  • Interesting
  • Inspiring
  • Attention grabbing

If you used any effects or creative tools like texts that Instagram has in the Reels making tab, used a sound from Insta library or created your own custom sound, these are some things that would make your reels stand out more also. (If you use a sound that would make your Reel hop on a trend, that’s even better!)

Tip: A Reel is a vertical video format, best if you use vertical shots.

Tip: Do what best reflects you. You might have a personal or a business account and trying too hard to hop on the trends might come off as irrelevant sometimes. So follow the trends and be creative to make it your own way!

Tip: Don’t forget to follow Instagram’s Community Guidelines! Even a word on a text in a Reel gets recognized and might be taken down. So be aware!

Instagram Reels Ideas

Now, it’s time to decide which type of content you’d like to make. Below are some popular ideas to make you stand out more. 

Cooking Reels: People seem to like quick cooking related videos these days. You can share recipes and methods on how to make a significant dish. Record a little from each step on the making and finish off with a satisfying visual of your meal. You can record each clip separately on your phone, upload it with an order and add audio to background. You can synchronize them with the sound also.

Pro Tip: People like ASMR cooking too. The sounds of pans and spatulas clinging, an oven when it’s lit or a pepper mill when rotating. Sounds weird I know but try it and see the results for yourself. 

  • Travelling Reels: Same goes for this one as well. You can add some photos between the video clips if you’d like.
  • Meditation Reels: Shoot some inspiring content. Things that might bring comfort to the person watching. Also the sounds for this type of videos are important too. You can choose a comforting remix of a trending sound at the time made and used by another user, or add your own.
  • Edits: Feeling inspired by your favourite artist? Make an edit of them by choosing their good looking visuals either from their interviews or concerts and add a trending sound at the background. Make sure it’s an upbeat one that really hits the beat with the transitions of the videos.
  • Dance choreographies: You already know it. Learn a simple choreography to start with and post it to see how it goes. Also choreographies and audios come as a package so you don’t have to find a different sound.
  • Lip-syncing videos: These kind of videos are mostly comedy related videos. Like little sketches and anecdotes from movies. In lip-syncing videos, texts that are written on the videos are most likely to be seen to explain the situation or their aim on using the specific audio.
  • Vlog Reels: Reels in Instagram loves vloging type of videos. People love to see a few glimpses of your day as a little vlog. Show some things you do in a period of time you chose or record your day from morning to night. Don’t forget to add a suitable audio at the back of it.
  • Stitching to someone’s Reel: Collaborating with another creator might work for you and the person at the other side of the stitch. Choose a trending one or one that you think might be a fun content with a little twist.

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Instagram Reels Insights

You can see how well your Reel is doing by reviewing it’s insights. No need to specifically be a Business Account or etc. View the Insights by opening up your own reel and clicking the three dots on the right bottom corner. There you go.

Instagram Reels vs TikTok

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TikTok (former Musical.ly) has been into our lives for almost six years. First it was mostly a teenage audienced app and an alternative for Vine at it’s time. Then it transformed into TikTok and even the format was the same as it’s old layout, it started to gain attention. At first, a younger audience started to download it and it was more of like a dancing, lip-syncing platform. Before the pandemic hit, everyone had a prejudgment about it. People thought it was ‘cringe’ and denied downloading it. As people started to get bored while quarantining, it became popular. Now, from child to elder, a majority of people has TikTok. 

After a while, TikTok creators became a thing, just like Insta-influencers. Everyone started to post their TikToks on to Instagram. Like Tweet screenshots being posted on Instagram, it became more often. All of the video content in Instagram, turned into recycled TikToks. After almost one year of a TikTok fever, Reels in Instagram launched. I will not be introducing you to Reels once again as this is an article of it, but I will compare their differences.

To look at them both, they look the same. You shoot at video or combine other visuals which are pre-shot on your phone to the video maker layout of both apps, add some music or a custom audio, adjust the lengths of the clips or auto-synchronize them, add texts or effects as you’d like as a topping and voila; you have a Reel or a TikTok. But we have some differences here and there.

  • First of all, do you know how long are Instagram Reels? Reels in Instagram can be shot up to 15, 30 or 60 seconds. But a TikTok can be up to 15,30, 60 or 3 straight minutes with it’s latest update.

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  • When you make a Reel and publish it only to your story, it’ll disappear after 24 hours just like a story and won’t be featured in any parts of Instagram. Basically, it’ll behave like a story. But on TikTok, you don’t have a chance to only publish it on your story. You either publish it on the feed, or don’t.
  • If you want to have one copy of the Reel you made, you can have it. But- without the music. If you put a sound from the Instagram library, you cannot save it with the music to your phone gallery. Instagram is sensitive about the copyright. But at the other hand, you can save the TikTok you just made. This time sound’s included.
  • The saving feature actually has another twist. If the creator of a TikTok that you liked gave the permission for someone to download it from the settings also, you can. But there is no chance of you downloading another person’s Reel in Instagram, of course if you’re not screen recording it.

At the end of the day, Reels is an important feature of Instagram and should be used more often if you want to be known with what you’re doing. Using it often doesn’t get you anything unless you miss the trends. Adjust to the trends your own way, and maybe one day you can get viral too. 

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