Last year, people were stuck at home craving entertainment during lockdown and TikTok’s short-form video content exploded, so much so that TikTok was the most downloaded app of the year. TikTok popularised a new form of social content—‘the social music video’, and a whole new way to consume and participate in social culture.

Instagram took note and launched a direct short-form video competitor called Reels in 50 countries worldwide in August 2020.

This month marks one year of Instagram Reels, and it’s clear Mark Zuckerberg and his team are backing Reels to go all the way. Let’s look at how Reels has evolved and how brands and influencers can maximise their efforts on Reels.

Keeping it Reel

There are clear differences to establish between Reels and TikTok. Although the formats may seem similar, Reels is an additional feature rolled out by Instagram and another way to discover content beyond the feed. It’s not its own entity like TikTok.

Reels is at the forefront of Instagram. Content can be discovered by the community in the Reels tab, as well as the Explore page, Stories and Main Feed. This presence could be the answer as to why brands and creators have favoured the format as a growth strategy this year.

Similarly to TikTok, users can create and discover short, 15- to 60-second multi-clip videos with audio and effects. However, unlike TikTok, Instagram Reels doesn’t allow the use of photos—all Reels must be video content. When the format launched, TikTokers often repurposed TikTok content on Instagram, but this has since been de-favoured by the algorithm.

So, how has Reels evolved, and how can brands and influencers maximise their Reel content?

How IG Reels has evolved

Instagram quickly realised after launching that Reels could offer another lucrative e-commerce opportunity. In December 2020, Instagram welcomed in-app shopping in Reels. Businesses and creators can tag products when they create a Reel, making them fully shoppable, and viewers can click “View Products” to either buy, save, or learn more about the featured products. Additionally, creators can tag products from partner brands, and show they are working in partnership with a brand, building on the ‘Branded Content’ tools for Reels.

That’s not all. Fast Forward to June 2021, Instagram announced the global rollout of the Reel ad format, enabling brands to grow and reach more customers. This came as no surprise as a recent report outlined that 75% of users take action such as visit a retailer’s website or purchase after looking at an Instagram ad. Reel ads are full screen and vertical, similar to ads in Stories, and appear in between individual Reels, in the Reels tab, Explore and in-feed. 

In the first-ever Creator Week, Instagram vowed to support creators by investing invest over $1 billion in programs that give creators new ways to earn money for the content they create. With this increasing focus, Instagram introduced a host of monetisation options for creators, including a ‘Reels Summer bonus’ for those in the US. Instagram Creators will get paid for creating quality Reel content and will earn based on how their Reels perform. 

Since its launch Instagram has also introduced more own branded features, such as Reels Remix to rival TikTok’s Duet feature. It also extended its 15-second maximum to up to 60-seconds long, allowing users to do even more.

Maximising Reel content

Coinciding with the anniversary of Reels’ launch, the Instagram @creators profile recently shared insights into demystifying the ranking algorithm and the important signals that can increase the reach of Reels.

To determine which Reels to show users, Instagram considers these four factors: how likely users are to watch a Reel all the way through; like the post; say it was entertaining and go to the audio page to make your own Reel. The more content you watch, the more information Instagram has in order to know what to show certain users. 

The algorithm will take note of the content users have engaged and interacted with, ensuring it serves content the user enjoys. Instagram also tries to match up what users engage with by showing content similar to videos previously watched. It also rewards those that use music from the Instagram music library or original audio created or repurposed within Reels. Finally, it’s best to avoid content with low-resolution or watermarks. 

By creating consistent content with these essential elements in mind, and constantly evaluating the content’s success, brands and influencers can begin to shape their Reels content strategy and content to drive engagement and increase ROI.

If you are looking for support in your social strategy or reporting, get in touch: [email protected] 

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