What began with Vine (RIP, our fallen brother) has evolved into an artform revolving around micro-videos and the music that accompanies them. After Vine’s collapse, Musical.ly emerged to fill the gaping, less-than-one-minute-long video void in our hearts and was later rebranded as TikTok. It quickly became a cultural sensation, with 800 million users and over 2 billion downloads. In fact, it was Apple’s top app for Quarter 1 in 2019, with 33 million downloads, and is still holding strong as a popular destination to dance, showcase your art, find a few laughs, or pass the time.
Now, a new competitor has thrown its hat into the ring. But will they emerge on top?
What Are Instagram Reels?
Officially described as “a new way to create and discover short, entertaining videos on Instagram,” Reels has been dubbed a TikTok copycat by many. But, despite its striking resemblance, this new Instagram feature is giving TikTok a run for its money, with influencers and brands alike bringing it into their marketing strategy as a supplemental platform to share their message.
Like TikTok, Reels offers a platform to create and edit 15-30 second videos that can be jazzed up with various accouterments.
In the official announcement for the new feature, Instagram notes that it offers “a variety of creative editing tools… to help create your reel,” which includes:
- Audio: Instagram has a built-in “music library” that users can pull from or upload original audio by recording a reel with it. If you choose to upload original audio and have a public account, others will be able to use those clips in their own reels. Like TikTok, user-created audio becomes a part of the integrated library.
- AR Effects: Instagram offers both built-in and user-created effects to use in your clips.
- Timer and Countdown: Support for hands-free recording with user-set timers and 3-second countdowns.
- Align: A keystone of the TikTok economy, Instagram Reels also offers alignment options that allow users to create seamless transitions between video clips, allowing them to create effects like “magic” outfit changes and location swaps.
- Speed Controls: Users can speed up or slow down different parts of their clips and audio, allowing for even more creative control over your content.
- Options for Clip-by-Clip, Single Shot, or Video Library Uploads
While these are all features that TikTok also offers, there are a few differences, the most obvious being that TikTok is a platform in and of itself, while Reels is a feature of the Instagram app.
Other contrasts include a 30-second video limit, versus TikTok’s 1-minute limit, and the ability to post Reels to your Instagram stories, where they will automatically delete after 24 hours. On TikTok, users have to manually delete videos. Otherwise, they remain on the platform permanently.
How to Access and Use Instagram Reels
Want to try your hand at making your own 15-second videos? We’ll walk you through, step-by-step:
- Open your Instagram Stories Camera.
- At the bottom, scroll over to “Reels.”
- Get familiar with the tools on the left side. In order, they are Video Length, Audio, Speed, Effects, and Timer. Once you have content recorded, Align becomes the last selectable option, allowing you to weave clips together for seamless transitions.
- Record or upload the content you want to use for your video. Remember, you can do it as a single-shot or clip-by-clip. You can also trim your video by tapping on the clip you want to edit.
- When you’re done with the content, you can add text, stickers, and drawings to enhance the video.
- Once you’ve satisfied your inner Speilberg, it’s time to share your art with the world! Hit the Share To button. Here, you will be able to rewatch your final product, choose a thumbnail to use as your cover art, and add in a caption.
Note that if you have a public account, the Reels will be available for anyone to view through Explore. It will also give viewers access to any original audio you used in the video.
Private accounts will post their reels to their followers only. Viewers will not be able to use your original audio or share your video with others.
What This Means for Marketing
Instagram Reels fulfills the same basic marketing niche that TikTok does. It gives you space and tools to create short, creative video content, allows brands to be funny and authentic without overt advertising, and particularly appeals to the Millenial and Gen Z demographics.
It also opens up the space to share content you’ve already made on TikTok with your Instagram followers. While true that TikTok is extremely popular, Instagram boasts a steady 1 billion followers. Even more compelling is that, while your customers can follow you on TikTok, many of them are already seeing you on their Instagram feed. Reels allows you to bring them content where they already are, without relying on them downloading TikTok to catch your latest uploads.
Finally, it gives you marketing opportunities that are more authentic than staged photos. You can go behind the scenes of your business, show off new products, announce sales, or answer questions that your followers send you. Better yet, you can open the floor to showcase your brand’s personality with humor and creativity that will compel your customers, both present and future, to engage with you.
While it’s yet to be seen whether Instagram Reels becomes as popular as TikTok, it has a lot of potential. Invest some time in looking at how competitors are using the feature, then consider whether or not it’s something you feel comfortable bringing to the marketing table. Worst case scenario is that you spend an afternoon cringing at the terrible dances and bad jokes.