If you’ve scrolled through your Instagram feed lately, you might have noticed an influx of dancing, lip-syncing and short-form videos. 

This new content is part of Instagram’s latest feature, Instagram Reels. Designed as a competitor to the ultra-popular TikTok platform, Instagram Reels brings the addictive qualities of TikTok to Instagram’s primarily millennial audience. 

The strategic move comes at the right time for Instagram, whose parent company is Facebook. Recently, several countries — including the United States — have vocalized security concerns over TikTok, which is a matter familiar to Facebook’s leadership team. As a result, TikTok has been banned in India and could face a similar fate in the U.S. 

Mix the current political climate with the fact that TikTok has seen growth unlike any social media platform before it, and it’s easy to see that Instagram and Facebook would be foolish not to dip their toes in the water.

According to AdWeek
 TikTok generated “the most downloads for any app ever in a quarter” in Q1 of 2020, and there is no expectation for its growth to stop (If your company isn’t on TikTok, read our KM101 article Why You Should Be Using TikTok.

TikTok’s core demographics are changing: once dominated by Gen-Z users, Millennials now make up a vast amount of TikTok’s user base, making it a much more attractive platform to potential advertisers. 

So what is Instagram Reels, and how can you use them in your marketing strategy?

Instagram Reels is a brand-new way to create fun and engaging content to reach a wider audience. Users can record and edit 15-second video clips set to music or various audio compilations and share them with their Reels tab, Instagram Stories, or the Explore feed.

via @jessicaworb

Almost identical to TikTok in functionality, Instagram Reels has its version of the “For You” page, a curated collection of content based on your interests, called “Reels Explore Feed.” Unlike the regular Instagram feed, which is curated with content from accounts followed by the user, the Reels Explore Feed is compiled of popular and trending content. 

Because users have an existing Instagram account, it’s likely that their Reels feed will be populated with content influenced by who they already follow, interact with, and where they are geographically located. 

Reels is distinctive from TikTok’s interface by offering its “featured” element, achieved by some videos. According to Instagram, “If your reel is featured in Explore, you’ll receive a notification. Featured reels are a selection of public reels chosen by Instagram to help you discover original content we hope will entertain and inspire you.”

This feature, while unique to Instagram Reels, feels equivalent to the same formula that helps TikTok videos achieve virality. 

Other familiar features on Instagram Reels include: 

  • Select popular music and audio clips or create audio to accompany your video
  • In-app editing tools like a timer, speed controls and effects
  • Integrated Instagram stickers 

How can my company utilize Instagram Reels for business? Like most social media platforms, Instagram Reels is a wonderful way to build your online community and expand your audience. It’s engaging, fun, and encourages creativity, which will resonate with users. 

On top of the unique opportunity to diversify your audience, using Instagram Reels will most likely result in higher engagement and reach across the board for your Instagram business account. Traditionally, platforms reward early adopters of new features by increasing their reach organically to increase the exposure of the new feature. 

Right now is the time for your brand to get in on the ground floor and establish itself as a leader. Here are three easy ways to get started: 

Create Audience-First Content
Instagram Reels is designed to be fun, fast, and engaging. Not all types of content will be successful, but knowing your audience will help you determine what kind of material might work. When you prioritize authentic content over advertising or sales, you build trust with your audience, which is essential to building a brand. Read more about how to create compelling content in our KM 101 series “Creating Compelling Social Media Content (and Avoiding Common Problems)

Share behind the scenes content
Due to the short-form, easygoing nature of Instagram Reels, a great approach to share your brand’s message in an engaging and organic way is by creating behind the scenes, product demonstrations, and educational content. French Footwear company Jonak Paris has figured out this formula, creatively showcasing new products. 

via @jonak

Repurpose old content
Learning a new platform is already overwhelming, so why not repurpose existing video content for something new? Using existing content from your collection removes the hurdle of research and development and the need for a videographer. By eliminating these hurdles, nothing is stopping your company from getting started with Reels. As you become more familiar with the feature and the algorithm, you can create a content strategy plan focused on growth. 

What’s next for Instagram Reels?
While it might be easy to write Instagram Reels off as just another app or social media platform that will soon disappear, you might want to reconsider. 

When Instagram launched Instagram Stories in 2016, there were roughly 150 million users of the feature in the first year. Today — just four years later — Instagram Stories have over 500 million users every single day. That success could be an indicator of what’s to come for Instagram Reels. Whatever your brand or business, Instagram Reels could be an incredibly powerful tool if utilized properly and professionally. Stay relevant and contact Kahn Media today for a free social media consultation.