What is Instagram Reels? Instagram Reels Explained

By Editorial Staff

If you’ve spotted a clapboard icon on your home feed or your Explore page, you’ve already been introduced to Instagram’s newest feature. Aiming to compete with TikTok amongst the TikTok ban rumors, Facebook rolled out a new short-form video format on Instagram called Instagram Reels. Using Reels, Instagram users can record and edit videos with unique audio, effects, and music soundtracks.

With a similar recording and viewing experience to TikTok, influencers all over the globe have jumped on board with Reels to share fun, creative videos with their audiences. If you’re eager to learn more or ready to create Reels of your own, here is a complete guide to this new, popular tool. 

What is Instagram Reels?

 On August 5, 2020,  Instagram announced a new feature to rival TikTok: Instagram Reels. According to Instagram, Reels was created as a new way for users to create and discover short, entertaining videos on the platform. Unlike other short-form video platforms, Reels are only 15-second multi-clip videos, but you can record and edit them with audio, effects, and creative tools in a similar way to TikTok.

Instagram Reels are able to be shared with followers on your Feed, and if you have a public account, you can even make your Reels available to the wider Instagram community through a new section on the Explore page specifically tailored to Reels. This way, anyone can have the chance to become a Reels creator on Instagram and reach new audiences globally. 

While the algorithm is new and hasn’t quite been deciphered yet, it feels similar to the TikTok For You Page, which is influenced by who you already follow, what content you interact with, and where you’re located. Some Reels also are designated with a “Featured” label above the caption. Featured Reels are a selection of public Reels chosen by Instagram to help other users discover original content they’ll like.


Difference Between Instagram Reels and Instagram Videos/IGTV

If you’re wondering why Instagram would roll out Reels when IGTV and IG video exists, there’s are some key differences that set the two apart:

  1. Competition from IG: It’s always important to remember that Instagram typically competes with other platforms by creating new, innovative spins on popular features. They developed Instagram Stories through the influence of Snapchat, and now they came out with Reels through the influence of TikTok. When it comes to IGTV, the feature is believed to be Instagram’s answer to YouTube.
  2. Long-form vs Short-form: IGTV is perfect for long-form content that is usually edited like a professional video. In other words, IGTV videos are not as informal as Stories. Through IGTV, you can post a full-length video that can be shared with a preview on your profile and feed. With IG Video, you can only share up to one minute of your video to your profile and feed. As for Reels, these videos are limited to 15 seconds.
  1. Limited Editing Tools: Reels users have access to a vast editing library and music library that allows them to add fun, creative edits to their videos. These options, along with using others’ audio, are not available on IGTV or through a normal IG video.
  1. Feature Differences: Just like YouTube, IGTV is defined by “channels” and the content posted on those channels. On IGTV, you’ll see navigation tabs like “For You”, “Following”, and “Popular” in order to see videos the algorithm recommends to you. Because the content is longer, IGTV emulates YouTube in the way that it has a built-in feature that remembers where you left off on a video you didn’t finish, so you can continue the video from where you had to stop. IG Video and Reels do not share these same features.

Why Should You Use Instagram Reels?

Although Reels videos are limited to 15 seconds compared to TikTok’s maximum length of 60 seconds, there are benefits to using this new short-form video tool. For one, Vishal Shah, Instagram’s head of product, claims that Reels will differ from TikTok by giving users a more built-out augmented reality platform, as well as offering them a way to make short-form videos inside Instagram, a social media app they already love and know how to use.

With Reels now available in the United States and 50 other countries, it’s beneficial for influencers to hop onto the new feature and take advantage of its tools in order to earn a spot on the Explore page and draw in new followers. Prominent brands, like Sephora and Walmart, are also hopping onto Reels to connect with their audiences and promote new products, so already having a presence on Reels can help you land a brand collaboration. Also, if your Reel goes viral, you’ll see your engagement rise on your Instagram – a win-win situation.


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How to Use Instagram Reels

Like other video apps, Reels can be recorded in a series of clips, all at once, or using video uploads from your phone gallery. To make your first Instagram Reel, head to your Instagram camera and select “Reels”. After capturing your video through the IG camera, you’ll see a wide variety of editing tools on the left side of your phone screen to help you create your Reel and make it fun to watch. Here are the tools you can access:

  • Audio: With this tool, you can search for a song on the Instagram music library. If you can’t find a song you like, you can add your own original audio by simply recording your reel. Like TikTok, you can share a Reel with your original audio which other people can use by selecting “Use Audio” on your video.
  • AR Effects: Instagram Reels has a huge effect gallery that was created by Instagram itself and creators from all over the world. You can also record multiple clips with different effects so you don’t have to stick to just one.
  • Timer and Countdown: The timer allows you to record any of your clips hands-free. Once you press record, you’ll see a short countdown before the timer starts.
  • Align: Using the align tool, you can line up objects from your previous clip before recording your next to help create seamless transitions.
  • Speed: The speed tool allows users to speed up or slow down part of the video or audio they selected. This way, they can stay on beat or make slow motion Reels.
  • GIFs and Stickers: Like your IG stories, you can also use a select number of GIFs and stickers on your Reels.


Sharing Your Instagram Reel

When sharing your Reel, you can save it as a draft, change the cover photo, add a caption and hashtags, and tag your friends. After you share your Reel, it will stay on a separate Reels tab on your profile where other users can find all of the Reels you’ve shared. You can also share it to your Feed so your Reel will appear on your main profile grid, though you do have the option to remove it.

If you have a public account, you can share your Reel to the Explore page and to your Feed. When you share your Reels featuring certain songs, hashtags, or effects, your Reel may also appear on dedicated pages when someone clicks on that song, hashtag, or effect. With a private account, Reels follows your privacy settings, only your followers can see your Reel on your Feed. People will not be able to use original audio from your Reels, and people cannot share your video with others who don’t follow you.

Whether you have a public or private account, you can share your Reel to your Story, your Close Friends Story, or share it through a direct message. If you do share it this way, your Reel will act as a regular Story in the way that it will not be shared to the Explore page, it will not live on your profile, and it will disappear after 24 hours.

According to social media experts, Reels is only the beginning. After Instagram dropped Instagram Stories in 2016, 150 million users took advantage of it. Now, more than 500 million users use Instagram Stories every day. With Instagram’s many successes and innovative features, Reels is bound to continue growing in popularity sooner rather than later. Now is the time to hop onto Reels to help boost the feature’s usage and boost your online engagement simultaneously.

Check out these influencers who are killing the Instagram Reels game: 

CreatorMost Popular Reel
Brent RiveraWAP Change Up
Nick UhasProperties of Glass
Lele PonsWhich Friend Are You?
Eva GutowskiThrowback to New York

This article was written by Selena Ponton

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