A Beginner's Guide to Instagram Reels.

In this article, we’ll go over a step-by-step guide to help you create your first Instagram Reel and some handy tips for brands looking for ways to use this functionality in their marketing strategy.
Veena Ramakrishnan
October 28, 2020 - 8 min. read

Reels is a new content format from Instagram to create fun videos to share with your friends or anyone on Instagram. It comes with an array of effects and creative tools to record and edit 15-second multi-clip videos.

To put it into even simpler terms, it’s Facebook’s best shot at outcompeting TikTok.

Reels first launched in Brazil in late 2019, where it’s called Cenas, before gaining traction after its launch in India on account of the Indian government banning the popular short-video content platform TikTok.

According to the Influencer marketing hub, Instagram downloads in India increased from 7 million downloads in the 30 days prior to the launch of Instagram Reels to 7.8 million downloads after the launch (an increase in Instagram downloads of 11.4%).

Fast forward to a few months, Reels is now available in over 50 other countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and Japan, on both iOS and Android.

Despite being criticized as a TikTok clone, Reels has been gaining popularity among famous brands and influencers. From NBA teams like the LA lakers to big brands like Sephora, Netflix, and Walmart, the creative usage of this new short-form content format is sure to leave anyone inspired and excited about creating their own Reel content.

In this article, we’ll go over a step-by-step guide to help you create your first Instagram Reel and some handy tips for brands looking for ways to use this functionality in their marketing strategy.

But first, there is some more tea left to spill on the whole TikTok speculation and the launch of Reels. Read on to get the full picture.

The TikTok speculation…and the smooth rollout of Instagram Reels

The news of the Indian government banning 59 Chinese apps, including Tik Tok, because of border tension with China broke the souls of over 120 million Indian users of TikTok.

But that was only short-lived.

Thanks to Instagram, a TikTok-like functionality called Reels was launched to put Tiktok users in India out of their misery.

Talk about timing, amirite?

Then came the news of a possible ban of TikTok in the United States. To be honest, many of us saw this coming since it wasn’t the first time the U.S. government was concerned about the safety of its people’s private information being in the hands of China.

In August, Trump issued an executive order banning transactions with TikTok in the United States. Since then, there have been many companies showing an interest in taking over TikTok because who wouldn’t want a slice of a company that has 100 million monthly active users in the U.S.?

While we’re still not sure who gets to have TikTok now, last I checked, it was Oracle who was in the race, Instagram has cleverly been using this time to expand the launch of Reels to almost 50 countries worldwide.

Evil genius much?

How to create Instagram Reels?

Step 1: Uhm…open Instagram. 👀

Step 2: Tap the camera icon at the top right corner and click the Reels option at the bottom of the camera screen.     

Instagram Reels               

Instagram Reels

Step 3: Don’t lose your mind after seeing a variety of creative editing tools to the left side of your camera screen.

Instagram Reels

This is to help create your Reel, including:

Audio: You can either search for a song from the Instagram music library or use your own original audio by simply recording a Reel with it.

Instagram Reels

AR Effects: This tool allows you to select one of the many effects in their gallery. These effects were put together both by Instagram and creators from all over the world to help users record multiple clips with different effects.

Instagram Reels

Timer and Countdown: This is to help you set the timer to record your clips hands-free. Once you press record, you’ll get a countdown from three before recording begins for the time you have selected.

Instagram Reels

Align: This is a really cool feature that appears after you record the first clip to help you line up objects from your previous clip before recording your next. This also helps with creating seamless transitions like outfit changes or adding new friends into your Reel.

Instagram Reels

Speed: You can either choose to speed up or slow down part of the video or audio you selected. This helps you to stay on a beat or make slow-motion videos.

Instagram Reels

Step 4: Once you’re familiar with these tools, you can start recording your Reel one at a time in a series, all at once, or by using the video uploads from your camera roll.

Step 5: You can then share the Reel to both your Story and feed. If the Reel goes out as a Story to your friends, close friends, or in direct messages, it will stay on for only 24 hours, just as how a Story does. However, if you share it with your feed, it will live on a separate Reels tab on your profile, where people can find the Reels you’ve shared.

Instagram Reels

6 Tips to use Instagram Reels for your business

If you’re a business trying to figure out new ways to use this functionality, we got 6 tips to help you do just that. Read on to find out what they are.

1. Maintain brand consistency

Yes, even on Reels!

The first thing that comes to mind at the mention of Reels (or even TikTok for that matter) is probably dance moves, music, and all that fun looking transitional elements you see on most videos.

While those are all creative tools and elements to have in a video, just remember you don’t necessarily have to use all of them to qualify your video as a Reel.

Take the case of Burger King.

If you, like me, are an ardent follower of Burger King’s social media presence, you can tell right off the bat that the brand has a distinct personality from the way it presents itself on social. There’s fearless humor, sarcasm, and a whole lot of sass entwined in its tone and message.

That’s exactly how the brand presents itself on Reels too.

View this post on Instagram

the tension in this reel… #burgerking

A post shared by Burger King (@burgerking) on

While you can take inspiration from what other famous brands or influencers are doing on Reels, don’t stress yourself out trying to replicate what the others are doing. Maintain your brand style and stay consistent with your messaging.

2. Showcase your product

You’ve done your share of experiments by showcasing your product on Stories. So, why not do the same on Reels? Plus, you got all these creative tools to make it even more fun and engaging.

So, repurpose all your tutorials, how-to guides, tips, and other resources by adding descriptive captions, text overlay, and hashtags on Reels to let your users know what you’re talking about.

Sephora shared a Reel on how to get Selena Gomez’s signature look that received over 1.1 million views.

View this post on Instagram

The formula for @selenagomez’s signature look with @rarebeauty? Simple. 1. Winged liner. 2. Full brows. 3. Bold lip. Show us your #RareRoutine!

A post shared by Sephora (@sephora) on

Google does its thang by sharing free resources for people who want to learn new skills.

3. Hype it up with sneak peeks

Teasing your audience with sneak peeks of your latest product always creates a frenzy on social.

So, don’t forget to create a Reel as part of your promotion strategy for an upcoming product launch or a movie premiere.

If you’re in the streaming industry, this works very well in your favor to share teasers of your latest binge-worthy tv shows or movies for the fans.

View this post on Instagram

she really said 👁👄👁 [🎥 Enola Holmes]

A post shared by Netflix US (@netflix) on

4. Repurpose your TikTok content

Now, come on. Don’t pretend like you haven’t come across any Reels bearing the watermark of Tiktok on the top left corner of the video because I have!

View this post on Instagram

Part 2 of making a Super Shock Shadow! What would you want to see us make NEXT? 👇

A post shared by ColourPop Cosmetics (@colourpopcosmetics) on

By repurposing TikTok videos, you get the chance to introduce a new type of content to followers who haven’t used TikTok before. So, post some of your best TikTok videos on Instagram and find out how your audience is reacting to it.

5. Post behind-the-scenes content

You’ve done this on Stories and feed, so might as well give it a go on Reels, amirite?

Behind-the-scenes content gives your audience a chance to see the human side of your brand that successively builds trust and makes your look authentic. So, give them relatable content that reflects who you are as a brand to your audience.

View this post on Instagram

Journey of your Amazon order 📦😊 #DeliveringSmiles

A post shared by Amazon (@amazon) on

6. Make use of those fun tools

And finally, make use of those tools.

The creative tools are literally what makes Reels distinct from the Stories feature so, be sure to mix things up and put those tools and effects to better use.

Final Thoughts

What TikTok does best is to eliminate the paradox of choice. Unlike Instagram, users aren’t spoiled for choices.

The central focus of TikTok lies in watching and creating fun short clips. But that’s not the case on Instagram. Instagram Reels is just one of many functions that Instagram provides for its users and is often not the first thing that you see when you open the app.

While Reels makes people go seek out that function, TikTok does a fine job at surfacing the content without any manual work. Could this pose a problem to Reels in making people switch to using their competitive service? Can Reels replicate what TikTok does best? It’s too soon to tell.

But that said, brands and influencers continue to experiment with Reels while simultaneously maintaining their presence on TikTok. We still don’t know what the future holds for TikTok, so if you ask me, Reels is definitely worth experimenting with to reach new audiences and create compelling content.

Get started with Falcon

At the end of the day, social media can only grant an equal playing field to organically reach new customers, but the success of it will always ride on the marketing strategy employed.

And let’s be honest, these days you can’t truly make headway on social media without a software suite. Not only can they free you from spreadsheets and email, but they can also ensure you have an overview of all your social media activities.

As a social media management platform, we’re constantly evolving to integrate the latest Instagram features into our own platform.

Using Falcon.io, you can create, manage, and collaborate on your Instagram strategy, including Stories, videos, and images, and also plan your next campaign with advanced insights. Talk to one of our strategists today and discover just how deep you can now go with your social analytics.