In August of this year, Instagram released their latest video feature, Reels.
Whilst some brands may have shied away from testing new formats and platforms during this time, the boom of TikTok had shown a clear consumer demand for snackable, entertaining video content.
Tackling a new, playful format can seem like a daunting task, but we have pulled together some tips to help brands start to grow share of voice across the platform. With current adoption levels of Reels low, and Instagram expected to extend Shopping across the feature, it is the perfect time to get testing.
Let’s get started!
Understand the tool
The user experience remains largely unchanged
Unlike Stories, which suddenly appeared at the top of the Instagram feed in 2016, Reels require the user to exit the main feed and navigate to the separate Reels feed. The original Instagram offering consequently remains mostly unchanged for those who like the app as it is.
Following the 2016 release, there was scepticism over Instagram Stories, due to the offering being so similar to Snapchat. However, users soon transitioned over and enjoyed having both styles of content integrated into one app.
A comparison with TikTok
Lockdown was unquestionably the catalyst to the 2020 TikTok boom. People were spending more time at home, had plenty of spare time, and were eager to create and consume content that would brighten people’s day. According to reports from Ofcom, TikTok reached 12.9 million users in April, up from 5.4 million in January.
There are some minor differences between TikTok and Reels, however on the surface they are almost identical. But this does not mean that content can simply be repurposed, so trying to cut corners on a creative budget may hinder your success. For example, some creators have simply re-posted TikTok videos to Reels, creating an unfinished or lazy result, as the TikTok logo remains on the video.
Additionally, TikTok allows the creation of content up to one minute long, but Reels have a maximum length of 30 seconds, meaning that further editing may be required.
The content created for Reels is unique
User behaviour varies between each social media app. So, to be successful, content must be fresh and original, but in the native style of the chosen platform.
Traditionally, the Instagram feed has been aspirational, where people select the highlights of their lives and document them on their grid. Stories were introduced to make Instagram more relatable, through providing a platform for the ‘unpolished’ day to day.
Reels are different again. They are short, snappy, funny, and highly creative. The tone is far less about who you are and what you have, instead favouring humour and creativity above all else.
Gymshark, a challenger sportwear brand, have been making great use of Reels since their release. The creative for their Stories is different to their Reels, as Reels utilise audio. Typically, people watch Stories with their sound off, but Reels are a sound-on environment, therefore opening the creative possibilities.
This Reel featuring @marctheboxer uses humorous audio to perfectly match his movement. The production of this video is much more casual, and less polished, than the creatives used on their main feed (see below) and their stories. This shows a different side to the personality of the brand.
Utilise your existing community, whilst reaching new users
A huge benefit to creating Reels (over starting a new TikTok account), is that you can reach your existing community instead of starting from scratch. Producing new content will add further value for your existing followers, strengthen brand awareness, and create positive sentiments.
When you create a Reel, it will always be stored in the Reels tab of your profile. But there are two options when sharing your videos. Either they enter the public Reels feed only, or they enter both the public feed and your personal feed (meaning that your followers can see them too). The second option is the best way to provide value to your existing audience whilst increasing reach.
There is no guarantee that your Reel will be shown to new users, unless it is selected by the Instagram algorithm to feature in the public feed. But, if you are producing creative and entertaining content, as well as utilising popular hashtags and sound overlays, then discovery by new audiences is likely. The algorithm has been designed to show ‘Featured’ videos to users based upon who they already follow, what content they interact with, and where they are.
Show off your brand using the creative options
The opportunity to produce new content provides a chance for growth. Smaller brands can take advantage of this and challenge competitors with deeper pockets.
The potential for discovery by new audiences, makes Reels an ideal addition to the communications strategy for up-and-comers, and challenger brands.
The creative possibilities of Reels are greater than anything that Instagram has offered previously.
Creators can choose from a selection of audio, different video speeds, the timer setting (allowing hands-free recording), timed text and stickers and the Ghost tool. This tool allows you to see the last frame from the previous video segment, giving a seamless and blended effect between scenes. This is often used in fashion videos, where creators appear to ‘jump’ in an out of different outfits. In this Reel by Lottie G Eliot she styles several Bratz doll themed outfits.
Creativity doesn’t have to be expensive
Because Reels can be made at home by anybody, viewers are not judging the production quality. On TikTok, for example, often when men pretend to be women, they simply place a towel on their head. The low-budget props are part of what makes these videos funny and memorable, so anyone can get involved.
Tailor content to your business
In order to grow your business using Reels, your content must be relevant to your products or services. Due to the many creative options available, the result can be fun and interesting, rather than looking like an ad.
Starting a challenge can help to reach new users as the content is shareable. This could be as simple as a ‘Full face of [insert brand] makeup challenge’ or a Keepy-Uppy challenge with one of your products.
Partnering with influencers may also grow your audience, as your brand will be exposed to their following. Haul videos are a fantastic way for an influencer to show off a product range. As always, brand partnerships with influencers need to be authentic and a good brand fit, so choose wisely.
There are so many brands out there testing the space, with some of our personal favourites outlined below:
– Palmer’s in the US have created a skincare “how to” routine incorporating products but keeping the pacing and transitions flowing at a great tempo
– Brewdog produced a Reel of a Japanese inspired Kobe beef burger to eat alongside their beer.
– Cult Beauty have been making #TextureTuesday Reels, where they show the texture of different products by spooning them out the pot. Whilst some viewers are concerned about wasting products, most find the videos satisfying.
– Finally, Sweaty Betty have made a mixture of Reels like GymShark’s, that focus on athletes performing incredible stunts, and also more fashion-oriented videos.
Lauren Haynes, Account Executive
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