In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive into how to use Instagram Reels, Instagram’s latest in-app feature that let’s you record, edit, and post 15-second multi-clip videos with audio, filters, and effects.

We will cover the following topics in detail:

Table Of Contents

Let’s get started!

What is Instagram Reels?

As mentioned above, Reels allow you to publish 15-second multi-clip videos to Instagram. If you’re thinking that sounds pretty familiar, that’s because it is. It’s a lot like TikTok, the number one most downloaded app in the Apple Store and sixth largest social media network (right behind Instagram).

TikTok the most downloaded app

Image Source: Oberlo

Not familiar with TikTok (really?), that’s okay. You can check out our Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Marketing Strategy for TikTok or just skip ahead to the topic at-hand and watch this demo video of Instagram Reels in action posted by the good folks at TechCrunch:

And here’s a tweet direct from the Instagram team that introduced Reels:

Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, has been planning to challenge TikTok for some time now. The first attempt, an app called Lasso, lasted just 20 months after its launch in late 2018 and the timing of Instagram Reels launch is nothing short of strategic. The future of TikTok in the U.S. was called into question on July 31, amid privacy concerns. By August 5, Instagram Reels was available in over 50 countries, including the U.S. and Canada. Well played, Zuck. Well played

Daniel Ndukwu, CoFounder of UsefulPDF explains “Facebook is fond of using the best of its competitors and incorporating it into its apps. It happened with Snapchat and now with TikTok. It’s going to be interesting to see how people adapt to this new paradigm. It may be a good idea to hedge your bets and use both channels in tandem for the time being.”  

What’s the Difference Between Instagram Reels & TikTok?

While many might consider Reels to be a clone of TikTok, there are a few key differences:  

  1. Instagram Reels lives in Instagram This might sound pretty obvious, it’s an important fact to consider. Given Donald Trump’s executive order against TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, influencers will (potentially) have no choice but to switch over to Instagram Reels if they want to continue making money off their posts. The other thing to note here is that, with Reels, you’ll be able to share your posts with your existing IG network.

  2. Licensed music on Reels It hasn’t been made official yet, but Facebook has confirmed that it’ll be integrating licensed music in Instagram Reels soon.

  3. Time limits TikTok’s maximum video length is currently 60 seconds, while Instagram Reels only allows for 15 second video clips.

  4. Sound sync + audio suggestions As of now, IG Reels is missing a key feature that many TikTok users love; sound sync. Sound sync allows users to automatically sync their various clips to the sound of the music. TikTok also provides audio suggestions that align with the content you’re creating.

There are a few more differences between the two platforms which are covered in depth in this video by Kitty from Atola Visuals:  

TIP: Did you know you can use a social media calendar tool like HeyOrca to create and schedule Instagram posts for the multiple brands you manage? You can also take advantage of features like:

  • Post collaboration – get real-time, in-app feedback from your team or clients.
  • Post approvals – scheduled Instagram posts will go out only after required stakeholders have approved the content
  • Reporting – Automatically generate visual, easy-to-understand reports that you can share with clients
  • Instagram Grid Previews – see exactly how your posts will appear on your clients’ Grid and can drag and drop posts to customize the order

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Why You Should Use Instagram Reels for Your Business

According to Instagram, with Reels, “you can share with your followers and can be discovered by the huge, diverse Instagram community on Explore. As one of the fastest-growing social media platforms, Instagram has over one billion monthly active users around the world.”

If you or your clients already have an established following on IG, you won’t have to build a new audience from scratch on yet another platform.

And, while Instagram Reels capabilities and algorithm are perhaps not yet as robust as that of its rival, the app has a history of refining its updates to surpass its competition.

Think Snapchat: after Instagram launched its Stories feature in 2016, it took just eight months for Instagram Stories to exceed Snapchats daily user count, according to CNN.

With the impending threat of Trump’s executive order against TikTok’s parent company, we’ll likely see a flock of TikTokers rushing over to Instagram Reels in the coming weeks.

If you’re overwhelmed by Instagram Reels after you just got the hang of TikTok, don’t worry.

We’ve got you. Let’s dive into how you can access and create Instagram Reels:    

Where Can You Watch Instagram Reels?

So, you might be wondering how to find examples of Reels on Instagram. Unfortunately, Instagram has made it a bit tricky to find Reels that other people have published.

As of now, there are three ways you can see them:  

  1. Scroll through your feed and look for posts with the Reel Icon in the bottom left corner. Once the clip starts, the icon will expand and say “Watch Reels” before contracting again. Clicking on the icon will let you access Instagram’s Reels Explore Page. Unlike Stories, Reels won’t auto-play the next Reel and you’ll have to swipe down to continue browsing through them. Check out the Reel below created by Rhea Freeman to see what we mean:
how to find Instagram Reels screenshot
how to access Instagram Reels videos screenshot 2
  1. Navigate to the Explore Page by clicking the magnifying glass at the bottom of the app. There, you’ll likely see a Reel featured at the top of the page. Click the Reel and swipe down to see more.
how to access Instagram Reels from the IG explore page screenshot
  1. If an account has published Reels, you will see the icon featured on their profile. Navigate to a user’s Instagram Grid and the icon will show up directly below their bio. Clicking on this will display all of their active Reels. The Instagram Reels Explore Page will show you Reels from accounts you follow, accounts that are trending, and accounts that Instagram has deemed relevant to you.
how to access Instagram Reels from a user's profile page

TIP: Featured Reels are public Reels chosen by Instagram. If your Reel is chosen, you’ll receive a notification, according to Instagram.    

How to Create Instagram Reels

And now, the part you’ve all been waiting for – let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of how to create Instagram Reels.

There are two ways you can access the Instagram Reel’s “Create Mode”.  

  1. Create Reels while watching other Reels in the Explore Page. While browsing through other peoples’ Reels, all you have to do is click the camera icon (top right of the screen) and you’ll be taken to Create Mode.
how to create an Instagram Reel step 1 - go to create mode
  1. You can also access Create mode from your Home Page. Navigate to the Instagram camera at the top left of your screen, then slide to the Reels option at the bottom of the screen. There, you’ll be able to start recording and editing your own Reel
how to create Instagram Reels option 2 - access create mode from home page

Once you’re in Create Mode, you can upload video clips by: 

  1. Uploading prerecorded videos that live on your phone Click the gallery icon at the bottom left of your screen or swipe up. It’s important to note that Instagram doesn’t currently support adding images to Reels.
How to add pre-recorded videos in Instagram Reels
  • After you’ve selected a video, you can edit the length by using the trimming tool located at the bottom of the screen. The clip will play repeatedly and a bar at the top indicates what percentage of the time you’ve used up. You’ll also see options at the top right of the screen to add Instagram Stickers, draw on the clip, and add text. Just like you would in Instagram Stories.

  • When you’re ready to upload the clip, click on the upload button at the top right of your screen.

    • You can continue adding clips until your 15 seconds are up by repeating the steps above.

Heads Up: most of the editing tools for IG Reels are not available on prerecorded videos. If you’d like to use Instagram Reels, but want the flexibility of using prerecorded videos, you can use a video editor like Veed to easily modify and optimize your video clips for Instagram Reels.

  1. Filming a video directly from the app Like you would with Stories, you’ll just hold onto the Instagram Reels icon at the center of the screen while you are in create mode.  

    • This method also lets you use the Reels editing tools to enhance your videos while you’re recording them. We’ll talk more about the editor in a moment…

Heads Up: these features need to be selected before you record your clip

Recording Instagram Reels In the App
  1. Using videos recorded in your app + prerecorded videos together – You aren’t bound to one method. You can create a Reel using a mixture of in-app and prerecorded videos too!   

TIP: Since you can’t upload images from your gallery to IG Reels, you should select your video gallery instead of our entire media gallery to avoid scrolling through images to find past recordings. To do this, all you have to do is click on the “Gallery” button at the top left of your screen and select the “Videos.”

 

Prerecorded Video Tip for Instagram Reels

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How to Edit Your Instagram Reel

Instagram Reels has a variety of editing features on the left side of the screen.If you’ve uploaded pre-recorded videos from your gallery, you’ll only be able to use the Music editor. All the other functions are exclusive to videos filmed from within the app and need to be selected before you start recording. Here’s what you can do:  

  1. Browse and add music (music icon)

  2. Adjust the playback speed of your recording (play button icon)

  3. Add effects to your recording (smiley face icon)

  4. Select how long your recording will be (timer icon)

  5. Align your clips (2 screen? icon)

We’ll walk through these steps in detail below, but if you’re more of a visual learner you can check out this helpful video from Shutterstock:

 

How to Add Music to Your Instagram Reels

Start by clicking on the music icon to access the audio editor. You can browse through the various categories that Instagram has populated for you or use the search bar if you’ve already got a song in mind.

How to Add Music to Instagram Reels

Once you’ve picked your song, you can use the audio editor to pick the portion you want featured in your recording.

Just drag your finger along the audio trimmer at the bottom of your screen. Instagram also provides suggestions for where you could start your audio.

These are indicated by the colored notches on the trimmer.

How to Trim Music in Instagram Reels

TIP: Want to use the music or sound from someone else’s Reel? That’s fair game! Just tap on the audio on the Reel from the Reels Explore Page, then tap Use Audio. It’s worth noting that this will create a new Reel from scratch.    

How to Adjust the Playback Speed of Your Recordings

When recording a video directly from Instagram Reels, you have the option to slow down or speed up your clip by using this feature. Simply click on the play button icon in the editor menu, choose the speed you prefer, and start recording.    

How to Add Instagram Filters to Your Reels

Similar to Instagram Stories, you can add filters to your Instagram Reels while you record. All you have to do is select the Smiley Face icon on the left side of your screen, pick the effect you want, and start recording. 

TIPS:  

  • When you’re recording multiple clips in Instagram Reels, the effects will switch back to the default after you’ve captured your footage. Make sure you apply your desired effects each time you start recording a new clip.

  • Want to explore more Instagram Filters? When choosing one, scroll all the way right until you see a magnifying glass and click on it to browse all the available effects. You can scroll through the list, use the categories at the top to narrow your options, or click the magnifying glass at the top right of your screen to search by keyword.

  • Check out this awesome tutorial video on how to add a custom green-screen to your Instagram Reels

How to Set a Time Limit on Your Instagram Reels Recording

This is a really helpful tool when you are stitching together multiple clips into one Reel.

By selecting the timer icon, you’ll be able to select how long your clip can be before recording it. A bar will popup that shows you how many seconds you have left and the slider lets you adjust the length of the video you’ll be adding.

After setting the time limit, you’ll click on the Reels button to start recording and a 3 second countdown timer will appear before the recording starts.

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How to Align Multiple Clips in Instagram Reels

If you’re stitching together multiple video clips of one subject in a Reel, you’ll definitely want to check out the align feature.

This feature will overlay the final frame of your previous clip so that you can align the one you are recording for clean continuity. Just make sure to select the align icon (last option on the left side of you screen) before recording your next video snippet.

We could explain it for you here, but you’re better off checking out this awesome tutorial by Parker Kit Hill:


TIP: The alignment editor will only appear after you’ve recorded at least one clip.  

How to Publish an Instagram Reel

Now that you’ve created and edited your first Reel, there’s one final step left: Publishing it for the world to see! Here’s how you’ll do it:  

  1. Click the right arrow beside the Reels recording button.

  2. Here you’ll be able to review your Reel in full before publishing it. You can also edit the post with drawings, stickers, or text.

  3. Once you’re satisfied with your Reel, click the right arrow at the bottom of your screen.

  4. Here you’ll be able to select a cover story from the recording (or add your own from your media library), add a caption (don’t forget to include popular Instagram Hashtags), and tag other users.

  5. You can choose to share it to Instagram Reels or share it as a Story. If you choose to share it as a Story, it will disappear after 24 hours, like a typical Instagram Story.

  6. You also have the option of sharing your Reel to your Instagram Feed. Use the toggle to turn that option on or off.

  7. If you’re ready to show the world your Reel, press the Share button. If you want to come back to your Reel and share it later, you can always save it as a draft.

Once your Instagram Reel has been published, you can check it out by visiting your profile and clicking the Reels tab on your profile which is located just under your bio. That’s it … you did it!

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How to Use Instagram Reels for Your Business and Clients

Now that you know how to record, edit, and post your first Instagram Reel, you’re probably wondering what content you should be sharing.

Here are four ways you can use Instagram Reels to drive reach and engagement for your clients and your agency:  

  1. Share a behind-the-scenes look at your business – Your audience (as well as new potential customers) want to get to know your personality. Create Reels that showcase your team or offer a sneak-peak at a new project. This is an excellent opportunity to have fun, be creative, and show your true colors!

  2. Leverage influencers – Just as your existing strategy on Instagram and TikTok might involve Influencers, so too can your Instagram Reels strategy. Remember to partner with influencers who represent the values of your brand. Instagram users worldwide two-thirds of which are under the age of 35 are savvy and can easily spot inauthentic partnerships.

  3. Provide informative and educational content – “How To’s” are an excellent (and non-salesy) way to engage with your audience. The key to success here is to provide helpful resources that will resonate with your prospective audience. If you or your client sell athletic sneakers, you may want to share a series of 15 second stretches to reduce soreness after a run. Run a bakery? Share “So Yummy” style explainer video clips on how to create mouth-watering desserts. You’re probably thinking that 15 seconds is too little time to provide a solid how-to video. You’re probably right, but you can always share a series of Reels or direct people to a link in your bio.

  4. Showcase your product or service in action – Whether you’re launching a new product or service or highlighting an existing one, you can frame your Reels in a way that subtly promote the benefits of your offerings and address the pain points they resolve.

  5. Hype people up for your sale or promotion – Tease or announce promotions on your product or service using Instagram Reels. You can even run a social media contest. As always, make sure that you are following Instagram’s Promotion Guidelines.

  6. Start a challenge – We’ve seen our share of internet challenges over the years, and there’s no doubt that the internet loves them. Get creative and start your own! Just make sure it doesn’t include anything dangerous or offensive (IE: we’re looking at you Tide Pod Challenge folks 🤦)
  7. Ask engaging questionsAsking questions on social media is a great way to engage your audience and boost interactions. Instagram Reels is the perfect platform to flex your creative muscles while asking fun or thought-provoking questions.

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Get Inspired by These Examples of Brands Using Instagram Reels

Looking for ways to use Instagram Reels for your business or clients? A little inspiration can go a long way.

Here are just a few examples of Instagram Reels from brands and influencers:  

Xbox Instagram Reel Example

Xbox tapped into Instagram Reels audio functionality to allow users to use their XBOX sound on their own Reels. Clever.  

Our Planet Daily Instagram Reel Example

People on the internet go nuts for cute animals. While you might not have any bear cubs in your (home) office, sharing videos of your pets can be a solid way of generating some engagement and helping people connect with your brand on a personal level.

Maybelline Instagram Reel Example

Remember when we mentioned creating challenges? Here’s Maybelline’s #maybeitsmaybelline challenge in action.

Burger King Instagram Reel Example

Burger King is no slouch when it comes to using humor in their ads. Check out how they leveraged Reels for some serious LOLs.

Redbull Instagram Reel Example

Here’s Redbull doing what Redbull does best; engaging their target audience with extreme videos that they’ll love.  

ASOS Instagram Reel Example

Fashion giant, ASOS, can be seen here using the align feature on Instagram Reels to create instant wardrobe changes.

HungryHutton Instagram Reel Example

Here’s Hungry Hutton giving a “how-to” on creating Watermelon Sour Patch Chilitos. This is 100% a “smash” in my books.  

Sephora Instagram Reel Example

In this reel, Sephora combines the Instagram Reels Align feature + effects to create a fun clip featuring their Bubble Mask.

Netflix Instagram Reel Example

Netflix keeps their IG Reels nice and simple. They just use original content from their shows and movies and share them directly into Reels. This goes to show that Instagram Reels are just another channel that you could use to get your content in front of the eyes of your audience.

There you have it! Now that you’ve learned everything you need to know about Instagram Reels, how are you planning on using it? Let us know on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or TikTok or give us a shout if you have any questions!


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