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Introducing Instagram Reels

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

When discussions of TikTok being potentially banned by the U.S. administration began, users desperately looked for a new alternative to the ever-growing platform. Instagram has come up with a fierce competitor that looks very similar to TikTok, Instagram Reels. Business Insider reports that Facebook began testing this new feature within Brazil in November, followed by France and Germany in June, and India in July. Earlier this month, Instagram Reels became available in the United States, UK, Japan, Australia, and over 50 other countries. Though perfectly timed with the possible elimination of the TikTok platform, Instagram’s head of product, Vishal Shah, told reporters that the timing is “coincidental” and that Instagram has been working on this development for some time. 

How It Works 

Found in the story-creating section of Instagram, each reel can contain up to 15 seconds of video, which can be recorded as a series of clips, all at once, or with videos stored on a camera roll. Being that TikTok allows for videos up to 60 seconds, it is possible that reels will continue to evolve to compete. The reel feature includes creative editing tools such as access to audio which can be sped up or slowed down, a timer and countdown ability, AR (augmented reality) effects, and a tool that allows users to align previous clips to create smoother transitions. Users with public accounts can share reels with followers like a regular Instagram story, or can be posted to a dedicated space in the Explore section for worldwide users to view. Sharing a reel with certain songs, hashtags, or effects may translate to particular pages involving those songs, hashtags, or effects. Users with private accounts do not have to worry about their content being seen by non-followers. Not only can solely those followers view the content, but also any original audio cannot be used, and the content cannot be shared. Reels shared publicly will be stored on a reels tab on each user’s profile under their bio information and where highlights can be viewed. Reels can also be shared to a story, private “close friends”, and via direct message. Doing this allows the reel to act as a regular story, and it will disappear within 24 hours. Reels found on the explore page will be customized to each user based on their interaction with the content in a vertical scrolling fashion, similar to TikTok. Featured reels are chosen by Instagram and displayed publicly to help users get acquainted and find inspiring content. 

How Brands and Creators Have Embraced Reels

Many brands and creators across the globe have started to find success using Instagram Reels. In Europe, brands such as Louis Vuitton, Sephora France, and Red Bull France have already seemed to master the new feature. 

  • Louis Vuitton: Every Reel posted by this fashion icon has gone viral thus far, with an average of 5 million views per reel. Louis Vuitton is using the feature to promote their new collections, with a similar layout for each reel but a different model and product. You can view an example of their promotion here

  • Sephora France: Diversifying their content through a mix of makeup tutorials, product demonstrations, and user-generated content, this brand has mastered the use of utilizing social media to connect and communicate with their audience. Many of the reels ask users to comment on their favorite lipstick shade or tag a friend, allowing their reach to expand and generating over 300k views per post. Get involved in the conversation here.  

  • Red Bull France: Red Bull already has a strong customer base and following, giving the brand an edge when it comes to reaching their audience. However, Red Bull relates to the desires of their followers by presenting content designed to get your adrenaline rushing. Their reels of outdoor sports have quickly become popular, with one video generating over 2 million views. 

In the United States, many brands are quickly hopping on the Instagram Reel bandwagon to get an edge on their competition, and it’s working. 

  • Walmart: Walmart has combined the use of influencer marketing with the new feature to appeal directly to the audiences of their partners. Utilizing influencer marketing allows a business to generate a following due to the reputability and popularity of the influencer. Walmart uses a reel to introduce their spotlight influencers. 

  • Microsoft Xbox: Xbox released their first reel using the recognizable Xbox theme song and displaying the anticipating moment of turning on the console. Xbox cunningly captioned this video, “Booting Up Reels.” 

  • Amazon Prime Video: Amazon Prime posted a 10-second comedy clip which gained over 1.1 million views and is the most viewed reel out of all Amazon Prime Video first posts; the video is captioned “Serious q: what’s it like to have a love life?” 

Both content creators and brands alike should find promising results and inspiration through the use of Instagram’s newest tool. As mentioned perfectly in this article by content marketing specialist Alyssa Aquino, “creativity is what users love and, from a content perspective, short videos can really give content creators more room to try new ideas. More importantly, it gives creators more time to build content strategies and to test its effectiveness.” TikTok may just be feeling the heat.

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