8 things you need to know to create stand-out Insta Reels

In 2020 Instagram launched a new feature called reels. These are videos of up to 30 seconds that can be shared either to your feed or straight to the Explore page and can range from fashion videos to cat clips and travel posts to sports reels. Ok so, I’ll admit I was initially sceptical thinking ‘this belongs on TikTok I don’t want to make any videos’ but I eventually gave in and tried some out and to my shock with some incredible results! A number of reels that I’ve created have had over 100k views and one reel at 1.5million views (that’s the equivalent of everyone in the city of Munich watching just one reel that I’ve created)! It’s a mind boggling number and with my account at less than 6000 followers before I started posting reels it shows the power of exposure they truly have!

Unfortunately, in comparison to TikTok, Instagram doesn’t have many analytics features available for reels so you can’t see how many times they’ve been shared or the view time but having spent time thinking about and understanding something of the TikTok algorithms as well as pulling from my own reels experience of what has worked and what captures my attention I’ve put together these 8 things you need to know and consider if you want to make a stand out reel on Insta! It’s not just about video quality but also transitions, the music and the view time. Understanding this will help you to create better content that your viewers want to watch and engage with 💡

  1. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask
  2. Quality is Key
  3. Be Creative
  4. Sharing is Caring
  5. Reel Them In
  6. Average View Time
  7. Music Matters
  8. Captions Count

1. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask

First up you might be worrying about whether to post a reel because there’s still a lot of people grumbling about them! But even if despite the extra exposure you can gain from them (check out @ofleatherandlace on Instagram, she went from ~200k followers to 400k followers in around a month nearly entirely driven by reels) and the additional creativity you can try out (it’s given me an additional boost of energy to create after two years solely taking photos!) you’re still nervous how they’ll be taken then don’t be afraid to ask your followers!

This is what I did before I started sharing reels and I started off just sharing to the Explore page and then built up to sharing them onto my feed! Use your stories to poll what your followers want to see or how many reels a week would they look for (it’s likely 1-3). This can give you the confidence to start and a direction to take your reels in as well. Asking this meant that a chunk of my reels are ‘dreamy walks’ and also in keeping with my Insta feed. You can then build up to sharing more reels and branching out of this as you gain more confidence and create more 💪

2. Quality is Key

Quality is so important to stand out! Just like you wouldn’t post a blurry photo, no one wants to view a pixelated, poor quality reel. Make sure to film your reels in the best quality you can and if you have an iPhone 11 (like I do!) then make sure to switch to 4K and 60fps.

But quality doesn’t just mean how pixelated your reel is, it’s also about the steady movement and the exposure as well! You should be as picky with your reel content as you would with your photo content to make sure it stands out and doesn’t cause people to scroll straight past because it’s blurry or juddery! This is the stage that is very hard to repeat once you have your footage so have a watch of your videos and make sure you’re happy with the quality before moving on.

Another aspect to think about is the frame size that your audience will view. If you’re sharing your reel to your Instagram feed so that your followers will be able to see it in their feed the size will be smaller than when the video is viewed either from your reels tab or the Explore page. This means a considerable part of the top and bottom portion of the reel is cut off so keep that in mind as you centre your content.

3. Be Creative

You want your reel to stand out and you can do this in so many different ways! This could be through video transitions where there’s a seemingly seamless and clever movement from one clip to the next; it could be through added effects or a completely new video concept; perhaps it’s in how you transport someone to a new place or maybe through a dramatic cinematic reel. The more reels you watch and the more practice you get at video creation the more ideas you’ll likely want to try in the same way that the more time you practice and try out new techniques with photos the more you start to see and want to try!

It’s worth investing in some form of video creation software as well and not just relying on creating your reel within Instagram. An app can allow you to trim and change the speed of videos as well as reversing footage and removing audio. This allows you a lot more flexibility with the overall video you can create from piecing clips together or even editing one clip.

4. Sharing is Caring

Reels have a much greater reach than photo posts, especially if they go viral (and with fewer people currently making reels on a regular basis in comparison to sharing photos this is more likely) and they get even greater reach if they’re shareable. On TikTok, it is sharing that can make the difference between 100 views and 100,000 views and I wouldn’t be surprised if Instagram uses similar algorithms to work out which reels to push further! More shareable through comments also gets your reel and therefore your profile to even more people that you can hopefully turn into followers if they scroll through more of your reels!

I have read or heard multiple times that the TikTok algorithm works by initially sharing your video with a small batch of people to determine how well it does and then it opens it up to another batch of people and so on. The biggest factor is the shares and I’ve been watching this on my own TikTok analytics. Reels are different as if you share to your feed this will push it to be seen by your followers I wonder if this is how it works on the Explore page – more interactions and it will be pushed higher up the Explore reels. I haven’t read anything about Insta reel algorithm but it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s related to this 🤔

5. Reel Them In

The first second of a reel is vital to capturing the viewer’s attention. With a photo, you know exactly what you’re looking at whereas a video has multiple seconds worth of content to follow the initial impression. Use the first second to grab your audience’s attention and reel them in. This might be through a list eg ‘4 film locations in Yorkshire’ so the viewer knows what the video’s about and what to expect when they view it. Alternatively use an introductory frame that leaves the viewer wondering what’s to come. This could look like starting on the ground and moving the video up or it could see the video moving around a corner.

6. Average View Time

The average view time of a video is 7s. Again, with a photo on Instagram you know exactly what you’re getting, with a reel you don’t know what’s to come (think about how you interact with reels and I’m guessing generally you’re not going to hit the like button if you haven’t watched the whole reel). Consider this time when you’re making a reel. You’ll either have to convince people early enough to stick around and watch for longer or keep your reel to this approximate time. If your reels are longer then consider putting the content that you want your viewer to see and interact with most at the start. If your reel involves a list then really think about the amount of time spent on each item. With social media our attention spans have definitely got worse so if it takes too long to move on will your viewer give up and also move on from your reel?

7. Music Matters

With Instagram reels there’s another layer to the viewer’s experience and that’s through sound! Picking the right music is so important and in particular the first few seconds as now someone scrolling might not just be tempted to scroll on from the initial seconds of visual footage but also the audio. On Instagram reels you can upload your own audio or choose from a vast array with Instagram itself. Use sound to set the scene whether that’s upbeat and catchy, dreamy acoustic music or even a creepy song to set a spooky atmosphere. You can also use music creatively to fit your video to changes in the music which will bring the experience together as well as suggest the quality and time behind creating your reel!

8. Captions Count

Finally, before you post your reel remember that the caption still counts! The caption on a reel is much shorter than for a photo so you’ve only got a few words to make count. Use this space wisely and think about what you want people to read. Bare in mind that few people are likely to click more to read your whole caption so you may want to use this to share where your video is from or what it’s about. An alternative option for a caption is to use a call to action and ask your viewers a question to encourage them to comment.

You can also use hashtags in your caption so that your reel won’t just come up on the Reels Explore page but also on the hashtags that you’ve shared and if your reel does well enough in that hashtag it could be first on the page similar to photo hashtags. In reels you can’t tag other accounts in your video but you can tag accounts in the comments so that you can share these with some of the relevant hub accounts that you would with your photos!

I hope this helps! This is everything I’ve picked up and learnt from creating videos on TikTok and reels on Instagram so far as well as trying to gauge what does well from comments, likes and shares! So what are you waiting for… go get creating 😉💕

Cat x


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