Mads Maybe Newbie Guide to Instagram Reels

by - Thursday, August 27, 2020


Hi friends! If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen some different posts recently. That's because I've been trying out Instagram's newest features, Reels. If you've heard of Tik Tok, you know that Reels is basically an identical concept being implemented within the existing Instagram app. Honestly, I never got Tik Tok even though I was tempted a few times, the rumors about its privacy and security issues were just a little off-putting for me and ultimately kept me from downloading the app. Because of this, I was super excited to see the new feature in Instagram so I could start experimenting with this fun new style of content. 

I have been really enjoying both making and watching Reels since the feature was added earlier this month so I thought I would share some advice from my experience so far, hence the name of this post being "Newbie Guide" – I am by no means an expert!


+ It doesn't have to be perfect — just have fun!!

My first Reel was pretty effortless, maybe two takes. It was fun. My second Reel, however, was pretty much a nightmare. It literally took me two hours to film the 15 second piece. I didn't like it. I was so unhappy because it didn't have the perfect transitions that a lot of experts on Reels and Tik Tok seem to have mastered. I posted it anyways because it did take two hours to make after all. It turns out my Instagram friends loved the video – they weren't criticizing it, they were saying lots of positive things. After that experience, I learned not to take it so seriously, just get my ideas out there in the best way I can without stressing myself to the max.

I also struggled with perfectionism at first because I've worked so hard to perfect my Instagram feed. I have the "Instagram theme" and all these little mental rules for what I can and can't post on my feed for aesthetic purposes. With Reels, these rules really go out the window because I can't use the same editing software I do for my photos which makes my standards unachievable. Luckily, Reels don't have to live on your main feed, they can be somewhat hidden away on their own tab, so I've stopped caring about aesthetic and lighting and all the things that bothered me at first. To me, these are more about fun than aesthetic. I am still ~maybe~ thinking about getting a ring light though.


+ Experiment with new content or find a way to make Reels fit your niche.

I've personally been having a lot of fun creating content that isn't exactly what I'm known for — I've found myself doing a lot of Reels centered around clothes. I am definitely not a fashion blogger, but I do have fun clothes and I've found this to be the perfect way to show some of my looks with you guys that you might not typically see on my feed. Meanwhile, I'm finding a way to incorporate some of my Reels with my typical "snack queen" brand, one of those being a video called "Letting the Starbucks Filter Order for Me." 

I think Reels presents a great opportunity to experiment and branch out, but at the same time, you can definitely use it within your niche as well. Travel, cooking, makeup, fashion, tips and tricks for any field, there are so many possibilities. Because of the content style and short length of Reels, I think more and more people are willing to watch clips that are outside of their usual "niche" so this is definitely a great time to put yourself out there to a new audience. 


+ Plan your ideas in advance.

I've found it helpful to make a running list of ideas in my Notes app and whenever I'm going to film, I know in advance which concept I'll be shooting, what materials I need, etc. You can fully put together your Reel, caption and all, and save it into drafts within the Instagram app to post at a later date. Some ideas for content on Reels are clothing try-ons, travel videos, and recipe overviews. You can also show your collections if you have any, show your decor or do a mini home tour. Why not try out a variety of all of these options and more?


+ Add music during or after filming.

I freaked out after my two hour filming session because I was so new to Reels I thought I had just spent all of that time recording and now had no option of adding music after the fact. Trust me, unless you're doing intentional audio, you're going to want to add music to make your video more appealing. Fortunately, that is an option. After you've filmed everything or uploaded all of your clips from your camera roll, you just select "Audio" on the Reels homepage and add your song in then. After you add the section of the song you want, you'll just click the arrow to proceed to the next screen and your video will play with the selected song. You can also add the music while filming if that helps you sync your video up to the song. 


+ Add text to certain parts of the Reel.

You'll probably want to add a variety of text throughout the video so you can add your text like you're adding text to an Instagram story and then use the sliding bar on the length of the video to adjust the time the text is shown on screen. You can do these for every text box you add and you can choose to leave some of the text on screen for the whole Reel. I've found it creates a really cool look to add emojis to the video and stagger the time they enter the screen so they're all gradually popping up until they're all on screen together – an example of this is at the end of my Starbucks video I mentioned earlier. 


+ Caption your Reel and add hashtags. 

For my Reels, I do a title and then enter down two rows and either do a short caption or go straight to hashtags. While I usually do 20-30 hashtags on an in-feed photo, I only do around 5 hashtags on my Reels. Is this the best choice? I have no idea. I typically use #InstagramReels because #Reels is oversaturated and then hashtags that are relevant to my content, such as #DisneyStyle. I think it doesn't hurt to use hashtags in the caption because from what I've seen, very few people actually see the caption unless the video is in their actual feed. If they're within Reels or viewing from your profile, they are not likely to expand the full caption so don't put too much effort into it. Focus on the visuals! 


+ Scheduling is so helpful.

If you haven't made a Reel yet, you wouldn't believe how much time goes into making that 15 second clip. Because of this, I think the majority of people will find that it is best to create your content on the weekends and schedule your posts throughout the week. I definitely don't recommend posting 2 Reels on the same day, from experience I can say that the engagement on one of them will end up taking a hit. Space them out and post every other day or 2 times a week — whatever works for you! 

Fortunately, Instagram allows you to get your Reels completely ready to post with caption, hashtags, and everything and save them as drafts! This makes it super easy to spend the bulk of your time creating and editing on the weekend and then you just have to tap a few buttons on the day you want to post. I highly recommend double checking everything one more time before posting a draft. I will go back into "edit" and make sure the video looks correct and any text is displaying properly. The only thing I have noticed issues with is sometimes my hashtags have gotten cut off so I have to correct the last one I had typed and sometimes the cover image changes. Hashtags can be edited later on but you will definitely want to make sure you're happy with the cover image because, as of now, I see no way of editing or changing those after posting. 


+ Share to stories and share to your feed.

I know I just said for aesthetic purposes I prefer not to share Reels to my main feed. However, I do tend to share them on my feed immediately after posting for around 24 hours and then use the 3 dots at the top right to "remove from profile grid." It has been rumored that doing this helps your Reel get more views. I also share my Reel to my story after posting because I am not exactly sure how these are shown on the feed with the current algorithm so I do as much as I can in the first few hours of posting to make sure people see my new Reel. You'll also want to make sure your post is sharing to the explore page — I believe this is automatic when you share to your feed, but if you have an option, say yes!


+ Like, comment, and save your favorite Reels.

This goes for everyone whether you're making Reels or not. First, creators put a lot of effort into creating Reels so you should absolutely like, comment, and/or save the ones you enjoy because the Instagram algorithm might boost their post to a wider audience if they see that people are enjoying it. Second, getting into this habit benefits you as well because Instagram will use this data to tailor the content they show to you so that it's what they think you will like. It's a win-win because you'll start to see more entertaining Reels than ones that don't interest you. Lastly, if you are creating Reels, leaving a thoughtful and relevant comment on someone else's might encourage that creator to come check out your profile. It's a great way to make new friends! If you really love a Reel and find it relatable, definitely share it to your story as well! 

I can't believe I have to add this part on but after seeing some comments on my Insta besties' videos recently, it clearly needs to be said: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all! I don't want to see ANY type of negativity on anyone's comments. Don't like someone's jeans? Keep scrolling. 


Have you started posting Reels yet? Let me know so I can check them out! 

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