Instagram Advertising: The Guide to Instagram Reels

Last Updated: June 24, 2023

Interested in advertising with Instagram reels? Whether your audience is going to YouTube for longer-form content or snacking on bite-sized clips via Facebook and Instagram, video has become a dominant form of communication, no doubt. In fact, vlogging is slowly replacing traditional blogging, and 2020 was undoubtedly the year of TikTok.

It makes sense for brands to tap video content as one of the main marketing channels. One such channel specifically designed for branding content is Instagram Reels.

What Is Instagram Reels?

Instagram Reels are a fun and creative way to provide your followers on Instagram with a short, entertaining video. These 15-30 second clips are meant to be recorded and then edited to add audio or visual effects for entertainment. You can record a complete reel all at once or break it up into several shorter clips stitched together.

Users can find your content through the Explore section, but also if they are actively searching for hashtags or audio related to your reel.

Why Did Instagram Introduce the Reels Feature?

If the basic premise of Reels sounds familiar, that’s because Instagram created the app in response to TikTok’s explosive popularity.

The Bytedance-owned app boasts over 2 billion downloads on the App Store and Google Play Store while maintaining almost 700 million monthly users. The vast majority of users are in China, but the app still holds around 100 million users each from the US and Europe.

More importantly, Tiktok’s base audience is slowly shifting from Gen-Z users to millennials. Based on Comscore data, the 25-34 age bracket now accounts for over a quarter of users, while the 18-24 group slightly declined to 35%. This makes the medium a valuable goldmine for advertisers and marketers wishing to tap the lucrative millennial demographic.

Lastly, a 2020 valuation estimated TikTok to be worth $50 billion, which puts a concrete value on the worth of short-form video.

What Makes Reels Different From Instagram Stories?

Introduced in 2016, Instagram Stories are posts that expire after 24 hours, the platform’s equivalent of Facebook’s “My Day” feature. While it looks similar to Reels, there are notable differences:


Allowed MediaTexts, photos, videoVideo
LongevityRow 2, Content 1Row 2, Content 2
Max DurationRow 3, Content 1Row 3, Content 2
Posting LocationsStories feedIG main feed, Reels tab, Explore tab
VisibilityShareable to followersShared via Explore tab
EngagementPrivate (Direct messaging)Public (Commenting)
CaptioningNot supportedSupported
Hashtag Limit1030
Editing ToolsBasicAdditional editing options

As you can see, Reels functions almost similar to a regular IG post in terms of placement, lifespan, duration, and interaction. The only difference, as the name suggests, is that it’s limited to video.

How Does the Instagram Reels Algorithm Work?

  • For one, it prioritizes “entertaining, funny, and interesting” content as judged by IG users.
  • It ranks clips that are recycled from other apps or have visible watermarks lower on the Reels tab.
  • Low-quality clips (such as low-res or blurred videos) are also pushed further down the recommended chain.

How Reels Are Being Used for Marketing

Despite ads not being supported yet, Instagram Reels are an additional way for brands to connect with consumers and drive increased brand awareness. Because it is a relatively new content option, saturation within Instagram Reels is still relatively low.

The short clips allow you to swiftly and effectively provide information and content about products, services, how-to’s, and anything else that you can think of that will keep your conversation with the consumer going. In terms of interaction, they are also more robust than Stories, allowing users to find your hashtag or audio, leave a comment, and provide more engagement metrics.

Some of the common ways companies are leveraging Instagram Reels include:

  • Launch new products or services
  • Highlight existing products based on demand, fad, or season
  • Provide educational tutorials on how to use a product

Creative applications include:

  • Riding on a viral trend or seasonal festivity
  • Capitalizing on trending hashtags
  • Incorporating popular music
  • Creating short-form narrative “movies”
  • Launching promos or giveaways
  • Interviews or testimonials
  • Holding games and other interactive content

Note that since Reels have an indefinite lifespan, you should review videos with great care and consideration before posting. While Stories can be more casual thanks to their limited reach and disappearing nature, Reel content has greater exposure. Reels are also open to public comments and stay up permanently unless manually deleted.

5 Instagram Reels Success Stories

Despite only launching last August, several brands have successfully leveraged the power of Reels in their marketing efforts.

  1. Netflix – As a video streaming platform, it’s only natural for Netflix to harness Reels. The streaming giant uses the feature to upload trailers and sneak peeks of upcoming movies. Their page also uploads previews of new episodes for TV series, keeping fans hooked and subscribers rolling in. @Netflix
  2. Sephora – The popular makeup company gets our nod for the creative usage of Reels. Instead of being all about the brand, they also highlight user-generated content from fans, ensuring brand loyalty and driving up engagement. @Sephora
  3. Red Bull – As an action-oriented brand, the energy drink’s uploads are always dynamic. Each video is usually heart-stopping GoPro footage, impressive stunts, or high-octane sports. In effect, Red Bull’s page has distilled the action videos that its fans crave right on its own Reels page, so they no longer have to get their adrenaline fix elsewhere. @Redbull
  4. Louis Vuitton – LV took the opposite approach to Sephora. Instead of varied content, most of its videos use the same format to great success. The luxury brand’s Reels blend the allure of the runway with the personal touch of live-selling, using models that get up close to the camera. The result is sophisticated product videos that are still personal and relatable to the viewer. @LouisVuitton
  5. NBA – The basketball league is a perfect example of a brand that can thrive online despite the crippling effects of the pandemic on its industry. To make up for empty courtside seats, the league’s 30-odd franchise has been busy drumming up engagement on Reels, using game highlights, memes, and user-generated content. And it paid off, with the league netting 22% increased engagement with its fan base. @NBA

5 Ways to Optimize Instagram Reels for Business

The recent development of Reels means that there’s plenty of room for experimentation and optimization. Here are five tips to get your feed off to a good start. For a more comprehensive understanding of how social media marketing can benefit your brand, reach out here.

  1. Make good use of audio. One of the primary drivers of both TikTok and Reels is the ability to use music that’s searchable by users. This means that your content can be found by people who search for that particular soundtrack. Use this to your advantage by capitalizing on trending music or viral audio clips to widen your visibility.
  2. Maximize those hashtagsUnlike Stories that only support up to 10 hashtags, you can cram as many as 30 in a Reel clip. Aim for a mix of on-brand tags related to the product or industry and popular tags that may not be related to your brand but are peripheral to the video content, such as #beach or #humpday.
  3. Tell a longer storyReels doubles the runtime of Stories, so get creative with your half-minute. For example, you can split a storyline into several Reels or even create a narrative series that will keep your loyal viewers coming back for more.
  4. Give exclusivesOne way to grow your Reels audience is to offer content that’s exclusive to it. This can be Reels-only product launches, offers, or promos. Then you can cross-promote it on your other marketing channels to tap your existing followers and spread them evenly on your social media accounts.
  5. Be interactiveRemember that Reels allows public comments, unlike stories. Keep the conversation going by producing videos designed to interact with your followers. These can be in the form of games, giveaways, user content highlights, and other activities that encourage them to speak up.

How to Use Instagram Reels

Once you log into your Instagram account, click the + button at the top of the screen – at the bottom, slide to select reels. At this point, you can begin to choose your length, audio, speed, and effects. As soon as the aspects you would like to control are set up, use the countdown timer for easy and hands-free recording.

If you would like to add audio to your reel, Instagram has a music library to choose from, or you can opt to use your own audio. You will just need to record your audio to a reel and share that reel to do this. Then you can use it on other reels. If you opt to make your reel public, other users will be able to choose your audio to use in their reels but don’t worry; they will credit you with the original audio.

Next, you can choose to add your special effects or touch-ups to enhance your reel. Several special effects are provided by Instagram and other creators for you to use.

Speed within your video is something that you also can adjust. There may be specific points in a video clip where you will want to speed up or slow down the video to match the audio or enhance the audio experience. With faster parts of the music, you can speed up or completely transform into slow motion. You are in control and adjust based on the experience you want someone else to have.

Lastly, since you will likely be the one hitting ‘record,’ you may want to do it hands-free. You can opt to set a timer and give yourself a countdown. You can also record the entire reel in one shot, or you can set a countdown to record and stop after a certain duration for cleaner transitions.

Hopefully, you were able to gain an understanding of how Instagram Reels functions, as well as its impact on the marketing space.

If you’d like to discuss your brand’s marketing strategy, reach out here. Happy Reeling!


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