I tried Instagram Reels and this is what happened

As a social media manager, I have to be on top of my game when it comes to all things social. This has significantly changed throughout the years — it used to just be posting a message on Facebook or sharing a Tweet but now, that’s dramatically evolved to posting/sharing on Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, and TikTok, etc.

The latest social media feature to join this illustrious group is Instagram Reels, a brand new tool on Instagram where you can share 15-second clips with music and special effects.

Announced in August 2020, Instagram Reels was created as an alternative to TikTok, offering an easily accessible option for users. As the latest social media tool, I was intrigued to test it out.

It took a few fumbles before really getting into the groove and understanding how to use the widgets and features to create something.

Here is what happened when I tried using Instagram Reels, below.

1. I read up on Reels

The Instagram blog really broke down the steps in a clear, concise format which helped to get the new terminology down and better understand the navigation of these new features.

2. Discovering the icon

Finding the actual Reels icon was pretty easy. Located in a users’ profile icon (to the left), I clicked on the plus sign and then saw the option for Reels (next to the story). The actual screen includes a movie screen widget for recording along with icons for adding music, special effects, and a timer that’s stacked up on the left side.

3. It takes a few tries to get down the new features

For my first attempt, I did a very basic ‘point and shoot’ video not really knowing what I was doing. I took one video segment and then accidentally took another of my knee, creating a hybrid ice cream/knee video. I then went back and used the editing tool to trim and delete my second video.

A few days later, I tried Reels again for a mini trip that I took, showcasing a behind look of an art exhibit. I didn’t see the music icon pop up so I opted to share my video without music, which was basically like taking a regular video and sharing. While it was cool to see it on the Feed and in the Explore tab, it felt like it wasn’t really that creative or exciting.

4. You can have fun with stickers and text in the videos

While you can’t tag a brand or business on Reels, you can add text and Instagram stickers to the video. The actual tagging happens in the caption as well as hashtags where you can then decide if it will live on Stories, the Explore section and/or on the Feed. You can also change the cover of your Reel before posting by selecting a still clip from the video.

5. There are more options on how to share

There are three options for sharing these mini videos (Stories, the Explore section, and/or on the Feed.) If Reels are shared in the Explore section, they could potentially be featured in your For You section. If it’s shared in Stories, it functions as a regular Story and in the Feed, it now includes the Reels icon in the image to signify that it’s different from a regular video.
You can use old videos to post on Reels: Another option is to use clips from old videos and enhance them to create a Reel with effects, music, or text. I tried this a bit with some old videos, which was a fun way to refresh and enhance the older content.

6. Effects are a silly and fun way to enhance your videos

I also tried some of the effects where I added different backgrounds and backdrops to my videos. These are similar effects to what you would find in Stories in Selfie mode where you do things like turn your face into a pineapple, puppy, framed heart and more.

7. Try and try again

It took a few tries to get into a groove with creating Reels as I fumbled with the editing tool and the use of effects. There is also an align feature that superimposes a video onto another one that I didn’t really like or find a use for.

8. The analytics is easy to see

Instagram’s analytics is pretty easy to navigate and Reels is no different. I simply clicked on the Reels icon and then saw the views of each video. I was pretty surprised that one of the videos that was on my Explore page received almost 1,000 views and 11 comments from people that don’t follow me. It’s definitely a cool way to connect with a new audience and showcase your brand–now, I just have to figure out a strategy/purpose for my Reels.

My takeaway

So after a week of testing out Reels, I definitely think it’s fun and another cool way to share content but I did feel the same about IGTV when that first came out and I rarely post there anyone.

Like any new social media tool, it does require some trial and error to understand its features and to really think about how (and if) it makes any sense to use it for yourself or a brand. One thing is for sure, Instagram has a way of responding quickly and making things a little easier by integrating it with a tool so many of us are already using.